Microsoft can no longer dictate web standards

Microsoft has never been big on supporting standards that were not developed in-house, but external pressure has forced the Internet Explorer (IE) division to start complying with open web standards. The beta version of IE9 has just been made available and there is a lot of talk in the media about its HTML5 support.

IE8 has a dismal 26% compliance with the newer HTML specifications, against the 75% minimum from the other major browsers. IE9 has made a massive leap forward and will support a whopping 63% of the specification. This comes at a time when Chrome and Safari are sitting at over 90% compliance.

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The fact of the matter is that those who use Internet Explorer (IE) are often people who either just don’t know any better or are web developers who have to appeal to those who don’t know any better. The European Union made an excellent move by forcing a browser selection page to be included for new Windows installations, as this will reduce the “don’t know any better” group amongst Europeans at least.

IE is a problem for web developers as IE compatibility needs to be factored into every project and is probably the single biggest obstacle to HTML5 adoption. Until now, most rich web applications were developed using Adobe Flash, which has a number of drawbacks and is a proprietary browser plugin meaning cross-compatibility was left to Adobe.

Microsoft introduced Silverlight which has addressed issues present in Flash but is also a proprietary plugin. Both Flash and Silverlight have questionable cross-compatibility support due to their proprietary nature, but HTML5 already works on all platforms that run modern browsers. That’s the reason certain people are so insistent on HTML5 and open standards.

Naturally, Microsoft has argued that Silverlight still has a place on the web but they’re being hopeful in my opinion. Dictating standards is not quite as easy for the Redmond giant as it was ten years ago. A weakened Microsoft monopoly and greater open standards adoption spells improved technology and lower prices for us as consumers.

Image: Jeff Smallwood

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