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Archive: 2 July 2003

Salvation in the Storm?

There’s been some speculation that Microsoft’s recent browser moves may actually be good for Web standardization, not bad.  It’s a side of the issue I hadn’t considered, and it does make a certain degree of sense.  Suppose you’re a large bank and you want a browser that you can rely on to protect your data.  You might well decide that adopting an open-source browser, one which you can influence and even improve if your staff programmers contribute to the project, makes more sense than being beholden to a glacially developing and poorly secured product.  Ditto for companies who care about security—and now that spam-filtering’s built into at least one product’s mail client, ditching Outlook and IE for Mozilla or a variant makes a lot more business sense.

But there’s a down side to the whole situation, which is effectively that the adoption of standards is limited by the available browsers.  If IE/Win stays in its present state for the next two or three years, then use of CSS, XML, XSLT, RDF, P3P, PNG, and pretty much everything else will be constrained by the support IE/Win embodies—not totally beholden to it, but still definitely affected, in the same way the poor CSS support of NN4.x retarded CSS adoption for years.  When IE7 comes out in 2005 or 2006, it will help determine the standards-use landscape by how far its support advances (or doesn’t).  Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe having bigger updates less often is better than smaller updates all the time.  It just feels a little too much like stagnation, especially for an industry as drunk on change as ours has been.

Then again, if we’re lucky and Microsoft’s Web competitors don’t fold their cards just when they have a chance of winning back some of the pot, maybe in a couple of years IE/Win won’t be as weighty a gorilla as it is today.

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