What should Molly do at Microsoft?

As many are no doubt aware, the uncomparable Molly Holzschlag has signed a contract with Microsoft to work on standards and interoperability issues. That does sound like good news, and Molly is getting ready to start her work on… well, what?

One person can only do that much, so Molly needs a little help prioritising and would like to know what the community of standards-aware Web professionals want to see her do at Microsoft.

Many people have already voiced their opinions by commenting on Molly’s post Redmond, Here I Am. Add yours as well.

And what would I like her to focus on? Hmm. Two things come to mind:

  1. Make whoever is preventing the IE team from really fixing Internet Explorer realise that Microsoft can only benefit from having a browser with state-of-the-art support for Web standards. I think most, if not all, people on the IE team know this, but someone or something is holding them back.
  2. ASP.NET. Oh my, where do I start. As long as the default Visual Studio controls spew out nonsense markup that is completely dependent on JavaScript to work, well, there will be no progress among the myriad sites created by the drag-and-drop cowboys that call themselves programmers. This needs to be fixed ASAP.

There are so many other things that need to be fixed with Microsoft in the Web standards and interoperability departments, but I think those two would be a good start.

Posted on March 19, 2007 in Quicklinks, Web Standards


  1. I absolutely could not agree with you more. Nuff’ said.

  2. It seems compatibility with existing sites is what is keeping the IE Team from better standards. They know this, and Chris Wilson talks about it in Browser Wars II at Y!UI Theatre.

    It’s well known that there is quirksmode. IE’s standards mode is now just a new quirksmode. Chris asks for another opt-in (other than just having DOCTYPE).

    Folks over at the WHAT WG suggest it should be the HTML 5 doctype (i.e. <!doctype html>). My specific argument here is that Chris asked for ANOTHER opt-in. Presumably, that means that using DOCTYPE is out of the question. Further, this is not backwards compatible. We could never have super-standards in XHTML 1 or HTML 4.01.

    My proposition was to use headers so that we didn’t have to modify the HTML5 specification to account for IE. Most people didn’t like the idea of headers, but I don’t think they clearly understood that the proposed solution cut out present development, as well as those of us who may not want to use HTML 5 the day it becomes a recommendation. I also don’t think they understood the ideology of headers.

    Whatever the case, the IE Team is aware of the problem, and are willing to work on it insofar as we can provide them some method to opt-in.

    (As an aside, I couldn’t get the second link to become a link in the preview, and the automatic conversion of angle brackets to entities didn’t seem to work when I previewed… not sure how it will go when I actually post.)

  3. March 19, 2007 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)


    I don’t have time to watch that video right now to see exactly what Chris is saying, but I don’t get it. How can implementing the full CSS 2.1 spec or fixing more bugs be a compatibility problem, especially in standards mode?

    I fixed your second link - you got the [ ] and ( ) mixed up ;-).

  4. In the same vein as standards support in IE please, please, please fix Hotmail/Live Mail and Outlook.

  5. Roger:

    It’s IE’s proprietary DOM model that’s the issue here: there is currently no W3C DOM model in IE, so the IE one is used even in standards mode.

  6. Let’s have a little more fun than this. I suggest that we start a bet about which version of IE that will be standards compliant. My bet is IE12. Any takers? :)

  7. March 19, 2007 by Alejandro Moreno

    Ouch. I work with ASP.NET.

    It’s not my choice, that’s for damn sure. But, outside of the mandatory JS requirement (curse you, MS!) I really try to output good markup.

  8. Nice shot, Roger. You couldn’t say more ;)

  9. Jump on the beds.

  10. To me, it’s not so much an issue of how much better off Microsoft will be if IE is made standards-compliant, but that MS has a fiduciary responsibility to the industry it has dominated for so long. The problem with being dominated is that it can cause the underlings to become disgruntled, such as those of us who waste endless hours of development time to accommodate IE’s broken box and DOM models. I feel it is Microsoft’s duty as an industry leader to deliver a long-overdue standards compliant web browser. What a shame that they have yet to accept this prevailing truth.

    I would ask Molly to do her best to encourage and enlighten the powers that be within MS to give the appropriate credence to the well-documented grievances of the industry regarding their abysmal browser products. I don’t at all loathe IE because it’s a Microsoft product, but because it’s a substandard, industry-wide resource drain. Microsoft has committed crimes against the industry by dragging its feet in browser development, and for the market-share leader, that is simply unacceptable behavior.

