For tech industry watchers, there's nothing more agreeable than watching two corporate behemoths going at it, arguing over their products and technologies. But in two recent squabbles, the scenarios have been curiously one-sided, with a Microsoft attacker in each case coming out looking foolish for the attempt. First, we had Google claiming, strenuously, that Microsoft's Bing service was "copying" Google search results, only to be conclusively proven wrong. And now we have poor Mozilla, arguing with a crazy selection of charts and graphs that Microsoft's upcoming Internet Explorer (IE) 9 isn't a "modern browser."
Microsoft's response to Mozilla was fast, to the point, and accurate. And as with the previous Google incident, it's hard not to come away from this episode with an inescapable conclusion: In each case, the company doing the attacking is apparently defending its core product. But in each case, the company has also betrayed a startling cluelessness about that product and its competition. Why do we trust these companies again?
For Mozilla, the "IE 9 isn't a modern browser" declaration is more polemic than artful argument. In fact, "The Motley Fool" described the Mozilla positions as "silly potshots" that "may have done more damage to Firefox's credibility than improve it." And to Mozilla directly: "You asked for it."
I couldn't agree more. Mozilla's attempts to embarrass Microsoft and IE 9 with charts will rate highly in the history of lying with statistics.
Unlike the original attack, however, Microsoft's response is both instructive and well tempered. "Let me help Mozilla with a definition for what we believe users and developers should expect from a 'modern browser'," Microsoft's Tim Sneath wrote in a blog post. He then listed the following attributes:
Modern browsers enable rich, immersive experiences that could hitherto be delivered only 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.
The links Sneath provides (noted above) are relevant because they neatly disprove Mozilla's original point, and the bogus claims the Firefox maker is publicizing. And it does so without a single graphic or chart. Nice, that.
As for modern browsers, I guess I'd quickly point out that Firefox 4, among all the in-beta browsers at the moment, is the one that stands out for its old-school design, with separate Address Bar and Search Box controls, among other visual anachronisms. And although Microsoft will never win any quick-ship awards, Mozilla is on a positively glacial development schedule, having recently announced its 12th—yes, 12th—beta of Firefox 4.
Which company do you trust more?