back to article Opera CTO: How to fix Microsoft's browser issues

If there was a functioning market for web browsers and operating systems, the past few weeks would have seen two announcements from Microsoft. After a firestorm of criticism from the web design community about Internet Explorer 8's misguided mode switching proposal, Redmond would have publicly backed down. Second, Microsoft …

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Re: Where the real - economic - damage is.

"Giving away IE gives IIS an anti-competitive advantage in the server market, that's how. It's a complex economic argument, but it's well explained by Joel on Software: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html"

This must be the wrong link. Joel doesn't even mention IIS in this article.

Anyway, by any reasonable measure, IIS *has* no competitive advantage in the server market. IIS gets some market share from the large number of Windows Server installations, but Apache has a respectable user base even on those systems. *Windows Server* has an unfair advantage, because MS refused to document the domain protocols that the monopoly Windows Desktop uses, but happily MS have lost in court on that one and we may see some improvement in a few years.

In fact, it is hard to see how IIS *could* have an advantage. It's job is to serve up pages. It has to follow the HTTP protocol and it certainly shouldn't be modifying the page contents to make them non-standard HTML. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

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Advantage?

I can fully understand how giving IE away for free gives MS an unfair advantage given the extortionate prices demanded for their competitor's products (F'Fox, Opera, Safari et. al.).

Oh, hand on a second.......

Remember what happened with the Euro special, slightly cheaper, now no longer with bundled Media Player edition of XP? Yup, nobody bought it (alright, almost nobody - before the two who did both post here). If you were to demand that MS did likewise with IE, to expose the cost, I strongly suspect that sales figures of the shiny, new, IE-less Vista would remain firmly down in so-close-to-bugger-all-it's-impossible-to-tell territory.

However, maintaining a genuine level playing field would demand that all browser providers charged a commercial rate for their products (if giving something away for free, using revenue from other sources to fund its provision, is anti-competitive by MS then it is also so for anyone else, be that revenue source sales of Windows/MacOS or gobs of ads on a website - you can't have your cake and eat it).

MS would piss themselves with laughter if they were "forced" to comply with terms like this.

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re: Just ignore IE in private websites

Of course most of the public don't know about web standards and as a result don't care. They can be made aware by telling them about these standards. Even a short explanation about how this hinders the progress of web sites could be in order. People, by default, don't care about problems they don't know about but if they know about the problem - some of them might start caring.

As before, I suggest this only for non-commercial sites, such as personal blogs etc. to start with because then you are not damaging any business and people most likely are visiting because they already know and trust you.

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@Stephen Melrose

"If they were to change IE over night to be standards compliant, a lot of websites around the world would cease to work properly,"

Those are exactly the web sites that would have to be changed to include the majic 'please have the exact same bugs as ie7, but no others' tag.

So you're saying that if IE were better, a lot of sites would have to change. Why not make them change so they work ?

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@Alan Tustain

""Internet Explorer is the browser of choice for around 95% of web users. Ergo it is THE standard by default""

Bit like saying "Force feeding is the feeding manner of choice for paté - donating canards"

D'ohhhhh.....

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Anonymous Coward

piffle and balderdash

This forces web designers to prioritize coding for IE. Coding for standards-compliant browsers becomes a secondary consideration.

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Bollocks basically - it's not _that_ hard to write standards compliant code that will work on IE 7 - mostly. You need to just accept that the DOM is broken and to be careful with your CSS use. For instance if you want to make a DIV 200 pixels wide with a padding of 10 pixels instead of making 1 div 220px wide, make a 200px wide div and put another div inside it with "width: auto; padding: 10px;" - problem solved.

The biggest issues are things that are obviously missing from IE - obj.setAttribute() for instance.

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@Adam Tustian

Define Standard - the irony here is that MS have representatives in the W3C so they do, in part, help define the standards - they don't however adhere to those standards that they helped create.

Furthermore, you can't claim that IE is "standard" - there is still a split between IE6 and IE7 in the wild (even some instances of IE5 still) - and they handle CSS/JS/DOM differently and so should really be considered different browsers.

Here's the browser stats from the W3Schools site for Jan 08 - bear in mind the site is fairly techy and therefore more likely to attract erm, well, techies:

IE7: 21.2%

IE6: 32.0%

IE5: 1.5%

FF: 37.2%

Moz: 1.3%

Saf: 1.9%

Opera: 1.4%

By that metric Firefox is the standard - if you wanted to get really silly, you could add up the values for Firefox, Opera, Mozilla and Safari - since they are ALL (pretty much) "W3C Standards compliant" and so render the same - it's only IE that isn't.

