I've been following Shelley Powers' blog for about half a year now, ever since I discovered her on some feed searches for SVG. Today she posts some post-mortem thoughts on her latest book about Web Graphics. In addition, she makes a bold statement: "I will no longer compensate for limited or broken specification support in browsers after January 1, 2010"

While I admire her boldness, I can't go that far, because there will always be limited or broken standard support out there, regardless of the browser or company. Especially big specs like SVG. However, I think a reasonable statement for me would be: By 2010, I will only code to useful subsets of open specifications that have been implemented by the majority of the "big" browsers out there - regardless of market share. The other browser users might just see completely broken web pages. The reason I ignore market share is because I believe Internet Explorer's current market share is now due only to inertia and the fact that it's deployed automatically on the majority of desktops out there. I don't like this because it gives Microsoft the position of being able to heavily influence the progress (or lack of progress) of open web technologies in favor of its own. They should get an equal vote, but not one based on market share.

To me, it's all about IE8 - if Microsoft pulls a golden rabbit out of its hat and IE8 supports the majority of CSS 2.1, XHTML and some portion of SVG, CSS3, HTML5, then I might be mollified/hopeful. If not, then Microsoft has made their choice and I may just have to give up on them like Shelley. We've heard words to the effect that Microsoft is working on a completely new layout engine. And the fact that the IEBlog has been deliberately quiet on IE8 news has actually made me hopeful that they're planning a big surprise to win back developers to its side (otherwise it seems like they'd try to warn us not to expect much of IE8). But then again, I won't be surprised if IE8 contains only minimal improvements again.

§414 · December 2, 2007 · Microsoft, Software, SVG, Technology, Web · · [Print]

2 Comments to “A Burning(bird) Stake In The Ground”

  1. David says:

    About your dream about a standard compliant IE8, how will it deal with the various browsers sniffing mechanisms ?

    If they separate it completely from IE7, there will be screams about a lot of authors (activex and so will have to disappear ?). If they don’t, the hacks will break the compatibility.

    I think they’re stuck to minimal changes. So I think ie is doomed to slowly collapse.

    But how better will it be when Firefox will have replaced IE’s domination ?

    Many says the Mozilla comunity is too religiously attached to open standards. yes maybe, (and maybe not: e.g. see how they decided to implement the rejected APNG, instead of the approved MNG) … and which standards anyway ?

    Mozilla will still be a company that makes money. The risk is that they dictate the way the web goes, just like IE (tries to?) do with non-standards now, to compete with the others. And they have a lot more fanatic supporters than IE ! which is dangerous.

    They’ll push some specs forward, and break on some others.

    All this is theorical. We watch and see. But I personally think we will never have a happy web where every browsers have the same standards support.

  2. @David: Chris Wilson has made it clear in the W3C HTML Working Group that the next version of IE will have an opt-in mechanism for its new standards support. This means that to turn “real standards” mode on for IE8 you will have to use a specific Microsoft-only mechanism (that is ignored by other browsers) – if you don’t you’re stuck with the existing mode of IE7-. I assume this will be something like IE conditional comments.

    But you raise an interesting point, and it remains to be seen how happy people will be with this.

    As for Mozilla – well, there’s also WebKit (at 5%) and Opera (at 1%). At the moment, those three companies/groups seem to be working reasonably well together in terms of standards support.