As many of you know, Microsoft has announced that it will be releasing Internet Explorer 7.0 this summer to those who are on the XP operating system in a project code named "Rincon". The move is reportedly being done to improve the security of the IE browser. However, with browsers such as Firefox gaining market share, many people speculate that the new Internet Explorer will come with more than just security enhancements. Features such as tabbed browsing, built in anti-spy ware, and RSS aggregating are all features that appear to be coming with the Rincon project.
The real question, however, for any website owner and developer is whether Microsoft will create a browser that interprets CSS2 in a standard way. Currently, Microsoft does not support all of CSS2's functionalities and also adds some functionality that CSS2 didn't initially support. The result is nothing more than a major headache for those developing a website that is accessible to all people, regardless of the browser they are using. So will Microsoft finally adhere to the official CSS2 specifications? Don't bet on it. A look at Microsoft's history and their current position in the marketplace seems to point to the idea that they will continue to buck the open source development trend and try to mold the marketplace according to their vision.
Microsoft Views Incompatibility as a Competitive Advantage
Most website developers develop a website for Internet Explorer first, and for the secondary browsers second. The reason for this is obvious. If you have a website that works in Firefox, but appears broken in Internet Explorer, the site appears broken to over 90% of its visitors. On the flip side, if the site works fine in Internet Explorer, but not in Firefox, only a small percentage of your website visitors are inconvenienced.
Microsoft, being the vast market shareholder in the browser market, can influence the behaviour of website owners and web surfers. Because not every site is optimised for browsers such as Firefox, web surfers who try to make the transition to Firefox will find themselves on familiar sites that appear broken to them in Firefox, but not Internet Explorer because Internet Explorer does not follow a standard set of rules that any browser can comply with. The result is that these surfers who try to make the transition over to Firefox will go back to the more familiar Internet Explorer.
Keep the Advantage, Eliminate the Disadvantages
There are a few reasons for people making the switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox. There is the obvious group of people that truly believe Microsoft is evil, so they will do anything to avoid a Microsoft product no matter how much it inconveniences them. Microsoft is not worried about these people so much because they will always represent a small group. What Microsoft does need to worry about is the real advantages of making the switch to Firefox.
Security is probably the top reason people make the switch to Firefox. Now that most people have been introduced to spy ware, awareness of PC security is becoming a bigger issue. Any person who does a little research will quickly realize that most spy ware programs focus on the vulnerabilities of Internet Explorer, since that is what most surfers use. Making the switch to Firefox not only gives surfers new security features that are not available with Internet Explorer, but they also remove themselves as the target of spy ware creators. Since security is one of the biggest reasons people leave Internet Explorer, the people at Microsoft have decided to make security a major priority. And, in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, they should be commended for finally looking to improve the security of their browser. Who knows how many countless computers were infected with spy ware programs due to the vulnerabilities Internet Explorer presented.
Firefox also offers unique features that users cannot get with Internet Explorer. Features such as tabbed browsing, RSS Aggregation, and others have proven to be more than just nice ideas or some programmer's pet hobby. Unfortunately for Firefox, they have proved to be the market testing for Microsoft, without Microsoft having to spend any money on development. Look for Microsoft to continue to copy the successful features of Firefox in the future, and ignore those features that are not successful.
Back to CSS2
What is CSS2 really? CSS2 is nothing more than a set of recommendations for controlling layout and design of websites put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium. The W3C's goal for their recommendations is to avoid market fragmentation on the Internet, thus creating a more uniform and more enjoyable surfing experience for web users. Ironically enough, Microsoft and the W3C have the same goal, although Microsoft would like to have uniformity on the web as a result of everyone using Internet Explorer.
As long as Microsoft is able to hold onto its market share through segmenting the market, they will do so. They will have this ability as long as they have an overwhelming majority of the market share. Unfortunately for those who make their living designing and developing websites, there are only two hopeful outcomes to make life easier: either Microsoft loses enough market share that they decide to adopt the W3C's recommendations, or Microsoft successfully eliminates all browser competitors and is the only option for web surfers. Until one of these two options occurs, expect Microsoft to continue to interpret the web as they see fit, and in a way that will keep users on Microsoft products