Friday, April 30, 2010

Hey Microsoft, where’s your HTML5 browser?

Ok, this is just a rant.

I am really getting annoyed with IE being such a “special case” to deal with. I long for the days when moving an application to the web was the ultimate cross platform solution. Mac, PC, Unix – sure, just point your web browser at it! It runs everywhere!

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Yes, we are sadly returning to wasted time and energy dealing with browser variations, as we once did with PC vs. Mac apps 20 years ago. And dealing with this cross platform issue will become more and more pronounced as richer features on the client side are employed by more and more developers. These richer web apps are only going to grow; I have a new Comet application employing server push, and the client side *really* stinks, just because of IE.

So I appeal to you developers: don’t do it. Don’t include IE! Save your time and energy. Instead, write an awesome app and tell your users to install a browser that keeps up with modern specs. Ok, I know that is insane to ask some users to actually install anything on their machine – there’s no chance. (The EU was right…) But today I stumbled upon someone who told IE to jump in a lake. Clarity Accounting. Bravo, Clarity Accounting!

Hypocritical? I mean, I hate it when a website requires me to use IE for some special thing that only IE does. However, there is a difference. I do not find it terribly unreasonable to expect browsers to comply with a modern specification, like HTML5. So Microsoft, where’s your HTML5 compliant browser? Evidence would suggest that it is not even on your radar.

A year ago at Google I/O, Google really pitched hard developers about all the great rich client stuff you can accomplish in an HTML5 browser. Granted, Google is placing their bets on cloud computing, and having proper platforms to access cloud apps is critical. Thus we see Google’s hands in action with the Chrome Browser, the upcoming Chromium OS (basically everything in a browser), and Android (the other place where we interact with our online life).

So I guess Microsoft is in a real spot. Comply with HTML5 spec, and developers can create rich client apps with easy cross browser compatibility. And those open-spec savvy developers won’t necessarily be using Silverlight.  Now broad user acceptance of cloud applications could reach a tipping point more easily with a better IE.   All those people who know only IE would begin to see new rich client apps developed which run from the cloud. Perhaps that’s a threat worth dragging your feet?

Yes, I am drawing a line connecting the quality of your client experience with cloud computing. And frankly I am ignorant of how well MS Azure stands up to other cloud computing platforms; I am inferring that perhaps Microsoft execs are not ready for (or don’t know if they want to be in) the cloud biz. I just don’t see Microsoft’s rationale to drag their feet on having an HTML5 browser. Surely they have the talent to accomplish it. Or maybe that kind of talent would rather work elsewhere where doing the next obvious cool internet thing is permitted by their employer…?

End rant, back to reality. Now I have to really decide if I can really tell my users to install a better browser for my app. Damn you Microsoft.