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.

  • Why not respond to the content of their argument instead of using vague terms like "immersive experiences"? And bragging about speed only goes so far. IE9 IS lacking features that web-developers need and that are hard and sometimes impossible to emulate. Why make web developers lose their time AGAIN with this new IE version? Mozilla's post might be a bit cocky but they state facts that web developers can't ignore.

    There are so many good browsers out there that show it is perfectly possible to have a browser implement recent standards correctly, that one can't help but wonder if it is really in Microsoft's intrest to do this (and not just pretend to do so like right now). I for one won't recommend IE9 to anyone.

  • Microsoft has failed to make one decent browser in its entire existence. ALL of their browsers have caused hours of pain for thousands of web developers, their companies and their clients. IE 9 is shaping up to be no different. There are web standards. All that is required of a browser is to follow them TO THE LETTER. ALL OF THEM. Microsoft cherry-picks those they feel like supporting and leaves out the rest. Your previous products are all shockingly bad, and yet much smaller dev teams such as Mozilla and Webkit produce superior products that are multi-platform with far reduced resources. I wish Microsoft could be banned from actually making browsers, because you have been holding back the development of a more modern browsing experience for too long, and you have proven yourselves incapable of the task.

  • I've just run sunspider under win7/iE9 and win7/chrome9 in the same machine and the results speak for itselves. IE is the slower:

    ** TOTAL **:           *4.75x as slow*   285.6ms +/- 0.5%   1355.7ms +/- 0.3%     significant

  • Honestly, as web developer I am dreading the day IE9 hits mainstream. I didn't believe IE9 was going to be a modern browser even before the post at Mozilla. IE has been playing catch up and holding the web back for years. While IE9 is an upgrade, it sadly holds back devs who want to build more robust sites but are often hamstrung due to having to support IE and its inadequacies.

  • I have been using the IE 9 RC for about a week now and a really like it for the most part. There are still pleanty of things that are broken in IE 9 (unless it is in compat mode) that work fine on all other browsers (FF, Chrome, Safari, Opera).

    The other thing that kills me is no integrated spell checker. Every other browser has it.

  • Not sure I'll ever understand why MS doesn't just start using WebKit as a base.  I'm not sure what they gain by creating another browser that designers and web developers have to complain about.

    IE9 might be great now, but you really need to consider what it's place will be in 5 years.  From the looks of it, in five years MS will still be three years behind WebKit and Gecko.  Which brings me back to my first question, why not just use WebKit?

  • Ok,

    I saw this directly on the heels of the grouchy, MS-hater sounding Mozilla blog post this morning. There are certainly facts on both sides that support both arguments. I do think IE9 is a great step in the right direction and of course can be considered a modern browser. That being said - the problem that people, especially web developers, have with IE has historically been that there has to be a different design and development approach for IE versus EVERY OTHER BROWSER that requires an entirely different level of effort.

    The main complaint about IE, which as a web developer I still feel is valid, is that Microsoft has abandoned Microsoft's core strength which is making things easier and fun for developers (didn't Ballmer - a man who represents the death knell of Microsoft's relevance - make an ass out of himself yelling "developers, developers, developers!"? He should have perhaps said "except those web guys - we hate them"). As it stands, and has stood for a decade now, Microsoft burdens developers with an inexplicably wildly different implementation of the CSS and HTML spec than every other browser making IE the *** child of anyone who considers themselves tech savvy or demands a high quality web browsing experience. Any web developer worth his salt has IE installed merely to test and refine their designs - not for every day use. And it says a lot when professionals in an arena refuse to use your browser other than when they have to.

    SO while I applaud the latest incarnation of IE9, maybe rather than creating a product you have to always defend in forums and blog posts, make one that the professionals who are the thought leaders and drive opinion in their fields not only use but want to share with others. I have never recommended something as heartily as I do Google Chrome when people ask me which browser is the best to use for day-to-day use. And I'm a MS developer and supporter of MS - but as someone whose job it is to know the web, good user experience, and as a consequence which browser to use to maximize that experience, I still cannot recommend IE. And I will not until MS makes a browser that makes it easy to develop for, not just for the lowest common denominator of web users.

    I want to love IE... let me.

  • There seems to be a lot of anger at Mozilla publishing a list of statistics based on third-party benchmarks.

    What's wrong? The data, or their daring to publish it?