  11. March 19, 2007 by BillyG

    Microsoft & Standards?

    WOW, now that’s a concept I (they) must’ve missed!

    G/L Molly, you definitely got your work cutout for you there. Talk about job security…

  12. March 19, 2007 by Rory Fitzpatrick

    I completely agree with your points. IE headaches and ASP.NET tag soup output are the plague of my every working day! Obviously I have no idea how the ASP.NET team is composed but it looks very much to me like their software engineers are attempting to take on the role of web designers - something that most of us will know is very hard to do. I’m not denying their ability as engineers, but either they need an education on standards or client-side developers need to take control of the rendering development.

  13. March 20, 2007 by DigitaLink

    Can’t speak to ASP.NET stuff, but it would SURE BE NICE if IE had SOME standards compliance!!

    I could have written three times the code I have if I didn’t have to stop and find out what IE breaks, and then find a hack to work around it. When I can get code to work the same way across Firefox, Opera, and Konqueror across Windows AND Linux (except Konq … that’s lin only) and IE botches it all to hell, well, that to me is not MY problem, it’s an IE problem. Pure and simple, the problem is IE. It’s the NS4 of our generation.

  14. I too work with ASP.NET every day and we’re very concerned about its output. We’re doing what we can to have the sites as much standards compliant as possible and have the cleanest possible markup on the output. But as soon as there’s some more dynamic section of the site, like Forums, for example, it’s really hard to argue and fight with the server-side developers in our team who just bloat it with LinkButtons and neverending postbacks…ouch. The FORM element encapsulating the entire BODY contents is an ugly thing too, always, but especially in those cases when there are semantically more forms on the page than just one.

  15. March 20, 2007 by Pete

    The quality and compliance of ASP.NET projects is more to do with how you use the technology, than anything else. The problem is that a lot of the features are designed to be drag and drop for people who don’t want, or care to know about web design and browser issues.

  16. With regards to asp.net, don’t hold your breath.

    59% of all .NET programmers worldwide use VB.NET, according to some MS survey I read recently. When you think of this, it makes perfect sense for MS to try and keep those programmers locked to the mothership. And one of the easiet ways of doing this, is to make asp.net seem equal to doing WinForms apps in VB.NET.

    For the rest of us, it’s “less than optimal”, which is why I am spending as much time as possible doing !(.NET), and will hopefully be able to launch my evil plans for WorldDomintation, using mostly open (source/api/platform/standards) technology soon.

  17. I’d be happy with another opt-in, just to push things forward quicker.

    Using an http header would make it easy to use really-standards-mode across many pages. However, there’d need to be a per-file solution too, which doesn’t rely on a server. Some use of the meta tag or directive wrapped in an html / css comment would do me.

  18. March 20, 2007 by Bas W

    How about a simple one to start off with… proper PNG support in IE, just to get them used to seeing some happy faces :-) … then tackle the big stuff…

  19. I want to share here, what I wrote at Molly’s:

    I believe that Microsoft’s biggest regret is the fact they are burdened with legacy support in all new projects. They tried to buck the trend and create their own standards set back in the early 90s, but it didn’t take — the rest of the industry went in a different direction. I can’t say they failed because they are a wildly successful corporation, but it has caused them undo grief in trying to ensure older software and systems work in new builds of anything they create. I predict we’ll see an end to that. I predict any post-Vista OS releases and any IE.next releases are going to forgo that legacy support and be written on a clean sheet. I can’t blame them. Some customers will scream bloody murder but all in all it’ll be for the good. Anyway, Apple’s gotten away with doing that — like, what, four times is it? I feel it’ll be a step in the right direction. They will be able to create something new-and-improved all while dropping millions of lines of code.

    This is a grand opportunity for [Molly] and MS, and MS is listening. Standard-standards will put them back in the worldwide loop, so to speak. All [Molly has] to do is show them how this will prevent them from re-living five year roll-outs and bloated code fiascoes. MS’s primary goal is to turn a profit, which is completely understandable. The adoption of and compliance with standard-standards will make roll-outs easier, faster, and they will realize a better profit in a shorter period. They know this. [Molly’s] job should be easy because MS already knows this. All [Molly has] to do is support that notion and show them how.

  20. I’d like Microsoft to straight up kick some ass.

    1. Clean up all the little stuff, such as broken or missing selectors.
    2. Fix or add what’s need to reach perfect CSS 2.x support.
    3. Then be the first on the block to support CSS 3 properly.

