Giving Microsoft a Kick in the Butt

Album Cover: No Line On The Horizon

"I'm running down the road like loose electricity while the band in my head plays a striptease."
U2 / Breathe

Posted on October 12, 2003 1:47 AM in Web Design
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

While reading Henrik Gemal's blog tonight, I stumbled upon an article from last week over at C|Net (that I'm surprised I didn't find on my own) titled "Developers gripe about IE standards inaction."

It's an excellent article about the growing popularity of CSS and how many web developers and other creative professionals are hoping Microsoft will upgrade the Internet Explorer 6 browser to meet today's CSS standards. With names like Zeldman, Nielsen and Meyer appearing throughout the article, it is sure to be at least an eye-opener to those tech-savvy types who haven't yet realized the powers of web standards and Cascading Style Sheets. However, as the article questions, is it enough to sway the rest of IE's 90% market share to pressure Microsoft to make some upgrades? Zeldman thinks not, and I agree.

The bottom-line is, the threat that alternative browsers like Mozilla and Opera pose to IE isn't enough to budge Microsoft. Neither is the fact that Adobe has decided to use Opera as its GoLive rendering engine. Until Microsoft sees a substantial loss in its share of the browser market, they really have no reason to throw resources at upgrading IE. Even if they did lose some of their market share, I'm still not totally convinced they'd do anything about it. When you've got such a stronghold, it would have to take a serious mass exodus to get Internet Explorer to break any new ground in terms of web standards and CSS2 or CSS3 compliance.

Greg Sullivan, lead product manager of the Windows client group summed it up best when he alluded to the fact that web developers and creative professionals form only a small fraction of the total Internet Explorer user base:

"We balance feedback from all our customers and make our development decisions based on meeting the requirements of all of our customers, not just a few of them."

What this means to web developers is that we need to keep on doing what we're doing – designing websites that are standards compliant and forward-compatible, but that still look good in Internet Explorer. There will come a day that Microsoft either decides to play or to give up its stronghold to a more worthy competitor, but that time has not come and probably won't come for quite a while. As unfortunate as that is, it is the cold, hard truth. In the meantime, we can continue to tout the benefits of standards-based web design and do our best to bring new users over to better browsers one at a time. That way, when the browser war heats up again, we'll all be ready.


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