Analysis: the combination of secrecy and formal complaints should raise red flags
Yesterday we touched on a worrisome subject. Microsoft is secretly developing a new engine for Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft developers are not allowed to give any details about it. Given history’s lesson, it would be naive not to take this as a sign of things to come.
”Given history’s lesson, it would be naive not to take this as a sign of things to come.“The importance of the Web was understood by Bill Gates at a very late stage (the same goes for understanding Google’s power by the way). In 1993 Gates said in an interview that he was not interested in the Internet. Later came some improved realisation of the Web’s inevitability. Then came abuses, whose gory nature and context can be explored and found in the Iowa antitrust exhibits.
Here, for example, is a summary of tapes that were actually shown in Iowa. They were used in order to demonstrate the fact that Microsoft had leveraged technologies like the O/S as means of getting more market share, only later to extend the World Wide Web and face some serious trouble from regulators.
We may be at a phase where Microsoft tries to repeat old tricks. This isn’t a case of ‘pulling a Netscape 2.0′, so to speak, because not only bundling might be involved in today’s scenario (mind the fact that Windows Vista already contains some key components for extension).
Recently, as this new post rightly argues, Microsoft has lost some of its grip on the World Wide Web. The adoption of Firefox continues to surpass that of Internet Explorer 7, which ought to alert Microsoft. It ought to tell the company that it has not done enough with IE7 and erosion of its power will possibly continue.
Luckily for us, due to the ongoing success of Apple Safari & Mozilla Firefox, not to mention the growing range of Linux PC’s and laptops sold by giants like Asus and Walmart, Microsoft’s monopoly of the web browser is rather quickly being whittled away. That is great news as the Internet was designed to be useful to everyone, not to be held hostage by a commercial entity seemingly concerned with nothing but their own profits.
The action taken by Microsoft might actually be characterizsd as a somewhat radical transformation that will come with Internet Explorer 8+. It already upsets Web designers/developers who are left out in the cold.
Users of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) turned a blog post by a Microsoft program manager into a complaint free-for-all that took the company to task for not following through on browser upgrade promises and alienating Web developers.
Here is one Web designer who is upset. He is just one among many who are annoyed because Web developers should ideally collaborate — or at least interact — with application developers that coordinate and ensure compatibility. He posted a video about this just a couple of days ago. It’s only the first minute or so which is relevant to this discussion and here it is for the sake of completeness.
Many people are concerned about technologies like AJAX, but Microsoft might meanwhile be planning to sweep that off the Web and replace that with something Microsoft controls (and gives advantage to its operating platform and Web browser. i.e. a discriminatory play).
”A XAML response is worked on at Novell (Moonlight) and the same goes for OOXML translators, which are written in C#, at least in part.“Do come to consider various new technologies that Microsoft wants to integrate with one another. These include SharePoint, XAML, and even OOXML (through SharePoint in particular). WebShphere from IBM and MainSoft can jointly rely on Mono (it’s a Novell project) and they are said to address the SharePoint threat, to an extent. It’s all done by compliance and assimilation though. A XAML response is worked on at Novell (Moonlight) and the same goes for OOXML translators, which are written in C#, at least in part. This has “software patents” written all over it, so the whole strategy remains suspicious. There is also REST and other types of server-side nuisance.
Is Novell passively helping Microsoft hijack the Web? It is making support for Microsoft technologies more prolific? What will be introduced in IE8? Why is Microsoft so secretive and protective of it?
It is already known that Microsoft intends to ‘pull another ActiveX’, so to speak, in the sense that it will ‘extend’ the World Wide Web using its own technologies. This all comes at a time when people strive to standardise and open up the Web again, just before it become too ‘proprietarised’ and broken (or closed) beyond repair. Here is an article from last week:
Firefox and Opera will support a new HTML tag specifically for embedding video in Web pages. As long as the browsers support a video’s specific codec, or encoding method, the browsers will then be able to play the video without launching third-party enabling software, said Chris Double, a Mozilla engineer. Mozilla and Opera are also working to support the royalty-free video codec Ogg Theora.
Here are some stories of interest:
- Does your browser do video?
