“IE must comply with web standards.” (Opera has suggested that Microsoft must support web standards they have promised to support).

April 9th, 2009

This potential principle has received the most criticism from the Mozilla community to date; there appears to be little support for this principle as a basis from legal requirements from the EC.  This is quite different from agreeing that:

  • Microsoft *should* implement critical web standards; and that
  • the web has been, and continues to be, held back by the lack of good standards support in IE.

In fact, the ongoing drag on the web’s functionality caused by IE’s limitations remains an enormous problem.  We agree on the problem.

The concern is that regulating compliance with standards is fraught with negative side effects and it’s hard to see how to avoid them.  To start with, the standards in question would need to be identified.  Opera points out that Microsoft has itself identified some standards but having Microsoft determine the standards doesn’t serve as a long term solution.  Second, this principle would put enormous stress on the standards-setting process.  This process is difficult in any case, with a variety of different players trying to agree on technical direction and specification.  If Microsoft is legally required to implement a specification, then it is hard to see the process ever coming to a conclusion.  Third, there is the question of how one determines compliance with a standard.  Implementations almost always have bugs, some are serious, some are in the nature of the process.  Someone would need to test and evaluate.  Setting that up is complex and may well be a bad precedent.

17 comments for ““IE must comply with web standards.” (Opera has suggested that Microsoft must support web standards they have promised to support).”

  1. 1

    Asa Dotzler said on April 9th, 2009 at 9:48 am:

    Count me as concerned on this one and thank you for bringing it up. I sympathize with Opera’s goal on this one, but I think there are far better mechanisms to correcting this problem than setting up a “Web standards” enforcement regime in the EU.

    One mechanism is outlined in your previous post: “Principle 6: Microsoft tools for developing content must not produce IE specific or Windows-specific results.” If Microsoft is disallowed from making content development tools that favor its browser over those of its competitors, the tools would, almost by necessity, cover only the subset of the Web standards (and quirks/bugs) that the browsers all agree upon – the de facto “standards” — assuming that Microsoft continued to build those tools.

    – A

  2. 2

    Greg K Nicholson said on April 9th, 2009 at 11:48 am:

    It seems to me that the problem boils down to Ubuntu’s bug #1: “Microsoft has a majority market share”. Or rather, its majority is too large.

    I sympathise with Microsoft being obliged to offer multiple browsers with Windows—forcing the user to make a decision they don’t care about is poor design. (Most will choose the first option anyway (presumably IE); the rest are already aware of the alternatives.)

    My solution is to prevent Microsoft from subsidising sales of new computers. MS shouldn’t be allowed to offer a discount on Windows licences if-and-only-if the shop in question doesn’t sell computers with other OSes.

  3. 3

    Marcos F said on April 9th, 2009 at 11:51 am:

    Let’s follow “the man” – Tim Berners-Lee – who emphasized the SVG problem. Microsoft is breaking Web Development just by not allowing it to show. They know it’s just a matter of a little add-on (I had to download separately), but they just don’t want it.
    Because of this, there’s no use in having an SVG graphic inside a page, which won’t show in IE.

    So … yes, they MUST.

  4. 4

    Lennie said on April 9th, 2009 at 12:26 pm:

    @Marcos Any add-on I’ve seen doesn’t allow proper integration with the page, like control by JavaScript for example.

  5. 5

    David Hammond said on April 9th, 2009 at 12:31 pm:

    As a web developer who pays close attention to browser standards support, I must say that Microsoft has proven their sincerity in trying to comply with the standards. Microsoft rewrote their CSS engine from scratch for IE 8, and it has shown a dramatic improvement: IE 8’s CSS support is actually getting close to (and in a few areas, surpassing) the competition.

    Since Microsoft did no real engine work for 5 years after the release of IE 6, it’s expected that they’d remain behind the competition for quite some time. I think we need to ensure that Microsoft doesn’t pull a stunt like that again. But when they are developing the browser, they generally do try to focus on web standards.

    Most of Internet Explorer’s proprietary features were developed when there was not yet any open standard that served the same purpose. Take IE’s much-derided event model for example: Internet Explorer 5, the first version to implement its full event model, had its last beta release in November 1998. This was a month *before* the very first draft of what became today’s standard W3C DOM event model, and it was two full years before the specification became a W3C Recommendation. So it wasn’t that Microsoft was ignoring the standard, it’s that there wasn’t any open standard yet.

  6. 6

    Mitchell Baker said on April 9th, 2009 at 1:46 pm:

    David: you’ve touched on another difficult topic related to standards: how does one innovate in a world where interoperability is so key? it’s a hard question.

  7. 7

    Nobody Real said on April 9th, 2009 at 10:19 pm:

    To expand on that concept. If any browser vendor is not allowed to implement something that’s not a standard, that means that things like Canvas would not exist, because Apple invented and added it to Webkit long before they submitted it to HTML5. We wouldn’t have XMLHttpRequest, and Ajax wouldn’t exist as it is today.

