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WaSP Calls for MS to Fix Standards Bugs in Discontinued IE
June 27, 2003 6:03 AM   Subscribe

IE in bug fix mode? Then fix the bugs! As was mentioned here before, MS is discontinuing the free version of IE for Mac, and offering it only as part of the MSN service instead. They also appear to be doing the same with IE for Windows. The Web Standards Project is demanding that they include standards bugs in the list they are going to fix, because MS has always advertised IE as standards-compliant.
posted by setmajer (32 comments total)

 
And the compelling business case for Microsoft to fix "problems" they don't even admit they have in products they have effectively discontinued would be... ?
posted by JollyWanker at 6:16 AM on June 27, 2003


And the compelling business case for Microsoft to fix "problems" they don't even admit they have in products they have effectively discontinued would be... ?

Ahem. It would be that there are groups such as the web standards people that will make a lot of noise until they do, for one. For another, they always used their so-called 'standards compliance' as a marketing bullet-point against Netscape.

Not to mention that they're only doing this to further the supposed 'integration' they feel is so necessary, yet every other OS maker seems to be able to write code that can keep the web browser separate from the system software excep them. Odd, no?

What was their compelling business case to get into the web browser market not expecting to make any money in the first place?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:20 AM on June 27, 2003


I'm a pretty strong mozilla advocate at this point. If you design your web site around published standards mozilla does an admirable job of interpreting them. It's also platform agnostic and has been ported to at least everything that is in common use. It's an example of how the web was intended to be: a platform independent way of disseminating information.

Fixing IE bugs that cause rendering errors is actually something that goes against the normal Microsoft way of doing business. A lot of their problems in IE are actually more than just glitches. If you design according to standards pages will not display correctly in IE. Users will not be able to access your site. This is good for Microsoft since they are dominant. If 90% of the people use Internet Explorer then the main priority for a web designer would be to make sure that IE works even if it means that other browsers don't work. I've seen a lot of sites that apparently are designed this way. Whether they admit it or not a lot of computers are sold primarily for surfing the net, just like many parents have ponied up for high end machines so their kids could play video games (I mean do homework!)

The incompatibility and the willingness of web designers to design for these incompatibilities sells machines. Microsoft can't really increase marketshare at this point without taking seats away from it's competitors. They're already at 90% marketshare and most people who want a computer have a computer.

Personally I design for mozilla, but the web sites I have are narrow enough in scope that only pretty hardcore geeks have ever seen them. I don't use very many real tricks so it's still readable on IE, but it doesn't look right.
posted by substrate at 6:26 AM on June 27, 2003


Mozilla.
posted by the fire you left me at 6:33 AM on June 27, 2003


And the compelling business case for Microsoft to fix "problems" they don't even admit they have in products they have effectively discontinued would be... ?
Linux Unstoppable in the Middle East Says IBM
IBM Scores Six New Linux Wins in Europe"
Munich Opts for Linux on the Desktop
South Australia Urged to Drop Bill on Open Source Software
Brazil Mandates Shift to Free Software
EGOVOS endorses South Africa's Open Source strategy

OSS Solution Salesman: ...and we fully support open standards, so what you buy from us will work with whatever you buy in the future and will take less time and money to integrate with your existing systems.
Customer: So we're not locked-in to your products? That's reassuring--and less time and money is always good.
MS Salesman: We support open standards too!
OSS: You mean like PNG, which IE/Win doesn't fully support? Or the W3C Event Model? Or CSS2 attribute selectors?
Customer: Huh?
OSS: Parts of the standards used in developing web sites that MS claims to support, but doesn't since they discontinued their free browsers after illegally obtaining monopoly-level market share. In order to get upgrades to the free software that was supposed to be standards-compliant already, you have to pay for MSN or Windows.
Customer: Oh. I don't like paying.
posted by setmajer at 6:42 AM on June 27, 2003


products they have effectively discontinued
One other note: they haven't 'effectively discontinued' the products. They've discontinued the free, standalone versions of the products.

You can get IE 6 for Mac right now. It's just called MSN for Mac, and requires you to pay a minimum of $9.99 a month to rent it. You'll be able to get IE 7 as well. It will just be called 'Longhorn', won't be available until 2005 at the earliest and wil probably cost $150 or more for a consumer-level license.

