Browser Wars v.2004: Part 1 | 2
Browser Wars v.2004: Part 1
Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) is currently the most widely used browser on the World Wide Web, with over 90% of the market share, a position it's held since 1999. A major contributing factor to this success is IE's packaging; it's included with every copy of the Windows operating system. Because of this extremely large number of users, Web site design is almost entirely dictated by what can or cannot be viewed in IE. Many times this fact tends to put the developer in the middle of the browser war, between a rock ("the W3C") and a hard place ("Microsoft").
Most Web site developers try to follow the standards set forth by the W3C. However, Microsoft has made it clear that it follows its own standards, whether they agree with the W3C or not. Consider the following from the IE support area (emphasis is mine):
Q. Is Internet Explorer committed to implementing standard X in the future? A. Microsoft is committed to implementing the Internet standards that make sense to allow our customers to build great solutions. As standards emerge, we evaluate them to see which standards might best serve our customers' needs.
Q. Why does Microsoft continue to add functionality to Internet Explorer that is not part of any standard? A. Microsoft is committed to supporting the appropriate standards that are most useful to our customers. Microsoft uses innovation within the platform to allow customers to easily build powerful solutions.
That is not to say that IE doesn't support Web standards. However, because of Microsoft's insistence to pick and choose from the standards, it does have CSS problems, as detailed in the article, Windows Explorer vs. the Standards. The "Position is Everything" Web site covers many of the CSS bugs in current browser versions (most of them seem to be in Internet Explorer). Interestingly, some of these problems arose in the updates and did not take place in IE 5.x.
Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6.0 in 2001. It's current version, version 6 SP1, was released on September 9, 2002. According to a conversation on Microsoft TechNet Chat, "As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation." In other words, if you want Internet Explorer version 7, you had better be prepared to plunk down $100-$200 for a new operating system, whether you want it or not. It seems that Microsoft is not only trying to dictate Web standards; they are also attempting to dictate what you have on your hard drive (according to a recent report, it looks like there may be one more IE upgrade, 6 SP2).
Internet Explorer Development Help:
Trying to code for both Netscape and Internet Explorer is not easy. Sometimes it means giving-up something in order to comply with both W3C and Microsoft standards. This issue is an ongoing problem with us at WebReference, as an example. Occasionally, we have to write kludges for our code, in an attempt to make it work in both browsers, but the results aren't perfect. What works in IE might look awful in Netscape and vice versa. Occasionally things work for both, but not always. Given the tools we have to work with, there's only so much we can do.
What's in store for the future? It's hard to tell. With Microsoft embedding IE even deeper into its operating system - and refusing to comply with W3C standards, it could be the beginning of the end for IE ... or maybe not.
Meanwhile, there are still a host of other browsers that the Web developer must contend with. Although they have a much smaller marketing share, they're out there - and are slowly gaining in popularity. Next week we'll look at these other browsers and see what challenges (and benefits) they offer the developer. Till next week ...
Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: June 14, 2004