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.

  • IE is the bane of any web-industry professional's existence.  Its user base depends entirely on the Windows OS market share.  

    Your definition of 'Modern Browser' above does not point out any disadvantages of other browsers.  It merely attempts to minimize the criticisms of IE9.  If your response to a competitors claim is 'Our product isn't quite that bad', you're wasting your time.

    IE is the lowest common denominator of web-browsing as we know it and likely always will be.

  • Hacker News !=Y Combinator, but thanks for your input.

  • While I mostly agree with both sides of this argument, there's one thing you guys (the IE team) seems to keep forgetting:

    They're "improving" the web for *WINDOWS* users.

    If you were to release IE9 for all major platforms (sure maybe it's just Windows and OSX for now...) then we'd be talking about consistency and helping the developer community. By pushing another proprietary browser down our throats we're just going to end up in 2001 all over again. You saw what happened as a result, and we all lost 10 years of advancements on the web.

    What we (web developers) want to see from you guys is that you care about us. All of us. Not just Windows devs. The "web" isn't a Microsoft technology. It's about being open. Start showing that, and we'll respond the way you'd hope.

    Webkit is the only hope left for the web. You guys should have considered using it, and contributing your work back.

  • This saddens me, as I was under the impression that Microsoft's IE9 team got it.  I know this is a response to Mozilla's comments, but it definitely shows me that the IE9 team is not truly concerned with web standards, but rather still interested in just doing their own thing.  Innovating is great when the basics are supported, but you have to support the basics first!  And yes, CSS3 and HTML5 components are now the basics for a new browser coming out.  

  • Modern browsers use "Open web technology"... :P

  • Is that true IE9 doesn't support CSS3 Transitions, CSS3 Text Shadow, CSS3 Gradients and Drag'n Drop from Desktop?

  • You need to be an expert to use Windows. The same way you need to be an expert to code for Internet Explorer. That sucks. I stopped optimizing for Internet Explorer 3 years ago and since then i won more users than i lost.

  • Modern browsers work on Windows XP. Oh, wait, nevermind.

  • only to find IE6-8 wont run the javascript code which was the main performance enhancement over all serverside data

  • A broken browser (one that does not support web standards) makes web applications harder to develop and deliver and hinders the ability of mankind to make progress on other initiatives when they are trying to make javascript and css exceptions for IE.  Mozilla's position is shared by the majority of the developers on the platform called the web.

  • "Modern Browsers are FAST". Yes, but who care how much fast it is if dev must use JS and images to get some basic effects working? It is fast, but if a design need an extra CSS file, and a lot of extra images files, and some JS scripts working to get an effect, then it will slow down the web experience. Serious guys, you dont have to reinvent the wheel right now, just start by making it looks like a circle, please!... the square doesnt seems to work...

  • Tim,

    I really have to disagree with you. Modern browser are indeed reliable, fast and take full advantage of the underlying platform to provide the user the best experience possible.

    In the other hand, you need to remember that modern browsers are those who do some good for the web, who allow us, developers, to provide rich and innovative online experiences to the user. The web grows, you have more and more awesome, accessible and rich interfaces, because browsers allows them to exist.

    IE was never on the front-line of anything to be true, neither speed, liability of feature support.

    I'm pretty sure that other browser that support most of the latest properties are more fast, reliable and secure that any version of Internet Explorer that the World has ever seen.

    IE team has always used this conservative thinking has an excuse to this ridiculous lack of support. IE is also the only browser where you need to have some nasty hacks to get things done for each different version, because not only it has a lack of support, but also isn't consistent through the different versions released in every 3 years or so.

    Also there are great people working hard to help developers with IE's lack of support (projects like Selectivizr and CSS3PIE are the best thing that ever happened lately for those poor guys that have to spend days trying to figure out why IE doesn't support a css property that exists for the last 6 years).

    So please, instead of loosing your time replying to a post that was written in the first place to help you, to help IE's final release to be better, go do something useful and stop being such a hater.

    Looking forward for IE9's release...

    No hard feelings and all the best!

  • A modern browser should be able to work in linux.

  • Oh - that was a Paul Roget(?) article I read before this piece. Whatever - Paul is such a typical French dude. I use FF/Chrome but that guy is irritating.

    I agree w/ above point about not implementing items in a changing spec. MS is right about that. All CSS3 border-radius code e.g. I write I have to keep revisiting to update. Now, I've got a webkit/moz/and w3c standard version of border-radius. One day, I will have to go back and delete webkit/moz versions because recently Safari/FF have moved over to W3C 'border-radius' name convention. Blah Blah Blah.

    MS also makes a good point about GPU accel and having a browser act more natively - too bad I use Linux and am not upgrading my single XP machine any time soon - even for an IE9 beta.

    In the end we're all going to use Nokias again running WP7 as are only computers and comm. devices - so who cares?


  • @Marco C.

    Actually I have used Firefox. Thanks for asking. I have several browsers installed for work and testing. Firefox just isn't very good, it's just okay. If it had shipped on time it would have been a solid competitors.

    My guess is a year from now Firefox will have been passed by all other browsers. They have just lost their competitive edge.

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