You get slightly different results from my work website (a largely non-techie user base):

IE7: ~53%

IE6: ~26%

Standards compliant browsers: ~20%

Other: ~1%

IE7 is by far the most popular, but thankfully it's also the version (of IE) which most closely follows the W3C standards so you can sort of code for IE7+Standards browsers to cover 73% of the user-base; drop your CSS to the basic IE6 implementation and use JS _very_ sparingly and you cover 99% of the user-base.

Basically, to keep IE happy, follow the standards from about 5 years ago and you should be OK. IE is _badly_ in need of updating, and IE users really need to update their browser - there really shoudn't BE any instances of IE <7 left.

The way "standards" actually come about are that browsers conform to a standard, they then extend that standard - filter: alpha(opacity=x); for instance, the extension gains popularity and is modifed to become part of the next standard - that defines the standard.

Someone came up with the idea of semi-transparent objects (possibly even MS) and the "alpha/opacity filter" spread with IE and Firefox having different implementations. Eventually both implementations were scrapped and "opacity: 0.x;" became the standard. Firefox, Opera et al were all updated to conform to this new standard but IE7 still languishes behind with their old "filter:alpha".

Having won the "browser wars" first time around and getting IE on every desktop has meant that MS haven't done anything serious with it for years - even version 7 didn't greatly improve the underlying rendering engine.

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Posted AC so that you can't match those stats up to where I work by using "me" as a commonality!

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@Adam Tustian

Hear, hear!

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@Alastair re: Microsoft cannot make IE standards compliant overnight

> Stop saying they can.

Oh, way to go, nice straw man there. Name one person who did.

Oh, you can't? Damn straight you can't. That's because nobody at all ever said it.

It's pretty hypocritical to go around criticising people for "not living in the real world" when you just completely invented your accusation out of thin air. Nobody said they could. In case you haven't been paying attention for the past decade, though, the point is that they've already had *years* to make it compliant, and they haven't done much in that direction, not because years isn't enough time, but because they don't *want* to, because they *want* to maintain an illegal monopoly.

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Best thing to do

The best thing MS could do would be to opensource its browser development. Anything that's usable will then be borged into the Mozilla project and the rest of the developers will probably move to webkit, thereby killing off developement of Internet Exploder.

MS definitely missed a few calls since the mid-1990s; integrating a tool meant to work with an environment full of malware (the internet) into the foundations of an operating system is a mindbogglingly stupid idea (well, OK, Windows isn't really an OS, just a pretty program starter for NT). ActiveX is one of the main reasons why I Don't Do MS Internet Exploder. But then again, I Don't Do Windows most of the time either.

@Anonymous Coward from 17:05 GMT

"Maybe I was dreaming at the time, but I dimly recall seeing a Solaris install package for IE many years ago."

Yep... they dropped Solaris in roundabout 1995 or ’96. It used to be available for MacOS, too. The point, though, is that no version of Internet Exploder past v. 5.1 exists for any OS except Windows. Since many halfway modern websites don't work with MS Internet Exploder v. 5, that old piece of tat is unusable for most purposes.

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the Solution is simple - force Microsoft to charge for and decouple its Browser

By forcing MS to charge for their browser and forcing them to decouple it from their operating system it subjects MS IE to market forces and standards compliance. It forces MS to be more accountable at the consumer level.

Right now it can be said you get what you pay for. Essentially whatever crumbs MS dishes out. Since MS IE is free I believe MS feels little compulsion unless coerced to comply with anybody elses standards.

Forcing MS to charge for its browser will raise the bar so that other competing browsers can charge and make a better quality product.

regards

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@Ken Re: Re: Where the real - economic - damage is.

>> "Giving away IE gives IIS an anti-competitive advantage in the server market, that's how. It's a complex economic argument, but it's well explained by Joel on Software: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html"

> This must be the wrong link. Joel doesn't even mention IIS in this article.

Are you actually really that thick, or are you just pretending to be completely unable to generalise for rhetorical purposes? I said it was a complex economic argument, you aren't going to be able to grasp it by opening the web page and hitting Ctrl-F and searching for "IIS".

In the economic model presented in that article, IE is the commoditized product, IIS is the complementary product. Now go back there and try actually reading and comprehending it this time, instead of just grepping it, FCOL.

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@Flocke Kroes

"If supporting IE is a problem for web designers, then they do not have to support it. The only way users will learn that IE is defective is if web pages render badly in IE."