MS is moving to exploit their illegally-obtained market share for web browsing software. Business case be damned: a convicted anti-trust violator should not be allowed to profit from their illegal tactics while at the same time promoting greater lock-in through incompatibility with open standards they helped create.
posted by setmajer at 6:51 AM on June 27, 2003


IE only available to MSN subscribers at some point in the future? What a beautiful world that would be. Asking people to pay for something that used to be free is a sure way of killing it.
posted by gimonca at 6:55 AM on June 27, 2003


I've been very satisfied with Apple's own browser... Safari. I'll keep an old IE around if I need it, otherwise good riddance.
posted by scalz at 7:00 AM on June 27, 2003


IE only available to MSN subscribers at some point in the future? What a beautiful world that would be.
That's still 9 million users, and in any event they're only restricting new versions of IE to MSN subscribers on the Mac. On Windows, it comes with the OS.
Asking people to pay for something that used to be free is a sure way of killing it.
Unless you just bury it inside something they're already paying for--especially if you have a monopoly on that something.
posted by setmajer at 7:01 AM on June 27, 2003


I'll keep an old IE around if I need it, otherwise good riddance.
Unfortunately, most users aren't going to switch from IE soon and MSN users likely never will so long as MSN for Mac uses it.

There are still a surprising number of people using IE 4.5 on the Mac because that's the integrated browser for AOL on the Classic (pre-OS X) Mac OS. Think of all those iMacs they sold prior to moving all their machines to OS X. Most of those folks will get OS X when they get a new machine, which will be in 5+ years--and they'll probably not change their browser any sooner.

For web site owners/developers, Microsoft not fixing the standards bugs in the free versions of IE is a very Bad Thing. It means we'll be stuck with IE 6 as a baseline until, oh, 2009 or so if the adoption rate for Windows XP is any indication--and IE 6/Win is already out of date vis a vis Opera 7, Mozilla, Safari and even IE 5/Mac.
posted by setmajer at 7:09 AM on June 27, 2003


Whenever I hear this discussion come up, I go to my server logs and I run a quick check. Yup -- 94% of my users are using IE. (Almost all of the rest are using netscape 4.7x)

So, what, then, is the true "standard?" For those of us who serve the internet community at large, IE for Windows is really the only browser that matters.
posted by ph00dz at 7:11 AM on June 27, 2003


For those of us who serve the internet community at large, IE for Windows is really the only browser that matters.

Please don't think that. I understand what you're saying, but that path leads to the Dark Side. It's not just a knee-jerk anti-MS hyphenated-reaction. Standards will make amazing things possible. Allowing a for-profit company to define standards will kill progress. It's would be (warning: bad metaphor ahead) like letting General Motors build the highways. Think those axel-breaking potholes would be fixed quickly? Uh-huh: they're features.
posted by yerfatma at 7:20 AM on June 27, 2003


ph00dz, the true standard is still the published specification. Just because Microsoft chooses not to adhere to it doesn't change that fact. In the short term you can justify coding for whatever version of IE is most popular. In the long term you're shooting yourself in the foot as each version of IE's idiosynchronies cause you to have to build in new workarounds. If more web designers refused to bend over for Microsoft they'd be forced to adhere to the standards. Standards are good because they're published and don't change. If some new standard with some got-to-have feature comes up you can spend time coding for it and accomplish something meaningful.

This doesn't mean making sites undisplayable on IE, it means making sites suboptimal. Stick in the bare minimum of hacks to make it work. In the long run this benefits everybody (except Microsoft).
posted by substrate at 7:43 AM on June 27, 2003


For those of us who serve the internet community at large, IE for Windows is really the only browser that matters.
All the more reason it should support the standards. If it did CSS would work better, web pages would download vaster, accessibility would be easier, web sites would be cheaper to build and maintain, etc.

There are very real benefits to the standards other than just 'works in all browsers'.

Even if there weren't, how long before it becomes common to surf the web on a PDA or smartphone? Would it not be nice to have a single site offer at least basic content to PDAs as well as desktop computers with no additional effort? Or will we all be browsing bloated table layouts with a bloated IE derivative on our smartphones?
posted by setmajer at 7:46 AM on June 27, 2003


"Allowing a for-profit company to define standards will kill progress."

