Possible Benefits for IE6 Backlash: More Standards Awareness and Use?

According to UK ZDNet’s Munir Kotadia in Monday’s article, Will Microsoft’s browser engine backfire?, “Microsoft may have unwittingly started a revolt against its Internet Explorer (IE) browser by discontinuing it as a standalone product and blurring the future of the current version, IE 6.” So many banks and similar companies have created IE-oriented Web support rather than creating standards-oriented support, and this article reports speculation that companies may be forced to reconsider a standards-based approach instead of a browser-specific approach, citing First Direct’s recent warning to its customers to upgrade their IE browsers before June 30th due to Microsoft discontinuing its standalone browser for Windows 95 and 98. First Direct has concerns about its security certificates expiring, among other things.

I suspect many companies don’t even know about Microsoft’s recent announcement, though, and those who do are wondering what it ultimately means for users. Right now other browsers are continuing to improve standards support and integrate new technologies to offer more to users. In contrast, a stagnating IE browser will become increasingly less useful as technology and standards march on. If they asked me, I’d tell them it’s an even better time to consider a standards-based approach rather than a browser-specific or vendor-specific approach.

When you do the math it’s obvious that it will be years before there’s widespread use of Microsoft’s Longhorn OS that integrates its browser—it will be at least 2005 before Longhorn ships as the latest Windows OS. So will companies and developers just stick with IE6 support for several years or more, or will they want to stay on top of developing technology and standards to try to provide their users with increasingly more and better features?

Well, you can probably read between the lines easily enough to figure out how I feel. I hope people complain to Microsoft to at least fix its current bugs, including the standards support bugs, and I also hope people try other browsers with continually improving standards support, such as Opera, Mozilla, Safari, and others.

Other points in ZDNet’s article are interesting, as well. Here are some quotes:

“Microsoft has already confirmed that it will no longer make standalone versions of IE, and said 'nothing has yet been decided' about the future of support for IE 6, the browser’s current standalone incarnation. Lars Ahlgren, EMEA support policy manager at Microsoft, told ZDNet UK that he knows it is 'very unwise to force customers to upgrade' to a new operating system, and admitted that "if you lock in your users or customers, you will lose out.'

“However, he is adamant that in order for 'browser technology to truly thrive and develop, it needs to be part of the operating system--that is why we have made this choice.'

“But analyst Silver said that by integrating IE and Windows, Microsoft is doing exactly what it warns against, by forcing customers to upgrade their operating systems. 'If Microsoft only releases IE as part of the operating system, (this) means the next major version of IE will be part of Longhorn. If a vendor or bank wants to use a specific feature of that version in their product, it means that only Longhorn users will be able to use it,' Silver said. The real impact of Microsoft’s decision will not be apparent 'until we get a better sense of how widely open-source and alternative desktops are adopted,' said Governor, who expects Microsoft to suffer some unwelcome side effects as customers are 'driven into the arms of the competition.'”

Microsoft’s stand that browser technology must be part of the operating system to truly thrive and develop makes absolutely no sense to me. Id' like to hear an explanation from Microsoft about why they feel that way and upon what they’re basing that view. I may or may not disagree, but for the moment I end up feeling a bit suspect. Browsers and other software can and do utilize operating system features every day. I have no problem with them wanting to charge for a browser, but integrating their browser into their operating system 'to truly thrive and develop' browser technology doesn’t hold water for me.

10:11 pm, pdt30 June, 2003 Comments, Trackbacks ·';}?>

Categories: Accessibility, Browsers, Design, Software, Standards, Usability, Web Biz

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