Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

A few of articles to help put the AOL announcement into perspective:

C|Net has a summary of the AOL and Mozilla Foundation announcements. The story contains a couple of factual glitches. First, the AOL-Microsoft settlement didn’t guarantee AOL would use IE; it guaranteed that AOL could use IE royalty-free for the next seven years. AOL and everyone else can do so already; the settlement just guarantees Microsoft won’t start charging AOL royalties until 2010 at least. Second, the Mozilla project didn’t switch their focus from the monolithic suite to Firebird (née Phoenix) to achieve platform-independence or better support for Web standards. Both have been project goals from the first. The switch was aimed at simplifying and speeding development.

The Register adds some historical perspective, and a few not-entirely-undeserved barbs at the Mozilla project.

Wired takes a much more upbeat view in their article. A word of caution regarding the OneStat browser statistics cited in the article: Those figures represent browser usage observed by OneStat’s clients, not a statistically valid sample of the entire Web audience. Individual sites often see very different browser usage patterns than those reported by OneStat.

Also worth a look is Peter-Paul Koch’s Browser Wars II. Koch gets a couple things wrong, though. He says Microsoft may have no choice but to discontinue upgrades for the standalone IE/Win: its Trident rendering engine may be so heavily patched that further improvements are impossible. Maybe, but Microsoft has an outstanding alternative in the form of the Tasman engine that powers IE Mac and is already being moved to other platforms. Second, Koch says IE Mac is dead. It isn’t. The free version of IE Mac is dead. A new version of the- browser-formerly-known-as-IE-Mac is available (for a monthly fee) as MSN for Macintosh.

Finally, Ralph Mellor posited that Mozilla’s ties to AOL Time Warner may have been a bad thing. He makes an interesting point, but he’s forgetting one thing: the Netscape brand. Browsers aren’t typically chosen by people who care about things like independence and technical superiority. Browsers are chosen by end users. As Geoffrey Moore points out in Crossing the Chasm, end users don’t understand tech and don’t want to. They choose technology based on what they think is safe. Well-known brands appear safe because so many other people are using them. Aside from IE, the only browser brand with any recognition outside Web developer circles is Netscape. With the Netscape browser dead people—including some Web developers—may conclude there is no viable alternative to IE. Worse, many may decide that Web standards are synonymous with ‘works in IE/Win’.

It’s up to us (and you) to ensure that doesn’t happen.

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