Others with better ideas came along and made the web development experience better, but I agree that IE started it all. I have no idea if the web would be better or worst without IE. I would expect that someone else (Netscape??) would have played the role of IE if it didn't exist and we would be stuck in a similar situation. Remember that in the early 2000s developers that called themselves web developers had ZERO experience.
There weren't any standards back then and since many of us had to start writing intranets and websites, and since you could do more with IE6 we used it.
IE4 and NN4 came out at roughly the same time. But in IE4, they took this idea of small amounts of programmability, and generalized it to the entire document. IE4 introduced the idea that every HTML node should be programmable and interactive in a generalized way. If you knew the HTML properties for an element, you already knew its programmatic interface. It was a simple, powerful idea that hasn't been improved dramatically since.
NN4, on the other hand, introduced this ridiculous hack called 'layers'. You could create these floating layers, and write into them using document.write(). That was the only dynamic mechanism in NN4 above what NN3 had.
So IE4 introduced a powerful and simple generalization of the platform, and NN4 introduced an ugly hack. Surprisingly, developers preferred IE. On top of that IE4, was rock solid and NN4 was crashy.
It's true that Microsoft abused their monolopy position, but the part of the story everyone forgets is that they also more or less invented the modern web in IE4.
Microsoft abused its monopolies in various ways, that's for sure, but it won the browser war by hitting Netscape when stumbled right where it hurt the most, with a higher quality competing product.
Things had been improving at a decent if not exceptional pace back in the late 1990s. IE6 was important but only as the latest of a series of browsers (from several vendors) that added better and better standards-support, it was that Microsoft kept IE6 in stasis for years was the problem not that IE6 wasn't an improvement over IE 5.
Think about it, WaSP (the Web Standards Group) was founded in 1998, back when IE4 was around (and was one of the pioneering browsers support CSS1 with Opera 3 being the other big one I remember). Zeldman started A List Apart in 1998 which was the same year Acid1 was created to test for CSS1 support in browsers.
Eric Meyer covered support for CSS in browsers in a 1999 article:
CSS: If Not Now, When?
Here's one from him in April 2000 on O'Reilly asking "For literally years now, authors have been faced with a difficult dilemma: should we write pages to conform to the W3C standards, or write them to account for browser bugs?"
By the time IE6 came out, some web standards supporters pretty much thought the battle was won in terms of convincing browser makers about the importance of the standards-based web. We were looking forward to vastly better browser support every couple of years. And then IE6 froze a huge part of the market for a long long time.
It took Microsoft 5 years to update IE6 to IE 7. 5 years previous to IE6, IE3 was so primitive that it had just added support for HTML tables and barebones CSS1 features.
From way back in Feb 16, 2001:
From Table Hacks to CSS Layout: A Web Designer’s Journey
And from that same day, long before the "Internet Explorer 6 Countdown" WaSP had the "Browser Upgrade Initiative":
But there's been a lot of rough-and-tumble and a lot of assaults on standards-as-process from all directions (Apple, Google, take a bow). That's why the WHAT-WG was formed, right? The browser makers who want to push the web forward as a platform. The big names like M..ozilla, Mi..Opera, Mmmi. Apple, Mgoo.. hey, has anyone seen Microsoft? Try their mobile, maybe they took a wrong turn.
BTW, the standards process is faltering again (and I don't just mean the W3C's petrify-ray). If they're serious about the web, there's never been a better time for Microsoft to join the WHATWG.
We can give them as much shit as we like for letting the ecosystem stagnate while they had control, which Firefox thankfully set out to fix, but would we have had AJAX if there wasn't an existing XHR implementation, or anything else implemented outside of the standard?
Or are you suggesting a standards body would have come up with something elegant and widely adopted? I... doubt that.
The only reason we hate it now is because it stuck around too long, and arguably that isn't even Microsoft's fault.
