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Opera Letter is Disingenuous

Opera Letter is Disingenuous

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Going through a morning TwitterScan, I notice a lot of buzz around Opera's letter to the web community.  I jumped over to that page to see what everyone was talking about, and then paused.

I was shocked at what I was looking at.  I think I was even more shocked at the credibility that people are giving this publicity stunt.

Opera has also requested that Microsoft frees Internet Explorer from the Windows platform. We feel that they have used their market dominating position to limit a genuine choice of browsers on the Web for their own commercial gain.

It's not a novel concept that Microsoft used market position for commercial gain.  We've already been through this.  That's not the part that made me laugh.  It's this the part about Opera demanding that IE be "freed" from the Windows platform.  Umm... have a look at IE on OSX, it's a part of Apple's campaign to show consumers how easy it is to switch from Windows to Apple.

OK, IE runs on the Mac and is, therefore, "freed from the Windows platform".  But honestly, who the hell is Opera to demand that Microsoft writes software in a manner that they see fit?  That's like railing on Apple that the iPod is unfairly using its market dominant position and that iPod must run "freed of the Apple platform". 

But let's really analyze that statement for a second. 

  1. IE7 only runs on Windows. 
  2. Opera says that IE7 sucks at CSS support.
  3. IE7 should be propagated to more platforms than Windows.

See the flaw there?  Where do you make the monumental leap that sucking at CSS support is grounds to have IE run on multiple platforms?  And if Microsoft sucks so bad at it, why would you want it to run on more platforms, spreading the problem?  Ooooh... wait.... another spin on the same flawed argument...

  1. IE7 only runs on Windows. 
  2. Microsoft unfairly dominates the industry with IE7.
  3. IE7 should be propagated to more platforms than Windows.

I wonder if they really thought this one out.  If Microsoft unfairly dominates the industry, installing it on more platforms only increases its market dominance.  Wouldn't it be funny if, when it's all said and done, that the EC compels Microsoft to install on Linux?  How does that benefit Opera then?  More importantly, how does that really benefit consumers or promote choice?

What Opera should have stuck with is just to tell the truth by saying they want to be installed on every Windows distro in the world.  Of course they do, they are a software company trying to make a buck.  But they can't say that, instead they have to veil what they really want while claiming they are acting in the best interest of the consumer.  Strike a deal with an OEM and get Opera as part of the install if that's what you really want. 

 The part that people are missing is that users will replace their browser if there is a more compelling product to choose from.  iTunes is more compelling to a lot of people than Zune or Windows Media Player.  Firefox has a LOT of installs.  Innovation is wonderful, and Opera does provide a lot of innovation.  Now follow Apple's lead to couple innovation with marketing, to get the word out that Opera still exists.

Oh, wait... that's what this publicity stunt letter is all about. Since they have the innovation, they are now trying to get the word out.  Good job, then.

  • Isn't your blog a bit disingenuous?

    "In June 2003, the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit announced that Internet Explorer for Mac would undergo no further development, and support would cease in 2005. In accordance with published support lifecycle policies, Microsoft ended support for Internet Explorer for Mac on December 31st, 2005, and is not providing any further security or performance updates."

  • Well, lets forget for a moment that you're linking to a 'dead' section of Apple's site that is no longer part of their active marketing campaigns to switch people to Windows.

    Let's also forget that IE is no longer being actively developed for the Mac anymore.

    Let's focus on the really important part: IE is bundled with Windows.  It's what everyone uses because most people don't ever get faced with the choice of 'OK, I've just got online, I need a browser' - they've allready got one - the one Microsoft gave them (and in doing so, killed off Netscape).  Microsoft decided the browser should be free - because it could, because it had the money to do so, and because it had the dominant desktop OS, through which it could acheive it's goal of gaining browser dominance by bundling.

    It wouldn't be such a big deal if it had been of real and undeniable beneft to consumers to make those decisions - but it isn't.

    Oh sure, people get a browser for free now - but they get a browser that is so deeply integrated into the OS, that any security problems that affect it, affect the whole platform, and any applications that rely on the IE 'system'.

    Also, development did seem to stagnate there for a while didn't it?  Until Firefox forced Microsoft to reform the IE development team and crank out IE7

    Finally, these standards issues are annoying.  Developers tell us (read; shout about from the rooftops), that it's hard to make an application work properley in both IE and other browsers - and there are still plenty of sites out there that only work in IE, making it pretty obvious that anyone wanting to take advtantage of the supposed 'choice' in browsers, had better hope they're taking advantage of that choice on Windows, because if they aren't, they won't be able to keep IE around 'just in case'.