They always have, take a look at the W3C membership. The W3C is not exactly a 'grass roots' movement.

Saying it will 'kill progress' gives the impression that they are a slow moving bureaucracy who's members are in no hurry to implement years old recommendations... oh wait, nevermind. I wouldn't expect MS to be fixing much of anything, they didn't do it when IE was in active development and I can't see them doing it now.

One thing that confuses me is that it was my understanding that the Justice Dept. suit against MS addressed the unnecessarily tight integration between Windows and IE... how is embedding the thing in Longhorn any different?
posted by cedar at 7:48 AM on June 27, 2003


not surprisingly, I have a problem with all this. I've just finished writing a report for Uni about Berners-Lee and seeing the whole thing get shat on by MS doesn't impress me.

As I see it, there are three possibilities.

1) All customers will be good little sheep and buy their new web browser. Likelyhood: surprisingly high, but not high enough to be a plausible reality.

2) All customers will move over to Mozilla / Opera / JBloggs Super Browser. Likelyhood: Just about zero. They're still sheep after all.

3) No-one upgrades their browsers and stays with the buggy hunk of shit that is IE. Likelyhood: Too damned high.

I spend too much of my time making things work in that bloody awful system as it is. What it will be like wheneveryone is using five year old browsers is anyone's guess.

God I hate IBM...
posted by twine42 at 7:51 AM on June 27, 2003


Direct link to the Web Standards Project's "demanding that they include standards bugs."

Microsoft's lack of enthusiasm for standards-compliance is disappointed because they're a member of the organization that writes the standards. Their lapses in CSS support are particularly disappointing because CSS was Microsoft's proposed solution for style sheets, beating Netscape's JSSS.

Mezzoblue's MOSe (Mozilla/Opera/Safari Enhancement) proposes a graceful way to design for browsers that are more advanced than IE (Zen Garden example), and Steve Champeon addresses Progressive Enhancement and the Future of Web Design in WebMonkey.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:54 AM on June 27, 2003


They always have, take a look at the W3C membership. The W3C is not exactly a 'grass roots' movement.
Correct. However, they do represent a cross-section of the industry rather than just the self-interest of a single for-profit corporation.
posted by setmajer at 8:25 AM on June 27, 2003


Hey, terrorists! Nuke Redmond!
posted by alumshubby at 8:50 AM on June 27, 2003


I go to my server logs and I run a quick check. Yup -- 94% of my users are using IE.

ever considered the users that change their user-agent to identify as Internet Explorer so IE-only websites don't lock them out?
posted by bhayes82 at 8:52 AM on June 27, 2003


setmajer:"However, they do represent a cross-section of the industry rather than just the self-interest of a single for-profit corporation."

Agreed, nonetheless, corporate interests seem to have more in common with one another than with the consumer. I don't make a huge a distinction between Sun, Microsoft and IBM, they, along with the rest of the W3C members are interested in turning a profit and until we can convince them that supporting web standards will increase their revenue, it just ain't gonna happen.

Also, I wonder if it wouldn't if it wouldn't have been better to disclose your relationship with the WaSP early on. Your not exactly unbiased and this is dangerously close to a self link.
posted by cedar at 9:10 AM on June 27, 2003


I've introduced quite a few non-technical folks to Mozilla (and now Firebird), over the last couple of years. Most of them love it. Almost none of them knew that there was any other browser than IE. They thought 'browser' = IE. A couple of them had vaguely heard of Netscape. For the vast majority, the availability of better browsers isn't on their radar at all. Unfortunately, standards advocates with no budget are up against the marketing clout of AOL and MSN.

It continues to amaze me that something every other industry in the universe accepted as axiomatic generations ago - the utility and industry-wide benefits of standardization systems - remains a difficult concept for the software industry to absorb.
posted by normy at 9:23 AM on June 27, 2003


normy: " I've introduced quite a few non-technical folks to Mozilla (and now Firebird), over the last couple of years."

Me too. I installed Opera for my mother and once she caught on to the text zooming and tabs she loved it. I don't think she's fired up IE in months.