    Also, keep it easy to know which version supports what. I like conditional comments a lot. With a sane versioning system, they’d be fantastic.

    Help teach Mr. and Mrs. Average User the benefits of a better browser experience so they want one as well.

  21. I agree with you so much, Roger! I believe that IE.next and VS should be Molly’s priorities. I can’t maintain more or less standard compliant applications in Visual Studio when working in a team, the code gets broken every time someone else opens it.

    Getting the principal tools working (the viewing tool(IE) and the creation tool(Visual Studio)) will start the migration to the standards.

  22. Plant a bomb and do everyone a favour and blow it up. Then they can start again and hopefully get it right :)

  23. As far as the rendering of the controls go, there is now a way to customize how the controls render. The ASP.NET 2.0 CSS Friendly Control Adapters 1.0 allow you to change the resulting HTML from the controls so that you can produce friendlier, more semantically correct markup.

    That being said… I wish that they’d just produce better markup instead of forcing standards minded ASP.NET developers to fix things themselves.


    And I agree with Pete (#15). ASP.NET’s HTML woes are based on Microsoft’s approach to try and woo Windows Forms application developers to the web. But by trying to make everything drag and drop/WYSIWYG, there’s so much junk that goes into the markup and styling that it’s really difficult to produce a semantically correct page if you are using any of the controls.

    Microsoft did a disservice to web developers when they decided to try and pretend that web development isn’t different from developing a desktop application. And I think it’s a shame - I largely enjoy ASP.NET development and the new language features coming out (especially LINQ) are pretty great. But it kills me when I try to drop in a menu and there’s this giant table or when using master pages renames my control IDs in the page, making it more of a hassle to interact with them through JavaScript.

    So getting back to the original question… I would love to see the ASP.NET controls produce better markup.

  24. Tools aren’t evil, people are evil. It’s actually quite simple to use ASP.NET as a framework to generate beautiful markup, you just have to use it in the right way.

    Cowboys will create junk whichever tool they use - I don’t think you can really blame a particular vendor for that problem.

  25. March 22, 2007 by Jamie Dixon

    I agree with Oli on this one.

    As an ASP.NET developer who is extreemly stubourn about the markup i have output, as well as the semantics of that markup, i have to say that shoddy output is less of a problem with ASP.NET and more of a problem with education.

    As has been said above, ASP.NET is a tool, and as with any tool there will always be people who might not use it in the more efficient and appropriate way. One of the more proliferent problems here is that fact that ASP.NET almost promoted the use of certain controls that output non-standards-complient code or rely on shoddy scripting to acheive tasks.

    For me, the answer to these problems not only lies with the MS team but also the developers. If you’re going to use a tool, learn to understand it and to use it in the way you need.

    There is (mostly) never a good enough excuse for a badly developed system and as developers in an industry we supposedly love, we should always be aiming to develop in the best way and understand the tools we use.

    Thats my 2c, your mileage may and proberbly will vary.


  26. Was tantek celik not at microsoft trying to implement web standard on the old dead mac IE?

    he left http://tantek.com/log/2004/06.html and they havent addressed the accessibility and css support issues he brought up yet. that is 3 years ago.

    microsoft are a joke. come on.

    molly good on, you hope you can stick it for more than a few months.

    lets wait another 3 years to have one more css tag supported and have to say thanks for it.

  27. It’s not a “who” that is preventing IE from being standards compliant, it’s their entire corporate culture. It makes no business sense for them to support open standards, as they control the vast majority of user-agents on the Web. While I wish Molly the best, I don’t see any real substantive change happening until they become a minority. That is simply not going to happen anytime soon, as much as we may wish it to.

    To paraphrase Lily Tomlin: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re Microsoft.”

  28. March 23, 2007 by John

    yeah, im so excited…..while im shaving with my plasma razor and flying my car maybe microsoft will have had time to appreciate BORDERLESS INPUT FIELDS…………………………………………………………….

  29. I can’t really add to the comments above other than to say that Stephen Tudor’s comments in the latter part of comment #10 are probably the most true and well worded I’ve ever read in this whole MS/IE thing.

    Stephen said - “I don’t at all loathe IE because it’s a Microsoft product, but because it’s a substandard, industry-wide resource drain. Microsoft has committed crimes against the industry by dragging its feet in browser development, and for the market-share leader, that is simply unacceptable behavior.”

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