What Internet Explorer Needs to Succeed
Published by Jake on January 8, 2008 12:00 am under Software, Microsoft, Web Design / Programming, Internet
After falling into a rut with Internet Explorer 6 for years due to its dominance, Microsoft is finally starting to improve Internet Explorer. It began with Internet Explorer 7, which was a fast improvement, even if it didn''t suit the needs of some power users. Some previous supporters of a practical Internet Explorer boycott, such as "Stop IE" threw in the towel. The site now no longer exists for that reason. Internet Explorer 8 may be working towards more improvements, but there is no telling when it will come out, or, such as was the case with Microsoft''s Windows Vista, if it will no longer have many of the features promised. Here is what I think Internet Explorer needs in order to be able to be the choice of all web users.
Support for More Platforms
Sure at the moment Windows XP may be the most popular consumer desktop operating system, with Windows Vista being the more obvious successor. However, this may not be true within coming years. We may see a steeper rise in the use of Linux, OS X, and similar OSs. Cell phones and game systems may become more commonly used for Internet access. Whatever the case, Microsoft needs to port Internet Explorer to run in many different environments. I believe that if they want to be successful for years to come, they should give versions of Internet Explorer for the major desktop operating systems, as they did back with earlier versions of Internet Explorer where the browser ran on Unix and Mac OS as well. Depending on third party programs such as IEs4Linux doesn''t cut it. Microsoft should also consider offering something similar to Opera Mini for various environments besides their own smartphones. For instance, Opera has versions of its browser for different game systems and a variety of cell phones. I personally use a version of it on my Nintendo DS.
Use Web Standards
Microsoft''s main competitors, Firefox and Opera, and trying to support web standards completely. Many smaller web browsers, such as Konqueror and Safari, have the same goal in mind. In fact, all of these web browsers have a public build that passes a test meant to show compliance: Acid2. Konqueror even already supports many attributes of the upcoming CSS3. Though Internet Explorer 7 was an improvement over Internet Explorer 6 in terms of standards compliance, they are still behind compared to other browsers. I believe that Microsoft should completely stop supporting the proprietary technologies in Internet Explorer and focus on supporting the standards. Microsoft should also begin to support more than just the basics. For instance, Firefox and Opera both have native support for the SVG image format and Konqueror is fairly close by using a common KPart. Internet Explorer users must instead use a plug-in to use this image format, thus making it hard for web authors to use it. Microsoft should support the advancement of new technologies by simply supporting them!
Open Source it
Internet Explorer has always been free as in price, though recent versions claim the need for a Windows license. Therefore, Microsoft would have nothing to loose by ending their complete control over IE and its code. If Microsoft were to release Internet Explorer under an open source license such as the GPL, Microsoft would no longer have the need to dump near as much money into the program. Internet Explorer would theoretically be improved drastically as more people would be able to help fix bugs and add new features. Microsoft could even use a license similar to the Netscape Public License (which is both an open source license and a free software license) in which Microsoft would essentially be able to release the finished project under their own closed terms. As Richard Stallman says quite simply in On the Netscape License "Netscape can use our changes in any way at aln proprietary licensed versions of the software." In this manner, Microsoft could fine tune Internet Explorer beyond what the open source contributors create. The interested parties could get the open source version, but Micrsoft would not face as many issues with including it in Windows.
These changes may be drastic, but Microsoft can make Internet Explorer come out ahead if they truly put their mind to it. You may miss the obvious lack of mention for extensions, but I believe that Microsoft is already starting to encourage the use of these with the IE Addons at Windows Marketplace. With more power users and developers using IE, we should theoretically see more add-ons as well.