November 28, 2007
Two weeks ago, Apple announced a new version of WebKit, the underlying rendering technology of their Safari web browser. The feature list is impressive:
- Enhanced Rich Text Editing
- Faster Page Loading
- SVG support
- XPath support
- Styleable form controls
- Additional advanced CSS support: 2.1, 3.0, and experimental.
- Reduced memory use (~14%)
- Web Developer Tools included
That's a awfully compelling list of new features for an essential application I spend many, many hours a day in-- my web browser. Although Safari on Windows is little more than a glorified, feature-poor Mac emulator, the killer core WebKit feature list is enough to convince me to download it and run it through its paces. Apple is a serious competitor in the browser space.
Last week, the first Beta of Firefox 3.0 was released. I'm similarly impressed with the giant list of improvements and new features in this browser, too. It appears to have some innovative changes to the UI, along with native GUI rendering which was one of my pet peeves with previous versions of Firefox. Firefox has been a contender since version 1.5, and it looks like version 3.0 will push up their mindshare even further. Deservedly so. Firefox is great stuff, and the add-on ecosystem is second to none.
Clearly, the browser wars are heating up to a level we haven't seen since the heady bubble days of the late 90's. That's good news for everyone who uses the web. Nothing drives innovation quite like competition.
Given the level of fierce competition out there now, Microsoft must have some really killer features up their sleeves for Internet Explorer 8, right?
(Pretend that I've inserted the sound of gently chirping crickets here.)
Microsoft hasn't released any information on Internet Explorer 8. None. Nada. Zilch. Believe me, I've tried to pry it out of them:
During a session at Mix today, attendee Jeff Atwood asked Internet Explorer platform architect Chris Wilson for more information about when it might be released. The five-year gap between IE 6 and IE 7 notwithstanding, Atwood noted that people have come to expect a new version of a browser every couple of years. He asked whether the next IE would come with the next Windows version or before then -- "out of band," as they say.
Wilson reiterated Microsoft's promise that it will never again go five years "without an upgrade to the platform." He noted that the company was suggesting a 12- to 18-month development cycle at last year's Mix conference. "There's no exact date," he said, adding later, "I think that your expectation of having a new browser platform every couple of years is definitely a valid one."
Chris is an extremely nice guy, and clearly very technically competent. I'm sure he's under some kind of bizarre corporate gag order to say nothing. But how, exactly, does silence help the massive audience of people who use Internet Explorer on a daily basis? We're all left wondering-- what if they gave a browser war, and Microsoft never came?*
IE 6 was a great browser-- in 2001. By 2005, not so much. IE 7 was a critical stopgap, because IE 6 devolved into Netscape 4.7x during the five years it was the latest and greatest and only version. So consider the history. The entire world was trapped in an abusive relationship with Microsoft for that long, dark five year period. I think we'd like-- no, I think we deserve-- some assurances that this abusive cycle will not repeat itself.
My friend and colleague, Jon Galloway, said it best in a recent twitter update:
Just about every "Microsoft doesn't get it" problem boils down to long and secretive development cycles. Where's the IE 8 CTP?
Exactly. I don't think there's a more important single application on the planet right now than the web browser. If they can't get this right-- and soon-- I'm not sure there's any hope left.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
For the nay-sayers about Microsoft's ability to innovate: a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Research"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Research/a
and iirc, Surface came from MS Research (a href="http://www.microsoft.com/surface/"http://www.microsoft.com/surface//a) which is f'n cool!
Yes opera is the best, but under linux we have lot of problems with flash.
I just want something with tabbed browing and a minimal memory footprint so I don't end up on the pagefile in my 256MB-RAM company desktop :-(
Yes safari is great they are adding web-font and storage for their next release. Im still stuck with firefox for their awesome addons.
Microsoft is slow, so it may come after the war is over.
I have worked on a number of browsers and I must admit that Firefox is No.1 out of all. I appreciate Firefox 3.0 mostly. When it comes to IE, Microsoft should start some new projects or it will end up in the back of beyond.
I get the impression that microsoft waits for others to release their projects in order to copy or work on them.
Microsoft must speed up if it wants to keep up with others.
Microsoft will not be able to ever cope up with Firefox. (or Safari)
Because Mozilla innovates while Microsoft and Apple impersonates.
eg Mozilla had first built-in Phishing Filter, Malware Filter
and who doesn't know about customizibility of firefox
Just forget about Opera. It had remained on web since 1995, but it had never gained market share of even 1%.
Why should MS bother with IE8?
How can they profit from this? Is IE7 good enough to stop chasing people to others?
Do they have enough IE7 to sell the Windows Live services they want to?
If it is not profitable to make IE8, they will not. It is that simple. There is no notion of what is right, or taking care of customers. I truly believe that the only reason they have gotten better about security patches is that competing products have gotten to the point where they are viable replacements.
@ Todd Price who asked "Does Microsoft actually make any money from IE? I can't see how they would. So why not open-source it, or just plain abandon it?"
It's all a part of the chain of dependency. I've seen a handful of .NET driven sites with certain ActiveX controls that simply don't work properly in any browser other than IE. My online Bill Pay section of my banks website was this way for a long time. They've recently changed it, thankfully.
If more developers create these IE-dependent sites and web-based applications, then it creates more of a dependency for Windows in general.
Microsoft is not interested in really fixing or improving IE in any meaningful way. Doing so would make web development easier, which would reduce the attractiveness of their proprietory technologies such as Silverlight. Microsofts agenda is to stymie, delay and generally make web development as difficult as possible, all under the opposite pretense, so they can push developers onto "trouble free" alternatives.
We are going to make a web based product so that anyone at any computer can use our application!
Great, what browsers do we need to support?
I think someone brought this up, but the browser war was MS versus Netscape and that war has ended.
At this point, there is no economic incentive to develop a great browser for MS.
Anyway, I think browser technology in general is outdated for application design. HTTP was never meant to host or run applications. All new technologies are just scripting languages built on top on the browser in which they are run on the client or on the server.
Maybe if MS were inventive they would think that the world does indeed need applications over the web, but NOT in a browser. That would be forward thinking. MS hardly ever defines the market, they just capitalize on it in whatever means necessary.
I don't see why they (MS) don't leverage thier OS market advantage and build an (open) web framework on top of thier OS and get rid of the browser all together.