Mozilla

Closed, Browser Specific Features

June 18th, 2009

In the so-called “browser wars” of the mid-1990s both Netscape and Microsoft waged campaigns to get websites to use features proprietary to their browser, hoping to boost market share for that browser by making it difficult for people using other browsers.

Today at Mozilla we work very hard not to do this.

  • We spend huge amounts of time figuring out how we can move the web forward by adding new features and NOT break the web for people using browsers that support fewer capabilities. This is often called “degrading gracefully” and it’s an important design criteria;
  • We work with other browser vendors in the standards groups to define capabilities shared among browsers;
  • We make all our work open source, available for anyone to use.

Microsoft’s marketing campaign brought this to mind — it’s a campaign to get people to use IE because the clues to a $10,000 prize aren’t visible unless you use IE 8. This is a small thing, undoubtedly not intended to represent any grand idea of vision of the Internet.

Even so, the campaign struck me. It reflects a mindset that is still at odds with the idea of making one Internet, accessible to all, open to all, cross-platform, cross-product and unified in its nature.

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6 comments for “Closed, Browser Specific Features”

  1. 1

    Pingback from Yet again Microsoft miss the point « My Green Life

    [...] (Mozilla’s “Chief Lizard Wrangler”, or “Boss” to you and me) has a much more succinct and to-the-point post about this which is worth [...]

  2. 2

    Daniel Stuart said on June 19th, 2009 at 6:52 am:

    I was able to see the clues by using the IEtab add-on. Go FF.

  3. 3

    Joe Enos said on June 19th, 2009 at 11:45 am:

    I’m a huge Firefox fan, but doesn’t your statement contradict all of the Firefox-specific CSS tricks? All of the “-moz-*” extensions may be cool to look at, but any site that uses them now gives different results based on their browser – that’s something that I’ve hated about Internet Exploder for years, and I’d really like to not see the same thing with Firefox.

  4. 4

    Pingback from Microsoft Has 10 Grand For You if You’re Willing to Use Internet Explorer | google android os blog

    [...] is Microsoft to woo users to its Internet Explorer version 8 browser? Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker points out in a blog post that Microsoft is now offering $10,000 in prize money "buried somewhere on the Internet" [...]

  5. 5

    iang said on June 22nd, 2009 at 4:57 am:

    > It reflects a mindset that is still at odds with the idea of making one Internet,
    > accessible to all, open to all, cross-platform, cross-product and unified in its
    > nature.

    Microsoft is a commercial company; they are required to compete, they are required to get people to use their product, they are required to make profit.

    The encouraging thing here is that (maybe for the first time?) Microsoft are competing to get people back to IE, using a standard and acceptable marketing campaign — a product-specific competition. This should be seen as a win for those promoting competition.

  6. 6

    Asa Dotzler said on June 26th, 2009 at 12:34 am:

    Joe Enos said:
    “I’m a huge Firefox fan, but doesn’t your statement contradict all of the Firefox-specific CSS tricks? All of the “-moz-*” extensions may be cool to look at, but any site that uses them now gives different results based on their browser ”

    I think you’re confused. The vendor prefix helps the Web. Vendors all agreed to use it because it explicitly prevents a vendor’s testing or internal use CSS property name from ever conflicting with a CSS specified property. All vendors use this approach, not just Mozilla, and it’s a good thing.

    The -moz css serves two purposes. First, it’s how we get widespread testing for incomplete css features. Sometimes our implementation is still incomplete and sometimes the spec is still incomplete. With the vendor prefix, we can release and test browser features that ARE developed in W3C drafts but that haven’t reached Candidate Recommendation status yet.

    Second, Firefox itself is built using the languages of the Web. The entire Firefox front end is rendered similarly to Web pages in that it’s constructed of XML boxes styled with images and CSS and powered by JavaScript. Some CSS features implemented for the purpose of building Firefox itself, rather than for Web developers to use in Web pages, may have the -moz addition in their name and are therefor guaranteed not to conflict with any future official CSS properties.

    The entire point of the -moz prefix is to make it clear that these are not finished or Web ready CSS features. In the old days, there wasn’t a vendor prefix. Now there is and every major browser uses it and it’s even codified in the CSS spec itself.

    - A

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