Microsoft and Internet Explorer vs. web standards

After reading Chris Wilson's post Microsoft, IE and the Web Standards Project I'd like to attempt to explain the feelings I, as a web standards advocate and web professional, have about Microsoft and Internet Explorer.

First of all I think it's great to see the Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Platform team at Microsoft say the following, if only on his personal blog:

Yes, I have the power to enact change. Yes, I will continue to improve standards support and compliance in IE, and make the web better. That's my job, my charter, my vision, and my passion. The day it isn't, I'll quit. The day the development of the standards-based platform in IE goes on a back burner again, I'll quit.

Fantastic! Chris, if you're reading this, I hope you'll never see the need to quit your job!

Now let me explain why I'm not exactly shouting out my support for Microsoft now that Internet Explorer is finally being updated.

  • Microsoft, by not keeping Internet Explorer up to date as web development has moved into the era of open web standards, has caused web professionals all over the world a lot of grief. Prolonged development time (which equals reduced revenue) and many headaches and stomach ulcers have been caused to a large extent by Internet Explorer's incredibly frustrating behaviour. If the buggiest web browser browser with the buggiest CSS implementation in the history of the Web wasn't also the dominant one, I doubt many web professionals would bother with it.

  • Internet Explorer problems aside, I think the most important reason for many web professionals being cynical and very sceptical towards anything coming from Microsoft is the respectless way Microsoft has been treating us. For years we've been begging for improvements to IE. The response we received was "You are not our customers".

  • I want freedom of choice. Anything that can help preventing Internet Explorer from completely dominating the web browser market again should be promoted by each and every person that wants to be able to choose which computer to use, which operating system to use, and which web browser to use. If any single profit-driven company's web browser is allowed to dominate, the freedom to choose will be restricted. Most web developers are ignorant and lazy, and will take every shortcut they can. If those shortcuts mean shutting people out, they don't care unless the number of people shut out is significant enough to affect their earnings.

  • I'm a Mac user, so Internet Explorer is not for me anymore. I only ever use it for testing purposes.

  • I honestly don't think Internet Explorer 7 is good enough. It's much, much better than IE 6, that's for sure, but it has a long way to go before it catches up with Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Now I understand that the people on the IE team aren't to blame for that - there are budgets and deadlines that affect how much they can do. But knowing that doesn't really help us, does it? I'm sure the people at Apple, Mozilla, and Opera also have budgets and deadlines, and yet they manage to create browsers that have much, much better support for web standards. How is that possible?

So if you've been wondering why I'm not taking every chance to say "Go Microsoft! Yay for IE 7!", now you know.

Posted on May 15, 2006 in Web Standards, Browsers