    Meanwhile, I'll stick with the commonly accepted definition of the word 'modern'. I can't afford to redefine it every time I read an MSDN evangelism post.

  • From an end user's perspective IE9 will be modern, stable and fast.  Maybe even cool(ish).  It will be pushed to desktops around the world.

    As a web-developer, it will do as it has in the past: only support what it supports.  This will, as it has in the past and will do again, force developers to: a) use the lowest common denominator (e.g. no text-shadow), b) use hacks and/or workarounds (e.g. excanvas.js; multiple embed/objects) or c) ignore IE and hope for the best (bad idea generally)

    I personally have spent countless hours fighting (that is what it feels like) with IE to make it do something the other browsers 'just do'.  I am tired of it.  I can't change it but I am very very tired of it.

    I see that history (from a developer's perspective again) will repeat itself.  Especially since I heard that HTML5 specification will not be 'complete' until Q2 2014.  This means that all browsers will pick and choose which features they want to implement.  IE will choose what it thinks is best and the others will sort of work together to be more or less on the same page (picture a Venn diagram with IE9 on the left just touching the overlap of Chrome, Firefox and Opera.  Three years!?!

    Is it not possible for someone at WC3 to come up with a core feature set that can be finalized in the next couple of months?  Maybe an incremental ratification of features would work.  We have already waited long enough for HTML5.


    Back to work with me.

  • Mozilla's talking heads are probably just upset their falling into the long development cycles that Microsoft was knocked on for years. Microsoft's development team dropped the ball with IE6 and got lazy, because they were top of the game, and from what I've seen with IE7-IE9, they've been making progress, but not nearly enough.

    Microsoft, people are clamoring for IE9 to adopt everything that the other browsers have, and you have the manpower to deliver. The unfortunate fact is that while you have the resources available to support everything that Firefox and Chrome do, the IE9 RC still lacks it, and everyone is waiting to see them. At this point in the game, you're going to have to compete with the other browsers, and Chrome is "theoretically" on top, because they support just about everything.

    The best course of action would probably be to sit back, stop calling the current version of IE9 a RC, and refer to it as a beta again. Go back to the lab and add in all those features that people want, make it stable, and then start calling it a release candidate again. When you can get 100 on the Acid3 tests (http://acid3.acidtests.org/) and 300 on the HTML5 tests (http://html5test.com/), and still have it run as quickly as the Beta and RC do now, then you can release that beast. At that point, Firefox and Chrome will be eating their words.

    BTW, Dominic, I'm using IE8, and the text box is not scrollable, and will constantly try to bump me to the top of the box. I had to type this into Notepad, just so I could see it. Chances are the text box is poorly coded.

  • Here's one to put in your pipe: I downloaded IE9 and installed it on my Vostro running Vista SP2, and it crashed!!  Blue screen, memory dump - boom!!  Good start I thought!?

  • That classic MS arrogance is visible in the fact that there isnt a single questionmark in your article. Stop preaching, start listening to developers, and you just might get it right for once.

    You did it (although long overdue) with windows7, Im sure you can do it with IE (9, 10, 15?)..

  • You people are really morons.  Grow up and support the same features as everyone else.  For crap's sake it's taken you more than 5 years to upgrade IE6 because you were trying to lock up the market.  And don't get me started on ActiveX.

  • Well, since Microsoft and fanbois claim IE9 to be a modern browser, then I'm gonna code my websites per established industry standards. Certainly Microsoft didn't make IE9 just conform to a subset of that and released a faux test suite to suit their pace of development and competency.

  • I would be more open to the every day use of Internet Explorer if it wasn't such a thorn in my side for the past 7 or 8 years. Every time a new version is released I hold my breath in hopes that it's up to par with every other browser. I want to see it succeed and become as promising as its competition, but it never happens.

    I don't understand how such simple features (CSS3) are overlooked over and over. I appreciate the focus on speed and performance but I would think it best if the IE team would refrain from releasing new versions until even the simplest of features are implemented. Perhaps it's time to abandon the project altogether and focus on something that uses webkit? I grew tired of waiting for a truly modern version of Internet Explorer ages ago.

    Also, FYI, overflow: auto works much better on textareas than overflow-y: hidden does. Why would anyone ever use hidden overflow on a textarea to begin with? I had to type my comment into a plain text document and then paste it into the comment textarea just so I could see what I was typing.

    The joys of web developer/designer pet peeves and usability failure.

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