The WaSP sympathizes with the anxiety Web developers have expressed regarding Microsoft’s recent announcements. In the space of a few short days, we learned that Internet Explorer for Macintosh and Windows would cease to exist as free, standalone products. Instead, they will be integrated into MSN for Macintosh and the next version of Windows. After years of Microsoft’s browsers being free, many had come to believe this would always be so.
Forgive us for pointing out the obvious: Microsoft is and has always been a for-profit company. Expecting them to continue developing their browsers for free in an IT market as weak as a pink-slip party martini is optimism that would make a Wired editor blush. The demise of the free versions of Internet Explorer simply underscores the need for standards: browsers come and go, standards endure.
That Microsoft’s browsers were free in the first place is due to their overzealous competition in the browser market. Microsoft earned a conviction on antitrust violations for their actions, but it is only relevant to us insofar as it implies a greater responsibility on Microsoft’s part to support industry standards—a responsibility they have said they accept. We are holding them to their word.
Microsoft has said they have not discontinued support for the standalone versions of Internet Explorer. They have merely discontinued new development, but will continue to provide bug fixes. Microsoft should demonstrate their continued commitment to industry standards by letting us know when we can expect fixes for the remaining standards-support bugs in Internet Explorer for Macintosh and Windows. Bugs like:
- No support for attribute selectors (Windows/Mac)
- Incomplete support for PNG (Windows)
- No support for the W3C event model (Windows/Mac)
- No support for adjacent selectors (Windows)
- No support for border-spacing (Windows/Mac)
- No support for position: fixed (Windows)
Confirming that they plan to fix the remaining bugs in their browsers would demonstrate that customers considering their browsers and other software can expect to realize the cost and time savings of open standards, now and in the future.
Opera has proven that it is possible to continue improving standards support in a for-pay browser. Free Open Source browsers such as Mozilla, whose Gecko rendering engine is the basis for Netscape, Firebird and Camino, and Konqueror, whose KHTML rendering engine serves as the basis for Apple’s Safari and the forthcoming OmniWeb 4.5, have likewise continued to improve their standards support. So far as we know, the developers of these browsers do not have the benefit of monopoly profits. Microsoft has a responsibility to use the profits they now seek from their illegally-obtained monopoly share of the browser market to fix the standards-related bugs in the software they advertise as standards-compliant.
So how about it, Microsoft? When can we expect proof that rather than being a death-knell for the open web, the integration of your browsing software with paid products heralds a new era of more robust standards support and simpler, cheaper and more effective Web development?
The WaSP—and the Web—are waiting.
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