Why I’m not happy about IE9
IE9, the next version of Internet Explorer, is available (in open beta), and the interwebs are pretty happy about it. Microsoft itself is bragging, but we also see quite a lot of random people wooting about it. It’s fast, standards compliant, its UI is nice, etc…
Now, probably those people are mostly Microsoft fanboys (and I thought this species was mostly extinct these days), but some are not, and they’re happy because, at last, Microsoft is playing ball and supporting the latest standards of the web - it’s good because “browsers are competing on their implementation of HTML5, rather than on proprietary extensions”, as someone put it on twitter.
I was myself also almost happy - mostly, I didn’t care, but I thought it was nice, that it’d make web development easier and all that…
But this morning I had a strange feeling. Some old synapses fired in my brain that were last activated in the early 2000’s, when IE was the dominant browser and no one “serious” would consider using Mozilla instead of IE, and my webdev colleagues laughingly used things like document.all, saying in all seriousness something like “screw mozilla and its 0.1% marketshare”.
Thankfully Firefox changed that. Those same people somehow turned into standards devotees, and the web changed for the better.
Anyway - what does it have to do with the price of cheese, you ask ?
In short, IE9 makes me unhappy, because it only runs on Windows.
When IE was the dominant web browser, it was one of the main things stopping people from running Linux. At a certain point it became possible to use Wine, but until that point you had to *reboot* to access certain websites. Even then, IE on Wine was not a real solution.
Fast forward to today. All the other browsers are cross-platform. Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, they all run (almost) everywhere. For their creators, the web is the platform, if you will.
But IE only runs on Windows. I think it’s clear that IE is still a way for Microsoft to lock users in. In their eyes, Windows is the platform. They’re now in embrace mode, but if they ever regain market or mind-share dominance, IE will start extending the web with incompatible features, and once again people will need Windows, and other platforms will become “unserious”.
Maybe that’s not a realistic scenario (thanks to everyone going mobile anyway, for instance), I don’t know. What I know is that until MS ports IE to other platforms, their intentions, and the way they see the web, haven’t changed.
In short, the tactic might very well be “support the open web”, while the strategy still being “embrace and extend” to control it, which makes the current rejoicing about IE9 look a bit silly to me.