Yes it is. Microsoft disbanded the ie team after the release of ie6. This coupled with Longhorn/Vista's delays entrenched Windows XP and by extension ie6 stronger than it otherwise would have.
Why? Because of the huge amount of legacy code that relied on IE6, and would not run on IE7. Microsoft could have kept in ActiveX support and all the insecure bits that these applications relied on, but instead they did the right thing, deprecated their proprietary interfaces, and released a more secure and all-round better browser. And people didn't switch to it.
It did in that Microsoft did not originally plan to release an update to ie for Windows XP. The idea was that next gen OS would come with next gen browser.
>IE7 was available on XP, and companies just flat out didn't want to upgrade from XP or IE6 ...
Do you not think that that has something to do with the fact that there was a 5 year window, in a pivotal time for the internet (2001-2006), that allowed ie6 to build up massive mindshare and massive web-app dependency?
Worse, when ie6 came out it was the best browser out there, and the default choice on an operating system that dominated the industry. There was no Firefox, or Chrome or Safari or open source WebKit. So it easily became entrenched quickly. After that, inertia carried ie6.
The right thing for Microsoft to do was to NOT disband the ie team and release ie7, ie8, ie9, ie10 at reasonable release cycles (annually for example).
Consequently, I'm of the opinion that they made a rod for their own back and it became very costly to maintain and enhance their browser. Truly, they were hoist on their own petar!
But the only reason MS gave it to us was to destroy Netscape.
Over the years there's no doubt been countless conveniences and innovations that MS could have introduced but didn't. They do just fine without having to share the products of their extensive research. That's the beauty of a monopoly. You do not need to innovate. You only need to keep delivering (just change the version number and some UI stuff) and you need to stifle any competition, early and often.
But those days are slowly coming to an end...
Is that innovation? Some would say yes. I think that most of these only became innovative once they began to be available to larger audiences, which coincides with the rise of Firefox and later on Chrome.
Also, most of the conception of IE as non-innovative and stagnant came from the 5 years gap between IE6 and IE7 (and the added 3 years between IE7 and the real "new IE", IE8), during which Opera and Firefox carried the innovation torch. Most of IE's innovations came when it was fighting the browser wars, pre IE5.
You could have client-side data sets and manipulate them all in the browser. When a standard HTML control didn't meet your usability requirement you would drop-in an ActiveX control (I did this for better drop-downs and selection boxes that would autocomplete). You had XML parsing (XML finally living up to the hype - a lot of server software supported XML API's). For security you had domain policies and groups as well as client certificates for those on the road.
This was an inflection point in the entire history of the web. For years you would read op-ed pieces about how the web would replace the old computing model, about ASP's (application service providers), about apps on the web, etc. but it simply wasn't possible until IE5.
Further, IE was the only browser where it was possible for a long time. It may be hard to imagine now but in the late 90s and early 2000's most web developers would lean towards 'IE only' and not have to deal with Netscape (which was considered 'broken' at the time - and was going through its own rough patch with the rewrite - Netscape 6/7)
It was a completely new paradigm. Lower development costs, easier rollouts, much lower administration costs. As a plus being a Microsoft developer was a great experience - boatloads of software, seminars, conferences, speaking to real developers from the company on the phone when you needed something.
This seems like a definition designed specifically to avoid giving IE any credit for innovation. How can a feature be innovative after it's copied but not when it's created?
If something is so valuable that competitors are compelled to copy it, that seems almost the very definition of innovation.
So you might respect XmlHttpRequest, but it's also a fairly small API in comparison to some of the other things MS produced.