- Opera Browser and Ogg Theora in HTML5 specs
- Beta version of Open-Source video codec Ogg Theora released
- How To Live an Open-Source Musical Life With Ogg Vorbis
- ‘Play OGG’: FSF launches free audio format campaign
- Ogg Vorbis Gaining Industry Support
- Alcatel-Lucent says $1.5 billion not enough from Microsoft
For a moment, consider all the issues Microsoft introduced when it added proprietary extensions to isolate and discriminate. What has been the impact, as opposed to the little benefit, of ActiveX? Let’s explore:
- Rogue ActiveX controls menace users
- Yahoo! battered by second ActiveX vulnerability
- Way Too ActiveX
- Acer puts Active X hole on laptops
- Month of ActiveX bugs project begins with two Office flaws
It is worth adding — despite the fact that it’s beyond this post’s scope — that DirectX is a similar type of response to OpenGL, which was cross-platform.
With the lost momentum of Internet Explorer, one must wonder: what will be the ActiveX equivalent of future versions of Internet Explorer? it will be some form of a non-standard extension which Microsoft will name “innovation”, as usual (it makes that sound like a necessity rather than a predatory weapon of incompatibility).
With each new version of Internet Explorer, disruption is to be expected. Sadly enough, the press seems to have covered or remembered this poorly, but when IE7 was released there was a great deal of anger due to the fact that new incompatibilities were introduced. Here is a quick refreshers from the past year (mainly blogs). These are exemplary posts from around the release time of IE7.
For the last couple of years, we developers have been struggling with IE incompatibilities while creating and testing our sites. Those include the non-native support for PNG transparencies, the box model bug, and many many more.
Either leave your dog at home, or make sure it’s trained better before inviting it into my house to make a mess on my carpet.
IE7 is a night mare for most of the developers that try to comply with standards for crossbrowsing.
I recently needed to rewrite a web site so it works on firefox too… the surprising element was that when testing the new and the old site on IE7 I found out that many things does not function as expected and “not function as expected” isn’t the right word for it, it was more a question of working at all.
The results of our study suggest that around 12.7 million websites are in need of a little TLC because of IE7. Maybe even more.
Last night Joe and I got in this huge discussion, and I was cursing out Microsoft. It’s been rough the past couple of days and M$ has not been making my life very easy. Every time I turn around I have to ghetto-fy my web sites to make them work in IE…
See… There are these things called Web Standards which were put into place to make web designer’s lives easier. As in, if they script to web standards, then all standards compliant browsers will show the site exactly correct. Well, I always script to web standards. The PROBLEM is that Microsoft decides that they are just going to do things THEIR way…
When I read stuff like this, it confirms my belief that there’s something very broken in the world of Vista. Here’s a very knowledgeable user and talented developer who’s confounded and befuddled by a well-documented and still unaddressed issue affecting Vista users running Internet Explorer 7.
In a video interview with ZDNet Australia last month, Microsoft blogger and group manager of technical community, Frank Arrigo, explained how important it is for the Redmond giant to follow Web standards.
“Standards are important,” said Arrigo, who admitted that Microsoft had been guilty of ignoring them in the past.
Here are a couple of interesting yet separate bits:
Expression is Microsoft’s suite of web development tools slated to replace the wonderful application known as Front Page. A quick visit to the site for this tool yields a fairly typical Microsoft webpage.
WHOA! Did they not even listen to their own marketing garbage? 144 Errors! No DocType? Are you kidding me?
Bravo to our good friends at Microsoft for setting such a great example and leading the masses to a more standards compliant internet! (and for giving web standards geeks something to hate on).
An industry coalition that has represented competitors of Microsoft in European markets before the European Commission stepped up its public relations offensive this morning, this time accusing Microsoft of scheming to upset HTML’s place in the fabric of the Internet with XAML, an XML-based layout lexicon for network applications.
Return to thinking about Novell’s work on Moonlight and OOXML. Don’t let Novell support Microsoft’s latest Web hijack moves. Learn from history
[PDF] and don’t empower Novell by accepting those ‘gifts’. █