This is the most non technical person I know, but once she got a glimpse of Opera she read the docs and taught herself how to use it. Those of us who spend the day in front of a monitor often forget that users are not stupid, but are often ignorant of their options. Once they get a taste of the world outside of MS and AOL they often become some of the biggest evangelists for alternative products and services. In her little clique Mom is the Opera expert and her friends are rapidly switching.

Opera made a few bucks from that Mah Jongg game in the burbs.
posted by cedar at 9:35 AM on June 27, 2003


To be fair, when IE5 for the Mac was released, it was the most standard-compliant browser in existence; IE for Windows never caught up with its innovations.

No browser is completely standards compliant, but if the dominant player decides to stop improving it's bound to slow standards adoption.
posted by timeistight at 9:37 AM on June 27, 2003


Um, what standards body are we talking about? The W3C? They are not a standards body; they produce recommendations, which, maybe someday, might be adopted as standards by some other group such as ISO.

The W3C helps steer the development of web technologies, but the intention is that the recs should be implemented and tested in real-life over a period of time. Only then might some either org consider standardizing a spec. The idea that whatever comes out of the W3C is automatically a standard is bogus.

(Aside from the fact that the W3C is a vendor consortium that has become increasingly more interested in promoting technologies that help sell tools from member companies.)
posted by Ayn Marx at 9:52 AM on June 27, 2003


Also, I wonder if it wouldn't if it wouldn't have been better to disclose your relationship with the WaSP early on.
You're probably right.

I am a member of the WaSP, but not on the Steering Committee. I also posted the item linked above to the WaSP blog.
Your not exactly unbiased and this is dangerously close to a self link.
I'm definitely in favor of web standards, but I have no commercial interest in them one way or another. I think there's a definite difference between being a volunteer advocate for one side of an issue and having a financial interest in it.

As far as self-link, it is close. However, I read the guidelines and it didn't seem as though this qualified as a self-link. I also posted other material on the issue, rather than just the WaSP opinion, to give something of a broader take.
posted by setmajer at 9:59 AM on June 27, 2003


Sorry Mozilla/Firebird folks, I love the browser too, but IE will never go away.

This is the third call I've taken from a client whose friends cannot access his website (claiming it's 'not there'), because they apparently type all URLs into a search form (Yahoo, most likely), and have no idea what the "address bar" or a "browser" is.
posted by gramcracker at 10:31 AM on June 27, 2003


bhayes82 -- you're kidding, right?

Now, don't get me wrong... I have no great love affair with IE/Microsoft either, I'm just pointing out the obvious here. (I actually use Safari for much of my day-to-day browsing and have been very happy with it). Attempts to portray Microsoft as "discontinuing development" on IE are pretty disingenuous at best.

So... they've included IE as part of the Windows XP. If it's so horrible, why did KDE adopt the same approach? I'd imagine that we'll see safari tied into the Mac OS in the same way in the future as well, given that it makes sense to have an HTML rendering tool as part of the core of the system for a lot of reasons.

At the end of the day, though, how much does any of this really matter? Incomplete support for PNG? (Oh no!) Given that gif is now patent-free in the US, I could care less.

Here's what I'm sayin' -- if W3C is not a true "standards" body like ISO, then we should look to the most commonly deployed platform as the standard. I mean, realistically, if you have a page that displays fine in, say, Opera, but not IE, you're not going to fix it?
posted by ph00dz at 10:35 AM on June 27, 2003


Oh gee, what a bummer, Microshaft is going to stop allowing me the "privilege" of using their free (and you get what you pay for with MS) browser?

I might care if I didn't already have Netscape and Safari, both with tabbed browser windows.
posted by fenriq at 10:41 AM on June 27, 2003


(speaking for myself, not the WaSP; both here and in my other posts to this thread)
Attempts to portray Microsoft as "discontinuing development" on IE are pretty disingenuous at best.
Correct. MS is discontinuing the free, standalone versions of Internet Explorer. They will continue to develop both IE for the Mac and IE for Windows as part of MSN for Mac and Windows, respectively.
I'd imagine that we'll see safari tied into the Mac OS in the same way in the future as well, given that it makes sense to have an HTML rendering tool as part of the core of the system for a lot of reasons.
This will be the case in OS 10.3, I believe.

