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.

  • As a web developer, I call BS. I can write my sites and expect them to work according to standards on FF, Opera, and Chrome... then have to <-- fix it in IE --> because Microsoft seems to feel as if they don't have to listen to standards. If IE wasn't the default browser when you install Windows, I wouldn't bust my balls to work around the text shadowing, min-width and gradients issues with IE.  Get over yourself, Microsoft, and make an effort to put out a real browser.

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

    Paul Rouget's blog post wasn't about "stuff" it had to do with the adoption of modern web standards, namely HTML5 and CSS3. His issue was that the test results published by Microsoft were misleading.

    You can justify your definition of a "modern browser" all you want. I still need to make a separate style sheet for IE when I build "modern" websites.

  • This atrocious attitude is exactly why everyone (literally, every web developer I've worked with in the last 10 years) absolutely despises, in every conceivable way, Internet Explorer, of all versions.

    Every single point you make can be invalidated. You mention, speed, vector support, video support, audio, and text. Hello, get a goddamn clue. Real "modern browsers" have supported these things for a while.

    Microsoft is simply ignorant, and have caused web developers a lot of pain through the years, and we hate you for it.

    Internet Explorer is the Fox News of the browser world. Full of lies and deceit, yet somehow, with your undeserved money and power, you have embedded yourself into the minds of the unknowing majority. Shame on you.

  • I wouldn't hate every version of IE nearly as much and nitpick over missing features like text-shadowing if I didn't have to wait years for the next release. Why are you the only browser who releases and then adds no additional support until the next full version? You release security packages regularly so why not web standards updates? Everything you do is years too late it seems and it blows my mind that everyone at Microsoft seems blinded by this fact. Do you seriously think its a mere coincidence that developers curse your name on a daily basis? Do you realize how much extra time and money we spend wasting to support your garbage?? What's your argument for not adding these features... don't want to be too modern? Just f****ing add them!!

  • The man with the bad haircut (must be a M$ thing) makes a good point.

  • I think IE9 is a step in the right direction but we really need FASTER ITERATIONS.  We can't have these 1-2 year release cycles.  The web moves faster than that, now.

  • I gotta agree with the Mozilla guys: IE is consistently at least two years behind all other browsers as far as being useful for the user experience, which comes down to support for web standards.

    The fact is, your browser may be fast, but it's slowing the rest of the world down.

  • A modern Browser is available for MORE THAN ONE plattform. IE is Windows only, so it can't be modern.

  • "WarpKat 15 Feb 2011 2:32 PM

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

    Oh no, profanity. Are we 3 years old, here?

  • Mozilla hasn't launched for a year because they haven't needed to launch for a year. I have yet to come across a problem with Firefox, but have had to redesign numerous web pages just to get them to work in IE8 and IE9. I find Firefox to be fast, useful, bug-free, and straightforward to use. IE8 and IE9 freeze often and don't support many of the features that I like to use. Face it, Microsoft, Mozilla defined "modern."

  • Tim, MS almost needs two browsers. You need an IE Corporate to be stable and rarely updated to support all Enterprise apps built for it and an IE Fun which could be updated more like Chrome.

  • "Modern browsers...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."

    I don't expect my browser to waste any cycles trying to figure out how to do this. This is the job of the OS and must not work differently based on the browser that I use. Another Microsoft fail.

  • Please consider releasing IE more often, and updating the rendering engine every 6 months or so.

    Also force all windows users to update to IE9 and be done with the mess the previous versions of IE provide.

    If Microsoft actually promoted updating the browser, a lot of other sites would follow, have a message when someone goes to a Microsoft site that their browser will need to be updated, and allow people to update even if they don't pass the genuine advantage thing, while most of us pay for windows, there are lots of countries where piracy is the norm, and if they can't update their browser there will be traces of IE6 & 7 for longer.

  • Hi Tim,

    I've stuck with IE for a looong time just recently changed to Chrome for the speed improvement(it feels snappy, IE8 more inertia), the plugins and easy tabbing, just kept IE8 for my webmail because Chrome wasn't supported. I tried IE9 and it is an improvement over IE8, because it look and feels a lot like Chrome, but now my webmail didn't work. It's probably some Java thing that's not supported, and your probably right about not supporting it; but I can't use my webmail, so I changed back. Same thing happened with Windows7, I went back to WindowsXP because the VPN client didn't have the CHAP version our corporate router had. Again, your probably right, but I have work to do. Pitty though.

  • IE9 still lacks support for object getters and setters (except on DOM objects).  This is a critical feature that every other modern browser supports.  NO, IE9 IS NOT a modern browser yet.

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