So… there is this huge network of the world called the Internet. And there is a protocol called HTTP which is a base of communication for pretty popular WWW.
Many years ago, Microsoft has prepared pretty good browser – Internet Explorer, that stormed the market. It was really good product, IE4 was the best at the time. Their marketshare rocketed up and around 2002 they have had between 90 to 98% of the Internet browser market share. That’s pretty a lot!
So. After IE6 released in 2001, the company released the team that was working on it, and left the product hardly maintained with no plans for future development. The market was theirs. The tool for using WWW was in their hands. From the economical point of view, their decision was reasonable. Cut the costs. Goal was achieved.
But the missing element is the altruistic theory – “consumer matters”. And consumer does not erase his needs once you have the marketshare taken. Really. But for Microsoft, for some reason, this equation worked.
For the next 6 years, each and every user of the Internet was forced to use IE6, because the WWW network was compatible with this web browser, and there was no upgrade on a horizon.
After success of Firefox, he market of web browsers became more divided, with more players. What we can observe is that it was good for the WWW itself. We finally saw new standards appearing, AJAX/Web apps boom, social web, new web browsers like Safari, Flock, Camino, and the path became easier for Opera to reach their user base. Today’s web is more open with raising amount of RSS feeds, OpenID, XHTML, compliance with web standards for the sake of interoperability, accessibility and with user having more control over what and how he wants to see.
Microsoft responded with IE7 which catches up with modern browsers, at least in terms of some features (maybe less in terms of web standards, because of the very old rendering engine used in IE7 from IE5 times), which is also good for users, because Microsoft’s web browser keeps first place on the market. It means that IE is important for the future of WWW.
One would think that it’s so obvious that in face of this facts, all major market players should play together trying to workaround the limitations of the technology (and need for backward compatibility) in order to better serve the users.
If that wouldn’t be the case, no matter of my emotions, I could not believe that Microsoft will repeat the mistake. Repeating the mistake doesn’t mean repeating the behavior, they did not (as far as I know) released the team and assumed that the market can live with IE7 for next 6 years. (and if you like, try to figure out if that’s not what they would do if Firefox is not on the market…)
They got back to the world of god-like authors and users. They cut the line of communication with users, community, web authors and other market players for a year. For a year, their IEBlog, remained silent about future of IE. It means that the whole market remains shaky. IE is still keeping over 60% of the market, so what they’ll do influences everyone. And no one knows what they’ll do. What does it says about their responsibility? They know they are important. They know that there’s a lot of money that companies put into WWW and it’s extremely important, yet they decide not to give the market what it needs – information. Knowledge about what should we expect. How can we plan next 2 years of web without knowing what Microsoft will do? And without knowing that, how can one invest money in it?
Also, Microsoft does not take part in anything related to the future of the web. No signals about their work on future web standards, no cooperation to make web authors life easier, or web users life safer.
In result, other vendors are working together, but without support from key player. Let’s say HTML5 is ready, all browsers but IE supports it. Result: WWW does not use HTML5. And then, Microsoft wakes up and says that 2 elements of HTML5 are not acceptable for them, so they’re not going to implement it. HTML5 drowns.
The lesson Microsoft failed to get is that we live in the world of cooperation. People, companies and organizations cooperate on the level of data handling channels in order to diversify the market, ensure it’s not in danger of monopoly. Recently, I had a discussion with Artur Żarski from Microsoft about Open XML. He wrote about his position, and tried to falsificate some accusations. I responded in comments (which are locked down now, even for registered users, strange…). At one point Artur wrote sth like “Yes, of course, it would be better if market players cooperate, but it doesn’t happen anywhere”. I spent half an hour writing pretty long list of places where market players does cooperate, and that Microsoft is one of the last who doesn’t want to join that trend.
Case of future of WWW is a sad one. I don’t assume Microsoft has any hidden plan, to takeover Internet by IE8 incompatible with web standards, but it’s very sad for me that Microsoft still doesn’t want to jump on the boat and work together on the better web.
To finish the story, few days ago Bill Gates was interviewed by some important bloggers, and someone asked about IE8. It seems for me that Bill has no idea what’s going on, but promised to “look into it“.
So the day later we have the first post on IEBlog related to IE8. It’s so great, or… is it?
Well, I’m not native. So reading between the lines in molly’s interview and this blog post may be not perfect, but for me, the post sounds… rude.
Maybe it was not the intention, maybe it was supposed to be “cool” and “funny”, but and if they would play with IE8 communication differently, it may be. But it’s not.
Microsoft ignored to tell the world what they’re doing with IE8 for a year. They ignored requests, invitations to conferences, to tech teams, only once they said that JS2 idea is wrong, and not backward compatible, which is not true (but they didn’t dare to say anything more). And after waiting so long, for a vital data from our point of view – is it going to support CSS3, XHTML, DOM3, JS2, HTML5, how it’ll play with old SSL, what about Win98, WinXP, plugins, are they going to attack with extensions, what about other platforms… it may sound like “trying to figure out how to prepare to fight IE” but I promise you it’s not!
To present that, I’ll use an analogy. If IE8 will remove “back” button the way WWW works will be changed. The very core paradigms of web usage will change. Nearly everything will change. Do you understand how important Microsoft is?
So in face of this facts, Microsoft is sending us a blog post that sounds like an irritated father has enough of being poked by stupid and childish kid and tells the kid something stupidly obvious so it shuts up. “We decided not to call it IE 20, but IE8, really. Satisified?” like if they see us all irritating and doesn’t understand why we pay so much attention to this.
I believe that the reason Microsoft is not working with us, is mixture of ignorance for other market players, lack of visible benefit for them, and lack of understanding for changes that happened in last years on the IT market.
If they intentionally do this, it’s malicious, but it’s more probable (and sad) that it’s not intentional, and it means that Microsoft seems to be unprepared to play the key role, they shows irresponsibility.
Can we trust that player for the future? Can we let it rule the WWW keeping us all in such position every few years? Was there ever better reason to fight for independence of web, and open standards as a backbone of Internet?