Sunday, March 2, 2008

Browser Wars ahead - IE8 vs Firefox 3.0

Those that have been writing websites for some time remember all too well the period of time when Microsoft over took Netscape's lead in the web browser market, by giving Internet Explorer away for free (and integrating it into the Windows Operating System).

The problem, that went on for many years, was that the two browsers rendered web pages differently, and web designers were literally forced to create two copies of their websites and use detection javascript to send you to the right page for the browser you were using.

It was, at the very least, a serious pain!

Internet Explorer 8 is in the wings. Beta testers (a small exclusive group) have IE 8 Beta 1 now and it is expected to be previewed at MIX08. This is one of the few times I can remember not receiving a significant Beta invite from Microsoft. The tentative reply is it WILL be available to developers shortly after Mix08. Guess it's a deep dark secret until Wednesday??

In the meantime, I've been messing (don't do this unless you have a dedicated beta box) with the nightly builds of Firefox 3.0B4 (Codenamed: Minefield), expected to be the final Beta.

All I can say is duck!
Compatible? Yes. New Features? Yes. Customizable? Yes. Getting better along the way? Yes.
The most significant feature that is immediately apparent (and a function of the revised engine and page rendering) is ..... This browser is fast!

With Firefox commanding about a 12-15% market share now (and significantly higher for bloggers and the social network community), I would hope that most of you already know that you need to be compatible. Firefox sticks to strict W3C standards and there are still a lot websites that show borders in Firefox that are invisible in Internet Explorer 6 AND 7. There are other issues as well. You should be compatible with all of your sites now. Download a copy of the current stable release of Firefox (link at left) and make sure! You simply can't ignore the analytics anymore.

Microsoft has been making more and more of their websites compatible with Firefox. Silverlight works with Firefox too. They're not all the way home yet. I got a message earlier tonight while logging on to the Microsoft Partner website "Your browser is not compatible. Please log on with Internet Explorer 7".

Let's hope that the cross-platform and recent open source 'embracing' by Microsoft will mean that we can write websites to a one standard and not have to worry (all over again) about multiple browser compatibility. Rich media or not.

Update (Mar 3) : Microsoft has changed their view on IE8 interoperability and made a fresh post to the IE Blog here