Mozilla's Mitchell Baker: IE is An "Ongoing Drag" On Web Functionality
Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, has been running a series of posts on how providers of Internet browsers should approach standards on the web, and how they should approach competition with other browsers. In her latest installment, she notes that one point she has made in the series of posts has received more criticism than any other from readers: "IE must comply with web standards. "The ongoing drag on the web’s functionality caused by IE’s limitations remains an enormous problem," she writes. Is Microsoft holding the web back?
Baker's post follows a push from the folks at Opera to hold Microsoft's feet to the fire on supporting web standards that it has promised to support. It's easy for fragmentation to occur when software providers implement proposed web standards, because, as Baker notes, "there is the question of how one determines compliance with a standard."
Internet Explorer has dominant market share among browsers, and many sites have become tuned to work with its approaches to web standards over the years. That process has had its roots in another problem that Baker has identified in her series of posts, which is that many developers reach for Microsoft tools for developing content, and many of those tools produce IE-specific or Windows-specific results.
"Microsoft has a history of using its tools to lock out other products. For example, Microsoft web development tools have often resulted in code that only works with IE. The application developers may or may not even be aware of this. They use a convenient tool provided by the operating system vendor, and end up helping extend the operating system monopoly to other products."
Yes, Microsoft does indeed have a history of producing development tools that result in application optimizations favoring its own products. It's non-accidental that the company continues to produce development tools, and even gives away its development tools in order to create the largest possible user base for them.
If there is to be a level playing field for compliance with web standards among all browsers, including Internet Explorer, then the policing of compliance has to begin with policing how development tools work. That's one of many reasons why the level playing field that Baker, the people at Opera, and others seek is so difficult to actually achieve. Hopefully, the continuing erosion of Internet Explorer's market share from open source browsers, and Firefox in particular, will end up making a difference.