The bigger picture WAR FOR BROWSER

Posted by RISHABH SHUKLA | 6:59 AM


Microsoft doesn't mess with standards for nothing. Microsoft's interests go way beyond controlling the application market.
A good example is the "Browser War". Microsoft ignored the Internet completely until Netscape made sudden and huge profits, whereupon Microsoft decided they wanted that market share for themselves. Being the biggest fish in the pond, they just took what they wanted, by bundling their own Internet Explorer with Windows. This killed off the innovative Netscape in short order. A takeover by AOL didn't save Netscape, and in 2003 Microsoft bought off the whole conflict for a mere $750 million; big money to most of us but chump change for Microsoft. Less than a week later Microsoft announced the discontinuation of IE for the Mac.

This browser war was not just a battle between two competing application developers (Microsoft vs. Netscape) for the biggest market share. It went much further than that: it was a conflict between two philosophies, between vendor-dependence and vendor-independence. On one side we had Microsoft, pushing a product that was (and is) tightly bound to the Windows platform, and on the other side there was Netscape, promoting a product that was (and is) available for many different environments. Microsoft intended (and largely succeeded) by adding MS-specific features to Internet Explorer, Java, scripting and HTML, to commit the Internet community to the Windows platform. They've also used product bundling and other doubtful and illegal methods, and finally succeeded in forcing Netscape out of the browser market. As a result, more and more Internet services now expect the user to run IE and Windows on their Internet client systems. If you access E-commerce websites based on Microsoft IIS and backend products with anything else but Internet Explorer, you can expect rendering and scripting problems.

This has led to an interesting side effect: intimidated by the many browser dependencies in Microsoft-related web page code, web designers have taken to displaying an error message instead of a web site whenever their products are accessed with anything but Internet Explorer. Competing browser manufacturers soon reacted to that with masquerading: browsers like Opera just tell the server that they're another Internet Explorer. Of course this has boosted the statistics to the point where 95% of the world is said to use IE, which is exactly what Microsoft wants everyone to hear. More advanced browser detection however shows that the real figure is closer to 60%.

It's also interesting to note that the User Interface in Windows XP is based on a mix of XML and proprietary HTML-derivatives, that can be understood only by portions of Microsoft's own Internet Explorer application code.