IIRC, the antitrust violation was in not letting OEMs or others remove IE and use a different browser. Simply allowing them to remove the shortcuts to the browser and replace them with shortcuts to Netscape (for example), then set that browser as the default application to open web pages/URLs would have made the issue more or less moot.

For what it's worth, I have no problem whatever with Microsoft integrating their browser into paid products. What bothers me is that they've been advertising their browsers as standards-compliant when the Windows version (at least) contains serious bugs WRT standards that have been around for years, and now they're going to only upgrade the browser for people who pay for it. OK, fine--just include the standards bugs among those they intend to fix and I'm a happy cog (apologies to Jeffrey Zeldman).
At the end of the day, though, how much does any of this really matter? Incomplete support for PNG? (Oh no!) Given that gif is now patent-free in the US, I could care less.
Alpha transparency doesn't interest you at all? Nor (potentially) smaller file sizes? Lots of designers would be delighted with both (albeit more the former than the latter).
Here's what I'm sayin' -- if W3C is not a true "standards" body like ISO, then we should look to the most commonly deployed platform as the standard.
I disagree. The W3C represents an industry consensus, which while not perfect still represents a wider set of interests than one vendor's implementation. In addition, the W3C offers functionality that Microsoft's rendering does not (sibling and child selectors in IE/Windows, for example; attribute selectors and generated content on both platforms).

At the end of the day, a single vendor has decided that the web is 'good enough' at least until '05 when Longhorn is released and realistically until '09 or so. If they fix the standards they claim to support now--and in fact helped author--then things are keen. If they don't, then it's a case of one vendor holding up progress in an entire industry.

I don't think that's a good thing.
posted by setmajer at 11:00 AM on June 27, 2003


setmajer: The W3C represents an industry consensus

As long as you consider it a "consensus" when the maker of the most used browser on the planet simply does not agree... They know what the recommendations are; they've chosen to forego implementing parts of them because, well, they don't think their customers need them. Calling them "Standards" is just silly. A "standard" can only be called a standard if it's actually implemented and in case it's escaped everybody's notice, some of the missing support stems back to IE versions four or five years old... I got news, kids - M. Godot ain't comin'...
posted by JollyWanker at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2003


As long as you consider it a "consensus" when the maker of the most used browser on the planet simply does not agree...
That's just it: they did agree. In fact, CSS was their baby. And they themselves have promised to support these standards (they promised the WaSP back in the late '90s for starters, and have made many promises of openness and cooperation in the wake of the antitrust trial).
Calling them "Standards" is just silly.
They're not Standards (capital 'S'). Those are, as somebody else pointed out, things that come from standards bodies like the ISO. They're 'standards', which come about through industry consensus.
A "standard" can only be called a standard if it's actually implemented and in case it's escaped everybody's notice, some of the missing support stems back to IE versions four or five years old...
With precious few (and dwindling) exceptions, they have been implemented. Mozilla has implemented them (in large part with development funded by AOL). KHTML has implemented them (with some development funded by Apple). Opera has implemented them. In many cases Microsoft has implemented them in the Mac version of their browser.

Excluding the slowly-dying NN4.x, IE for Windows is 90% of the problem and sucks up 60-70% of my debugging time. Worse, if I want to test against the latest version of IE for Mac, I have to pay Microsoft $9.99/month for an MSN subscription. As of Longhorn, to test against IE for Windows I'll have to buy a Windows license, unlike other versions I have installed on existing computers or on VirtualPC using licenses from defunct machines. So I have to pay Microsoft to develop cross-platform web sites. Microsoft is effectively charging a web development tax.

Apple does, in fact, have a similar thing happening with Safari: without OS X.2, you can't test that browser. You can, however, test against its rendering engine by using Konqueror on a Linux box, and anyone who cares to could port KHTML to Windows and offer it for free (or fee). Moreover, if Safari 2.0 requires Mac OS X.4 or whatever one could test with OmniWeb on an older version of OS X, as it uses KHTML as well. There is a difference between what Apple is doing and what MS is doing, though it remains to be seen whether the difference will be only academic.
posted by setmajer at 11:00 PM on June 27, 2003


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