You may be pleased to know that I run such a Web Design firm that specializes in creating Marketing sites for the small/mid-sized business world. And we completely ignore wasting our clients time testing with IE (We DO look at our work in IE6/7, but don't obsess over the MS renderings). We explain what is at risk, show them Firefox (or another compliant browser) and ask them if they want us spending their money accommodating Microsoft's arrogant mistakes. They all say 'No, thank you'. Today, they are all enjoying healthy growth.

/

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Story on Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) by opera CTO

The one thing not mentioned much in all previous comments is that "good" web developers succumb to the will of Microsoft and are part of the problem. If most developed to ACID2 test - at minimum and IE did not work correctly, they could then demonstrate to clients how bad IE is, and possibly then convince clients to allow "standards compliant" sites, which surely would help force Microsoft to change and adhere.

There is no accounting for the Microsoft shills and dupes that respond to such article with outragious and non-sensical (plus totally innacurate and false) claims apologizing for and supporting Microsoft in their ridiculous behavior. I am very pleased that at least the European Union (EU) plus many Asian, all South American and some African nations are rejecting this foolishness from Microsoft, which more people, organizations (including states governments) and businesses in USA need to do.

The USA is going down the tube quickly in regard quality technology.

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Break the internet?

If IE went standards compliant overnight, it would only break a few shitty sites. Web developers, by and large, take one of two options; either they code for standard browsers and try to use a workable subset that will also render OK on IE (this is a minority approach, but some people do it - it's what I do and there must be others) or they code for standard browsers and then painstakingly go through the code adding hacks to make it work in IE too (the only way to make flashy looking sites - no pun intended - but not worth the hassle in my opinion).

Therefore if IE went standards compliant, all those sites would continue to work - IE would just naturally start using the code that was written in the first place, for all the other browsers, and ignoring the hacks. People still browsing using bad old IE would still be OK a while since the hacks would still be there; some people would continue to maintain the hacks and use them in new sites for a while to support the people who had been left behind. So the shift would be gradual in practice.

It's not the internet MS fear would break; it's the intranet. Plenty of companies that 'standardised' on Windows on the desktop have built internal web apps that only work in IE. Mind you, there's no problem there either - just keep the broken old rendering engine and allow users to turn it on for a list of crap old sites and the problem is solved without pissing on anyone's standards.

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Linux

@Teddy C

Or force Microsoft to release IE for mac & linux. It will cost them money, it ruins the leverage of their non-compliant browser requiring their proprietary OS and might even spark some innovation.

Then follow it up by making MS release mac & linux versions of applications that come free with basic Windows and only permit bundling in expensive premium versions.

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Applause for Håkon's 5 Points!

Applause! Applause for Håkon's Five Points, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe!

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Happy

Re: Get your browser tested for damage

The nightly builds of Firefox 3 are now up are now up to 67/100 for the Acid3 test. Looks like the developers are aware of the problem and are working on it.

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opera against capitalism?

a 'functioning market'? i hate to tell you this but just because something sucks dosen't mean it isn't functioning perfectly. i'm not sure about your country, but we have something called 'capitalism' here, in which the thing most people buy becomes the most popular and powerful. a monopoly is a natural result of that system because of course the more money you make the more you can invest in becoming more efficient, making cheaper products, killing off your competition thorugh the creation of intentionally divergent standards, etc.

by saying microsoft can 'fix' their browser issues, you infer that it's somehow 'broken' -- that it isn't exactly the way it is intentionally through careful forethought. i think that is pretty naive of you not to realize that the whole creation of microsofts own standards has always been with the intention of monopolizing and controlling not only web development but every other technology they can tie to the web browser.

opera is a capitalist company, its my belief they only have strong standards support because they have a tiny sliver of the market and need some bullet points to compete with. there's no ad blocker in opera for a reason, it's free now but remember, it used to be like $35 a pop.

if you want a standards compliant browser not driven by capitalism and greed, it's called firefox.

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Opera is secretive about its own non-compliance

It seems to me that before demanding from Microsoft to be more standards compliant, Opera should learn to be more open about its own non-compliance.

Opera keeps in secret their browser's bugs. You cannot search for a bug in Opera's bug tracking system to see if it is already reported, and if you report a bug they do not even care to inform if it is reviewed, confirmed, found duplicate or fixed.

There is a forum thread about it: http://my.opera.com/community/forums/topic.dml?id=222870&t=1202656953&page=1#comment2445288

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