05 Sep 2001 @ 3:46 PM 

Wednesday –

Microsoft has a new browser, Internet Explorer 6.0. Netscape has the new Communicator 6.1. Opera has the relatively recent Opera 5.12.

That’s a lot of choices. Not to mention the truly fringe browsers, like the text-only Lynx and the Linux-only Konqueror. Let’s focus on the options available to Windows users; like it or not, they own the market right now.

IE 6.0 and IE 5.5 Service Pack 2 have something in common that is unlike the other two big browsers: no Netscape-style plugin support. Microsoft didn’t announce this new “feature” before implementing it, and included it in a service pack, which normally only includes bugfixes, not significant changes in behavior.

Microsoft also has decided that IE6 will no longer have a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed by default. It will have to be downloaded separately. Microsoft blames this on Sun, saying that the lawsuit Sun filed against them requires MS to stop bundling the JVM, and that nobody uses Java anyway. This is blatantly false. Sun sued Microsoft to get MS to honor the contract they had signed. That contract stated that MS will only include Java Virtual Machines that are fully compliant with the Java standard, as defined by Sun.

That does not excuse Microsoft from breaking the contract they voluntarily signed with Sun. Nobody forced MS to promise Java compatibility, they did it on purpose and then broke their promise (contract). When it looked like Java was going to be vitally important, MS pledged allegiance. Now that Java looks more marginal (I know some businesses use it for important functions, but not most consumers), Microsoft sees no gain in going along with someone else’s standards.

Sun didn’t want to make an “open” standard, they wanted a standard. If it were open, they would allow others to change it. Instead, they want others to abide by their agreements.

That way, you could write a Java applet and know it would work on any JVM on any OS/platform. Does “Write once, run anywhere” ring any bells?

ActiveX controls, which were embryonic at best when Java was introduced, are now at the forefront of MS’s plans.

The convenience angle has been what Microsoft has ridden to market dominance. Breaking contracts willy-nilly has been another thing that has helped them, however. Whenever MS has a strong belief they can out-litigate their opponent, they do so, but still scream foul when anyone else takes them to court.

The rather ominous security and privacy problems with Microsoft’s current products are getting a great deal of press, but I wonder how much the average consumer notices.

I personally think that MS will stand firm on their new “no-Java” policy, and we’ll end up with even more of a headache for web developers. Especially with their recent announcement of no non-ActiveX plugins either. Makes most content quite dull, unless you buy into the ActiveX plan, which breaks all cross-platform compatibility, as well as introducing those lovely ActiveX-based virii and such.

We techies can rail against the absurdity of Microsoft’s plans all we like, but “normal” consumers are most concerned with convenience. The business community won’t have to deal with the onerous Activation Wizard, but consumers will. Guess who the bigger cash cow is and win a prize. 🙂

The big problem with Sun’s lawsuit against Microsoft wasn’t that their JVM had Windows-only speed enhancements (it was the fastest JVM for Windows), but that they had extended the language to add commands that only worked in Windows. Obviously, Windows is the biggest part of the market, but it is not the ONLY market.

As a web developer, I’m continually amazed at how the same page renders in different browsers. IE gains some of its ease-of-use at the expense of breaking some web standards (http://w3.org), and creating extensions that aren’t defined by or recognized by W3C. Netscape started that trend, but they’ve begun to play nice with version 6.1 finally.

Opera is the most standards-compliant browser, and I’ve recently adopted it as my primary browser (after using IE exclusively for over a year). I still have to use IE on occasion for some websites that refuse to follow the recognized standards, but it is quite rare now. I think the HTML 4.01 and CSS 2.0 standards are helping make the differences between browsers more negligible. NS 6.1, Opera5.12 and IE5.5 all render my web pages correctly, for instance. That may be because I validate all my pages for standards-compliance, but the differences between the three are minor now. Trying to view my pages with Netscape 4.x, though, will usually cause some non-fatal errors. For one thing, the CSS2-based buttons on my Livejournal page are invisible and non-interactive on NS4, but work fine in the newer version. Also, the “fixed” background works in Netscape 6.1 just as in IE and Opera; this is the first time that NS has supported the “watermark” background that Microsoft introduced years ago.

Even Netscape actually works now, for the first time in 4 years. 🙂

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 04 Jun 2004 @ 05:04 PM

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Categories: Random Thoughts
 05 Sep 2001 @ 1:16 PM 

I’ve updated my website with a rather lengthy screed, regarding the lovely state of Web Browsers today. All the major players seem to have matured to the point of near-identicality. Read more for my hate-filled loathing of Microsoft. Well, maybe not quite hate-filled.
current_music: Texas – Say What You Want
current_mood: cold

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 05 Sep 2001 @ 01:16 PM

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