In a recent developer conference in Sydney, someone asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer why they’re spending so many resources on their beloved browser, Internet Explorer:
Why is IE still relevant and why is it worth spending money on rendering engines when there are open source ones available that can respond to changes in Web standards faster?
According to Techworld, this was his reply:
Ballmer began his answer philosophically, saying Microsoft will need to look at what the browser is like in the future and, if there is no innovation around them, which he thinks is “likely”, Microsoft may still need its own browser because of proprietary extensions that broaden its functionality.
“Open source is interesting,” he said. “Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8.”
So now if we can imagine Microsoft actually swallowing its pride to rework IE to use the same code Apple is using with Safari, and Google with Chrome, we’d have 3 competing browsers by 3 technological giants using the same foundations for building a browser. It would seem like good news for those who’ve spent sleepless nights keeping websites from breaking due to IE’s numerous bugs, although I’m not quite sure why have to have 3 different derivatives of WebKit in the first place—which is an issue for another day.
I want to go back to the question of relevance. Ballmer didn’t exactly defend IE’s relevance, even saying that there is likely to be “no innovation around them”. Are you sure? Mozilla definitely thinks otherwise. So does Google.
Add to that Microsoft’s foray into the “cloud” with Windows Azure. Google, which wanted to make sure its web apps provided the best experience, created its own web browser. IE has been around for years now, but what could be crucial to next-generation platform computing seems to be an afterthought, or is just playing catch-up.
If we were to actually take Ballmer’s words to heart, we can expect that either way, web browsing should improve for the better: either through a Webkit-based IE, or the death of IE.
The IE team was dismantled except for a core team called IE SE – which translates to “IE Sustained Engineering”. What this means… is a product is dead and the SE team simply puts out hot-fixes for any pertinent issues. This all happened during that great legal battle that Microsoft had with the States.
I know we can accomplish a lot more by not waiting around for IE (and Microsoft) to get its act together, but here’s yet another reason web designers and developers are in a rut.
If the company behind Internet Explorer does not believe in it, why should we?