    It’s simply impractical to rule that anyone only be allowed to sell things that follow standards, especially since the standards process doesn’t conform to business timetables. CSS3 is years in development and has been “close” for even more years. Imagine if Mozilla, Opera, Apple, etc.. weren’t allowed to ship CSS3 functionality until it’s a final standard?

  8. 8

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    […] IE must comply with web standards. (Opera has suggested that Microsoft must support web standards they have promised to support).:… […]

  9. 9

    Pingback from Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker: IE is An "Ongoing Drag" On Web Functionality | google android os blog

    […] 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 […]

  10. 10

    Lennie said on May 1st, 2009 at 5:48 pm:

    Latest development: IE8 is a forced security update/upgrade for atleast XP which, so am I lead to believe, automatically makes IE8 the default browser:

    I really doubt they will ever learn, they will try every trick in the book and even the ones that aren’t.

  11. 11

    Pseudonymous Coward said on May 2nd, 2009 at 7:45 am:

    While it is all well and good to attack Microsoft’s questionable monopolistic practices, I think there are more pressing issues at hand.

    Just recently, the NoScript/Adblock Plus controversy serves to highlight some fundamental problems with the questionable security model of the Firefox add-ons mechanism. Why are add-ons able to mess around with each other? Why should I be able to trust that my Firefox browser will do the right thing now?

    An AMO policy is all well and good, but it is only as strong as its weakest link. What Mozilla needs to do is technologically enforce its AMO policy. Suggestions:

    1. A strong Javascript sandbox. (A built-in NoScript, if you will.)
    2. Why on earth do add-ons have such raw power in Firefox? We need a strong add-ons sandbox too.

    Seriously, Google Chrome at least has a very strong security model. That is far more important to establish before an add-ons mechanism, I think.

  12. 12

    BigDzen said on May 7th, 2009 at 9:57 am:

    I like Mozilla as she has many plug-ins!!!
    Thanks… cognitively.

  13. 13

    Rick Wiedeman said on May 19th, 2009 at 6:19 am:

    I like Opera and Firefox.

    I do not like the idea of governments, whether EU or USA, setting Web standards of any kind. The free market is what grew the Web. The free market is what has made Microsoft dominant. There is no need to try to artificially reduce Microsoft’s market-share; if they produce products that customers don’t want, those customers have options. If customers don’t care enough to change browsers, that means it’s not important to them.

    The way to “defeat” Microsoft is to make a product that the customer prefers — not to hobble them with regulations because they are popular.

    And yes, I know Microsoft is a predatory monopoly. So what? The only vote that truly matters is money. When people give Microsoft enough money to swallow other businesses and shut them down, they are saying “we prefer Microsoft.” When they make the effort to load Opera or Firefox, they are saying “we prefer Opera or Mozilla.”

    I prefer Opera and Firefox to IE. I do not see IE as a threat; just an option.

  14. 14

    Terry Jeske said on May 21st, 2009 at 3:08 pm:

    Being a web application developer I have real axe to grind with IE’s lack of adherence to standards. But I must say that Mozilla is making a huge mistake, that is forcing many companies to standardize on IE. The decision to not allow the browser to launch locally mapped resources is killing attempts to get companies to switch to Firefox. My company just implemented a search engine to assist our users in finding documents stored on network shares. They love it, but they cannot launch the documents because Firefox blocks it. This is also a problem for mapping files and directories on our intranets’ web site.

    Michelle, I know why this is a security risk, but in an intranet setting it is crippling. Please either make this a configurable option, or create a branch for intranets. The workplace is where many Firefox evangelists convert users from IE, but this one issue is giving us a black eye.

    Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but I am passionate about FF. 😉

  15. 15

    aski-memnu said on June 2nd, 2009 at 4:34 am:

    opera cok berbat nedr o ya öle

  16. 16

    Tom Wright said on June 2nd, 2009 at 9:30 am:

    @Pseudonymous Coward
    As a developer of WordPress plugins (which use the same ‘complete access’ security model as firefox extensions) their major strength is that you can make an addon which does literally anything like for example running an entire forum or wiki inside wordpress. The problem with sandboxing is it means that many things just are not possible any more. Of course there is a security risk (as I found out in a defective version of my plugin a while ago) but the more you lock things down, the more you stifle them. I think the thing was with noscript that there was a lack of communications and it is a contentious issue but in the end the right thing happened. Also I think that jetpack will bring something closer to this for extensions which do not try to do everything. I think an example of access control ‘done right’ is the android model where apps declare the permissions they need on install.

    I think any solution which leaves the majority of users on browsers which are not capable of handling advanced webpages without serious hacking is by nature imperfect but as some things will never change I think that Firefox (and any browser with 10%+ marketshare for the target OS – it would be unrealistic to add chrome and similar) should be a choice, not at install time but on the desktop and in the menus. Most modern Linux distros only ship one OS but that is because most Linux users pick their distro based on the complete package (installed apps are actually compared) and adding a new browser would not be beyond their skill. Linux distros usually also have to fit onto 1 CD (try that Microsoft) and 700mb does not leave a lot of room for many browsers.

  17. 17

    Pingback from EC Principles: Synthesis | Mitchell’s Blog

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