    IE has been bad for choice, bad for the web - so I fail to see how you can be /this/ surprised that the likes of Opera would be annoyed.

  • Sorry, but IE for Mac is a dead product, MS killed it off a couple years ago. It also does not really run on Mac OS X ... it's an OS 9 app that only runs in "Classic" mode, which not all Macs can use.

    As for the problem with IE 7 dominance, you complain that Opera's argument is incongruent, but that's really the result of MS's actions, not Opera's complaint. IE 7 is NOT truly standards-compliant, yet it dominates in the Windows world. This means Web developers have to deal with its non-compliant features; they have no choice. At the same time, they have to make sites standards-compliant so they will work on other platforms.

    THAT is where the incongruity lies. It's of MS's making.

    There are three solutions:

    1. MS makes IE 7 and all succeeding versions standards-compliant. This will eliminate developers having to deal with IE's nuances.

    2. MS could make IE 7 cross-platform. This means developers could effective code only for IE because all platforms will run it.

    3. Even better than doing one or the other of these, MS could do BOTH ... create a cross=-platform browser which is ALSO standards-compliant.

    The problem is that MS will NEVER do either of these, let alone both, because either or both would contravene MS's marketing strategy of making Windows ubiquitous and IE ubiquitous on Windows.

  • Well, although via slightly tortured English, it appears to me that they are actually demanding that Windows be freed of Internet Explorer (not vice versa), thereby clearing the path for other browsers to fill the vacuum.

    But demanding that Microsoft be forced to make IE standards-compliant would have been like asking the Commission to force Sony to stop making Betamax VCRs and convert to VHS. Only the market should have that power.

  • I don't think Opera meant that Internet Explorer should be made available for Linux...

    Their point was probably that IE shouldn't be included by default in every Windows installation. It should be a stand alone program that the users have to download.

  • Good lord. Fan boi anyone?

    Put aside your obvious bias for two bleeding seconds and have a look at IE objectively. There's merit to Opera's cry to the EUC. IE *does* lack support for w3c standards and *is* a pill to develop for. Especially now since we have two different renders on two different versions. Both of which, as a savvy business developer should, I have to support where I'm employed.

    Instead of making excuses for the obvious lack of decent project management, do something constructive and get on board the 'demand a change' train. I've been an IE fan (over any other browser) since I discovered the web. And I still prefer IE6 over any other, including IE7 (as I find it to be bloated and offer no real improvement in terms of performance). I'm not ready to give up on IE yet, but damnit, it's time for a direction that makes the browser superior by function again, and not just by numbers.

  • In any case, it would be great if every Windows installation had a standards-complient browser to surf the net, and, probably, IE as a system component.

    The point is, that whilst working on FreeBSD i can not test pages with IE, whereas i can easily test them with both Opera and Firefox and even Konqueror.

  • Your deconstruction of the argument is flawed and your rebuttal is weak.  As others have noted, IE on the Mac is a dead-end.  There was no leap from "CSS support in IE sucks" to "IE should be freed from Windows" as evidenced by the words "has also" in the sentence.

    The argument isn't that IE shouldn't dominate; it is that IE as the dominant browser sets a horrible example by its refusal to fully support standards.

    Save the knee-jerk reaction and get back to the technical comparisons.

  • CSS support in IE does suck compared to almost every other browser. What's more, MS has been quiet on being standards compliant in that respect. Look, I don't care about all the other stuff, and you can scream disingenuous until you turn blue. But you've been ignoring developers' pleas on CSS matters for a long time now. I have very little sympathy for your complaints. Moreover, I'm grateful to Opera for spotlighting this. I really hope you guys listen.

  • Try a little reading comprehension, rr a little less biased interpretation. He is clearly advocating breaking the big lie that IE cannot be removed from windows.

  • When installing Windows, or any other OS for that matter, the user should be given the option to select what browser, media player, email client, etc. he/she wants to install.

    Oh, and by the way, why Microsoft has not fixed IE's standards compliance bugs for ages? Because they care so much about their users?

  • First a few disclaimers:

    1. I work for Microsoft, on the same team as Kirk, and he is a good friend.

    2. I have never used Opera, and hence am not qualified to compare the browser with IE in terms of its standard compliance or any of its other features.

    3. I am not trying to either support or discredit Kirk's position on this matter because of of disclaimer #2, simply trying to draw my own observations.

