Friday, June 04, 2004

Bye-bye Evil Empire? Not Quite Yet.

I had the following to say in response to a post by Ryan Chapman, a developer in Microsoft's .NET Compact Framework group. I'm reposting this comment here because it outlines a suspicion that just occurred to me about Microsoft's neglicence with respects to standards compliance in Internet Explorer - that it is a deliberate strategy to forestall a Semantic Web based on open standards, in favor of a Microsoft-centric alternative focused on Longhorn. All the features announced for Longhorn fit in with just such a strategy - for instance, who needs XHTML, RDF, OWL and the rest when you've got WinFS?

I've certainly noticed a dramatic increase in openness from your company, but I'll only really believe that Microsoft has taken a turn for the better in its business practices when you actually start to do something in response to all the web developers who've been begging you for ages to update standards-compliance in Internet Explorer.

Shoddy support for PNG, XHTML and CSS2 raises development costs in time and money, and what is most annoying is that a bunch of amateurs can get right in Firefox what Microsoft has been making excuses for refusing to deal with. The latest tack about the W3C not supplying test cases also won't wash, as the standards in question were written up with Microsoft's full participation in the process.

I'm excited about the new possibilities that Longhorn will make possible, but if I were forced to choose I would gladly forego all of them for the sake of native CSS2.1 and XHTML 1.1 support in every Windows user's default browser - *that* is how much support for web standards means to me ...

On second thought, perhaps it's that very yearning that has Microsoft worried? Why enable a Semantic Web based on open standards when one can pitch a proprietary alternative as a Windows upgrade? I wish I could dismiss this as conspiracy-mongering, but the history of your firm - astroturfing, backroom deals to "knife the baby", secret plots to grow the "polluted Java market", even supporting shill organizations like the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution which issue transparently bogus anti-Linux "studies" - makes it impossible for me to do so.

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