A Modern Browser

A Modern Browser

This morning, Mozilla shared their feelings on IE9 with a post that claims to answer the question, “Is IE9 a modern browser?” While they grudgingly concede that IE9 is “a step in the right direction”, they seem to be operating under a very narrow definition of what “modern” means, that I don’t think matches the dreams that web developers and end-users actually have.

Let me help them with a definition for what we believe users and developers should expect from a “modern browser”:

  • Modern browsers are fast. They take full advantage of the underlying platform to render graphics with the GPU, compile and execute JavaScript across multiple CPU cores and ensure that web applications run as close as possible to the same speed as native applications.
  • Modern browsers enable rich, immersive experiences that could hitherto only be delivered through a plug-in or native application. They can blend video, vector and raster graphics, audio and text seamlessly without sacrificing performance.
  • Modern browsers implement features when they are ready, providing predictable patterns that developers can rely on rather than suddenly breaking or removing specifications. They don’t check off support based on a half-completed implementation written to pass a synthetic test, but validate against a test suite that confirms interoperability.
  • Modern browsers do adopt standards at an early stage of readiness so developers can experiment and validate the specification, but clearly delineate unstable prototypes as such.

It seems that others share this view. The discussion on YCombinator starts with this comment:

Maybe I'm just weird, but I consider issues like performance, reliability, and having a stable foundation to build on to be far more important than supporting your own browser's take on some hypothetical future "standard", which is just IE vs. Netscape all over again. On that basis, IE is currently the only one of the big three that is actually going in the right direction.

And Download Squad concludes its analysis of the Mozilla article with the following:

Don't get us wrong, [Firefox] is an excellent browser -- but more stuff doesn't necessarily equate to better stuff.

To our friends at Mozilla, we admire your passion for the open web, and we look forward to continued competition.

  • Tim

    Microsoft should get of it's SOAP box and put comprehensive browser supporting all CSS specs including gradients, animations, css 3d transformations and websockets. I will not recommend or work every again in a project until those are in your IE. Enough is enough.

  • Nice going - you linked to video that has profanity in it.

  • Why is the Moz being so cranky? Could be that they haven't shipped for a year and are seeing everyone else pass them. Dropped FF for Chrome, will check out IE9 when it ships

  • I really like IE9, much better than the previous browsers.

    Also I prefer a FAST browser over a painfully SLOW browser (read firefox).

  • "Don't get us wrong, [Firefox] is an excellent browser -- but more stuff doesn't necessarily equate to better stuff."

    That's so misleading! Firefox doesn't do "More stuff", it supports "More Stuff". And supporting emerging and cool functions in a browser does make it better. Having to worry about hack after hack to support all of IEs shitty browsers isn't cool. The only reason people use IE is because it's the default browser on windows. I wish it would go away.

  • I figure 'modern' isn't the adjective he means anyway. Whoever's browser ships latest is the most modern ;-)

  • I'd feel more inclined to agree with these points if:

    - IE hadn't been the slowest browser historically

    - IE hadn't lagged behind in "interoperability" more than other browsers historically

    - IE 9 actually had the object tag working to spec

  • Are you dumb or playing dumb, this is a bogus post! We need to a valid and a technical response of why you don't support the items listed in the list of items IE9 doesn't support. Those items are incredibly useful.

  • I kind of agree, but what's the deal with IE9 not supporting at least text-shadow, CSS3 gradients and transitions?  They've been around for a long time now and they're pretty simple aesthetic enhancements for designers.

  • Don't say 'Mozilla' instead of 'someone at Mozilla' ;)

  • In all fairness, as a webdesigner I agree with Mozilla's team. Internet Explorer is an excellent browser - but it requires so much more effort to achieve the same result as in any other browser. If this browser would just be less annoying (Bing search by default?) and start to support some popular and important features (text shadow, inspect element) I'd actually start using it! I would say that the demands of a modern browser would be what people like first, and then the extra features.

  • You make a valid case about not supporting "bleeding edge" unstable features such as WebGL and IndexedDB. But there's plenty of stuff not supported by IE9 that is relatively stable, and been broadly supported by others for a while. Examples (and correct me if I'm wrong) are:

    CSS3 text-shadow: Loads of sites making use of this, fonts look flat and boring in IE9 as a result

    CSS3 Transitions

    Application Cache

    HTML5 forms: even just a few would be good, such as slider, range picker etc.

    HTML5 History API: there's huge debate and controversy over the use of hash-bangs #! in URLs to make Ajax heavy sites bookmarkable and indexable  (Twitter/Facebook use them), broader support for History API would mean we wouldn't need to use hash-bangs

    While IE9 represents progress, it's still way behind pretty much all the competition, plus IE's long development cycles means it'll only get further behind.

    PS: BTW, this comment box I'm typing into isn't scrollable, can't see what I'm typing, I'm in FF3.6 though I bet it works fine in IE :s

  • This is not Mozilla speaking in this blog post, this is Paul Rouget speaking on his own blog, not on hacks.mozilla.org or any other official Mozilla website.

    It sounds more like the honest feelings of a Web developer.

  • Hi I'm IE9, I should have been IE8 but we got kinda sidetracked.

  • Paul Rougte works at Mozilla as their evangelist. So, his job is to speak for Mozilla. I am not sure I get the Paul doesn't speak for Mozilla angle at all.

    Besides that. When a company starts getting all defensive and lashing, it's a bad sign that their product can't do the talking any more.

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