    From reading the replies here, it is clear that every poster to Kirk's post is a member of the technical denizen - you all are information technologists of some sort, or else you would not be reading Kirk's blog - right ? That said, I clearly divide the "consumer" world into two parts - people like you, me and Kirk and people like my Mom, my neighbor, our local grocery store manager etc. i.e. the group to whom it really matters how a browser is implemented and behaves technically since it directly impacts their work and livelihood, and the other group being the ones that use the browser as a means to get information, read the newspaper, watch movies and get football scores, for whom the browser does impact their day-to-day but to whom the technical minutae is less obvious or even important. I would also venture to say that we comprise less than 5% of that total populace (no hard facts here - just venturing).

    Given above, I cannot help but make a few interesting, even amusing observations from all of this.

    1. If we consider that Opera did this for the betterment of the technology community (as is stated in the open letter to the web community), I am a little surprised as to why this is an issue. I have a lot of friends/colleagues/school buddies in the IT profession that use Windows as a platform for their daily work but does not like IE. The first thing they do when they get a new PC, is download Firefox or Opera or their favorite browser, use that for all their web development, and never once use IE again. After all we are technologists - how troublesome is it to download a piece of software and install it ?

    And even if that is an issue, Opera is welcome to work with OEM's and provide installable or pre-installed bits on the machine (like a bunch of mail and IM providers often do) - where does Microsoft or the bundling of IE into Windows impact or derail that process ?

    Now you would be right to say, we technologists need to build web apps in a way such that the expectation is that it works the same in all browsers, and you would be right to expect so. But how does unbundling IE from Windows help force MS's hands into bettering IE's standards compliance ? Are some of you saying, that if MS does so indeed, and assuming that MS does improve IE to full standards compliance in the next year or two, Opera would be the first one to appeal that MS start bundling IE with Windows again, now that they are fully standards compliant ? I would guess not - to me it seems purely a fairness/desktop share kind of issue. And if that is so, let's drop the pretense that we are debating the merits based on standards compliance - this is purely a business strategy - has nothing to do with the purity of standards.

    2. If on the other hand we consider that Opera filed this complaint with the goodness of Joe consumer at heart (that would be my Mom and my neighbor), as is indicated in the original complaint (but interestingly not so in the open letter), then we have a different scenario all together.

    Let's for instance do consider that my Mom does know what Cascading Stylesheets are , does care about IE's full compliance with that standard, or that IE uses DHTML behaviors which are not directly supported in some browsers etc.. Let's also suppose that creates havoc in her reading the NY Times everyday, and considering all this MS graciously decides to remove IE from Windows. Now what ?

    Well, let's say my Mom buys a PC - how does she browse the web ? Someone said in an earlier post, that IE should be a separate download (I would assume that poster would concede that in that scenario Opera should be as well - otherwise there might be a stink of duplicity there) - well how does she download anything ? There's no browser on the PC aka no way to get to the web.

    Ok - so say the OEM does not install a browser, but provides the bits for all the browsers on the local disk and links on the desktop to install the one that my Mom chooses. So why can't that be done today with Opera, and what has that to do with the fact that IE is pre-installed ? That again seems to be a matter of some arrangement/agreement between Opera and an OEM, and their business deal - should have nothing to do with IE.

    3. Mark Lomas stated in his reply "Microsoft decided the browser should be free - because it could, because it had the money to do so, and because it had the dominant desktop OS, through which it could achieve it's goal of gaining browser dominance by bundling."

    This is the one that made me laugh the loudest. In my day job, I (and Kirk) constantly come across debates with proponents of open source/free software both in the community and the enterprise, who claim that software should be free. Productivity software should be free - look at OpenOffice, App Servers should be free (which is the case with MS anyway) - look at JBoss, the OS should be free - look at Linux etc.

    But when we do provide free software, pre-installed as a part of Windows, the community complains about how we use free software to hook the unknowing customer in, and thus maintain our monopoly. So is free software good or bad for the community, for the economy, for mankind at large ? Or may be it does not matter and it is always bad no matter what, as long as it comes from MS ?

    I do care about standards, and would be the first one in line to shout out with you guys that our work with IE needs to improve, and we need to be fully standards compliant. I am also pro-choice and do believe that the platform should give the user (technical or otherwise) full opportunity to use software of their choice. But what I do not believe is that this effort on Opera's part has anything to do such noble sentiments - this to me seems to be a pure business move.

    And that said, it seems that complaining to the EU, was a fairly "below the belt" way of executing it. Disingenous - probably so as well.

  • Hm... i ain't sure in the facts of what I heard but didn't like Netscape complain in the past that Microsoft didn't include the IE or something and they went to court for it and in the end Microsoft said they will bundle it with their OS for a fee of x amount that is already included in the price of buying the Windows OS? Then now Opera has gone and done to say they should free IE so they should give the people the choice to install what they want? errrrm... *scratches head in wonder*

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