And it's _those_ things that are "possible" in IE that were precisely the problem. If your API consists of little more than exposing coincidental implementation details, of course lots of things are possible. They're just impossible to maintain afterwards in the face of any change.
it wasn't just Microsoft, Andreessen invented the image tag by simply shipping it in Mosaic:
TBL was against it, as were others. If he went through the theoretical 'standards' process that you infer is the 'right way' it never would have got done
I am definitely of the view of software first, standards second - because it has been proven throughout history to work
From the WHAT-WG FAQ:
"The WHATWG was founded by individuals of Apple, the Mozilla Foundation, and Opera Software in 2004, after a W3C workshop. Apple, Mozilla and Opera were becoming increasingly concerned about the W3C’s direction with XHTML, lack of interest in HTML and apparent disregard for the needs of real-world authors. So, in response, these organisations set out with a mission to address these concerns and the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group was born."
Guess what, IE6 even supports DirectX called DirectAnimation. And MIDI, vector graphics, etc. IE is far more feature rich than any other remote HTML displayers.
And then we found this functionality had been removed in IE8 :(
Now, by the time OS X rolled around, IE was aging very quickly, and by the time Safari 1.0 finally came out, anyone who cared about that sort of thing had jumped to Camino. But that was long after the initial IE port, and I don't think you can possibly say that IE 5 on Mac was crap from the antitrust effort.
Netscape 7 (IIRC) seemed a little better than IE, but it came too late and my machine could barely run it, so I just kept using Internet Explorer.
My point was Microsoft advanced and got out in front and won and discouraged the browser market and many web developers. Web applications started to compromise on features.
MS always has/had really great engineers. MSDN is great too.
But we should thank Mozilla developers for overcoming the discouragement and freeing us from that stagnation.
The MS IE team should thank Mozilla and the Chrome team also.
People love google, but it's a for-profit company, not a foundation. Chrome would not be the first abandoned project, either. Anything can happen. Competition is good.
If Chrome is abandoned by Google you're free to fork Chromium, acquire licenses for it's restricted plugins and it'll only slow the web's march forward, not actively hinder it. It's entirely possible for another group to carry the Chromium torch, and Google/Chrome has never yet intentionally damaged the quality of standards-compliant competing web products (though they don't offer quirks-mode fixes for crap tailored only to IE).
Google operates a search engine, meaning most of the time it points people to other websites. Many of these sites are not under Google's control, but many of them run AdSense. The more pages you visit, the more ads you see. If the internet gets generally faster, Google sites or not, that works in their favor.
I'd also add that though IE did innovate like crazy in their heyday, if they didn't someone else would have.
In a parallel universe where microsoft never existed, the people who came up with XMLHttpRequest did their innovative work at Netscape and the web today is light years ahead.
While it's true that Microsoft has done it's part to hold up progress, the fact is that much of what you love about the web today can be directly traced back to innovation at Redmond. Let's give them credit where credit is due. Hell, they came up with AJAX so people could access Outlook from the web. Do you remember how obnoxious browsing was before XMLHttpRequest?
Frankly, the importance of json in this matter is pretty minor anyhow: if it hadn't been around, you can bet some nice JS library would have come up with a different way to easily decode server data into JS objects. The scripted communication was key.
It seems completely reasonable to rank contributions with low values for L (for a given X) higher than others. People are claiming that Microsofts contributions have very high values for L, ie. if MS hadn't come up with it, someone else would have in short order. Furthermore, people are claiming the same is not true for other contributions, e.g. TBL "inventing" the web, or what have you.
Anyway, discarding contributions in that way seems disingenuous in the best case. What would happen if Newton wouldn't invent Calculus? Well somebody else would invent it later but we should be thankful that that didn't take 100 years more.
Also the rebels where never able to build something as marvelous as the Death Star :-)
Success, efficiency and morality are three different things. Though many people mix them up all the time. If someone (or something) is efficient and successful that doesn't mean we should overlook the harm (or good) it is doing.
A cold shower and a drive in a Volkswagen before you can post again.
What an excellent retort.
Me personally is pretty happy it killed the buggiest and shittest browser ever lived - Netscape4
You know how everybody hates AT&T and Verizon for not bothering to make a better service because they essentially have no competition? That's the same reason I dislike IE.
Titling the article as a "Myth" smacks of about.com linkbait.