When Netscape was, by and large, eviscerated by Microsoft using Internet Explorer and thoroughly underhanded anticompetitive tactics, and they released the Mozilla project as some last great hope for peace and decent software, they probably had no idea that IE might well prove the company’s downfall.
Reports are gradually trickling in that, far from an improvement in any sense, IE7 is neither sufficiently standards-compliant to ignore the hacks everyone built for IE6, nor rewritten thoroughly to correct many of IE6’s problems, nor indeed written well enough to exclude the possibility of introducing many new bugs of its own. This was fine when you sort of expected every third website to look a mess; when site after site have used the same combination of established standards and IE6 workarounds to make their design work, it’s hard to stand against such an enormous body of HTML when one’s only excuses seem to be apathy, mediocre testing practices and a lack of talent.
The situation has been exacerbated even more by the arrival of the (more social than technological) movement loosely packaged together as Web 2.0. When sites are using AJAX, with all the concomitant dynamic and visual aspects, the possibility for problems arising from ignorance of standards multiply at each step through the AJAX workflow. How can IE7 possibly hope to enter such an arena unless it’s at the very least as standards-compliant as its competitors?
If people download IE7, and their Google Mail stops working, there’s a chance they’ll switch browsers. If they download IE7, and they can’t read their favourite sites, there’s a chance they’ll switch browsers. If all the non-Microsoft developers that Microsoft has suddenly noticed exist and have quietly amassed influence on a scale similar to, say, a multinational computer company, are rejecting much of the browser outright, there’s even a slim chance it might not even see the light of day as anything other than a beta product.
Wait: “permanent beta”? Finally, Microsoft seem to be embracing a tenet of the open, collaborative Web 2.0. This being Microsoft, they had to plump for the shittest of the principles on offer.