Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Brave New World Wide Web

Apparently Internet Explorer 7.0 comes out today, October 18. (I'm writing this on the 17th.) And I, for one, can't wait.

With it's increased standards compliance I can start to forget about developing for v6. True, at work I'll have to still develop for v6 until we adopt v7, which at the government rate will be about 2008. (We'll be upgrading to XP soon.)

IE7 also has tabbed browsing. I've heard it isn't implemented as well as it is in Firefox or Opera. In Firefox I group related bookmarks into a bookmark folder, then "Open In Tabs." For example, I have a bookmark folder called "Blogs" where I have all my blogs bookmarked. Then everyday, instead of manually opening each blog, I open the Blog bookmark folder, and at the bottom is an option "Open In Tabs" which I click. Then All the blogs open in the same browser in a different tab. I then read through them all, pressing ctrl+w to close the tab when I'm done with it. It makes for much nicer browsing experience. You should try it if you haven't yet.

Apparently security has really been increased for this next release. This is great news. Let me explain why.

You know all that spam you get every day? I've got news for you: some of that spam is there because some of your friends use Internet Explorer. IE can download malicious code without you even knowing about it, scan your address book and/or hard drive for email addresses. It then sends spam to those address. But it alters the From field in the email so you have no way of knowing that it came from your friend. (This method uses something called Active-X, something IE uses, but not Firefox, Opera, Camino, Konquror, Safari, etc.)

So, this brings IE to the point where Firefox was a couple years ago. A point of usability. This is odd. Microsoft is usually the first to come out with new and innovative ideas. They are the bleeding edge of technology.

Now I have to wonder how I feel about this. See, when Microsoft releases a piece of junk, then that can sometimes serve to drive people to find a good alternative. That's partly why IE no longer has > 90% market share. People have simply found that other browsers are better.

When Microsoft comes out with something that's not bad then people have much less reason to look around. This helps to secure their monopoly. (Now, I don't call IE 7 "good" because, as I said, it will be usable, as opposed to "good." It's just not bad. IE 6 is just plain bad.)

Microsoft, over the past couple of years or so, has started to learn that they're not the only people around. Open Source software poses a threat. Google poses a threat. Apple poses a threat, whether they realize it or not. (Don't believe me? Get a time machine. Go back 3 years and walk through a university campus. How many Macs do you see? Very few. Then come back to the present and walk through the same campus. Now how many do you see? Many more.)

Now, this new idea of playing friendly may be their way of getting people to hate them less so they can hold their monopoly longer, and therefore more strongly, then they can go back to their old monopolistic tricks.

I would like to see a world where data storage is open, and perhaps some interfaces are proprietary. For example, HTML is an open standard, but IE, which interprets HTML, is proprietary. OpenDoc Format is open. Word, OpenOffice, KOffice, etc. may be proprietary.

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