With the latest releases of Opera, Google Chrome and Firefox continuing to push the boundaries of the web, the once-dominant Internet Explorer is looking less and less relevant every day.
But we should expect Microsoft to go on the offensive at its upcoming MIX 2010 developer conference in Las Vegas, where, it has been speculated, the company will demonstrate the first beta builds of Internet Explorer 9 and possibly offer a preview release of the browser to developers. Several clues point to the possibility that the next version of IE will include broad support for HTML5 elements, vector graphics and emerging CSS standards. If Microsoft plays its cards right in Vegas, IE 9 could be the release that helps IE get its groove back in the web browser game.
The biggest clue comes from the scheduled sessions for MIX, which takes place mid-March. There’s a two-part talk scheduled on HTML5, entitled HTML5 Now: The Future of Web Markup Today, by Opera Software’s Molly Holzschlag.
Indeed, Holzschlag tells Webmonkey she expects Microsoft to step up HTML5 support in IE9. “Look especially for Microsoft to be working on browser storage and other HTML5 features,” she said in an e-mail.
There’s also a session on IE and SVG, the vector graphics tools supported by pretty much every other browser. IE Senior Program Manager Patrick Dengler is scheduled to present on the Future of Vector Graphics for the Web.
Such a shift in thinking would be welcome. Picking on Internet Explorer Explorer is like fishing with dynamite — it’s just too easy to be fun anymore. In fact, many prominent forces on the web have stopped arguing against IE and simply started waving their hands in dismissal. It started with a few developers, but recently even Google has turned up its nose at IE, referring to it as a “non-modern” browser when talking about web standards and releasing its Chrome Frame plug-in to enable IE7 and IE8 users to run more advanced web apps. Worse, third-party developers have started to one-up Microsoft by hacking features into IE, like giving it the ability to display HTML5 video playback when none existed.
The current release, IE8, which shipped on every Windows 7 desktop in 2009, caught Microsoft up to where other browsers were in 2007 with support for CSS 2.1 and a couple of token HTML5 tools — most notably the offline storage elements. But that’s where its support for emerging standards ends.
But Sinofsky tempered his statements by saying Microsoft will continue to be “responsible” about how much it supports HTML5, so that “we don’t generate a hype cycle for things that aren’t there yet across the board for developers to take advantage of.”
While Microsoft is technically correct when it keeps saying that HTML5 isn’t finished, its failure to offer broad support for the new markup language has held IE back from the web’s cutting edge. The company has traditionally been reticent to support emerging standards, viewing them as a moving target and choosing only to concentrate on standards that have been ratified by the W3C, the web’s governing body. But delays at the W3C haven’t stopped the competition from forging ahead with HTML5, and if IE doesn’t start embracing the new laws of the land now, the browser’s dominance on the web is going to continue to crumble.
We contacted a Microsoft rep for this story, but they chose to save any further talk of IE9 until MIX.
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