Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Is the iPhone the IE4 of 2007? Sheesh

Category: Editorial, HTML

I think part of the reason why Microsoft stopped developing IE is that the developers behind it got sick of being criticized for trying to innovate. Many of them left the IE team and moved over to the XAML project (aka WPF/Silverlight) so they could continue to do great work without being attacked for it. That is a shame, because I would have much rather seen the XAML concepts poured into HTML/CSS/JavaScript foundation. Meanwhile, the W3C produced jack squat during those same years. This is what we have to thank the Web Standards Project for.

The above quote is from Joe Hewitt’s post The IPhone Is IE4 Again (in a good way).

Joe rips into the people that are complaining about the new set of views that are out there. “Oh no! It will be like the powered by IE days!”.

We all tend to look back in horror of that time, but Joe does bring us back inline a little. There was a reason that IE 4 won. I do remember enjoying the cool stuff that I could do in IE 4, and moaning about how hard Netscape was to deal with.

Anyway, now back to some nice incremental inclusive addition.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 12:39 am

3.6 rating from 30 votes


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This is what we have to thank the Web Standards Project for.

Well, that, and IE not owning the web.

Comment by Gabe da Silveira — August 22, 2007

uh, i think normal websites look/work damn fine on the iphone. as for iphone-optimized sites/apps/whatever, well i guess the worm turns. that silly little phone is gonna change a lot of things. and change is always complained about. next?

Comment by bughouse — August 22, 2007

I’m as sorry to see the IE team stop innovating too, but let’s not diss the web standards people – they did a damn good job of codifying the best that was out there. The problem was the religious belief some people have that standards can ever survive without continuous innovation. The blink tag, as bad as it was, was one more thing we know didn’t work. The web standards people told us it didn’t work, but I’m saddened that there hasn’t been any blink tag since.

Comment by Kingsley — August 22, 2007

I know this is a politically incorrect post and I will surely get flamed, but I think somebody needs to say these things. The WaSP created a climate where browser developers were afraid to try anything new. We pretty much got what we asked for there, as the pace of new web dev features has slowed to a crawl. All of the real innovation in this space has been going on in Silverlight and Flex/Flash, which is just tragic.

I don’t want to offend any of the people who worked hard on WaSP, I appreciate their intentions and they were successful in many ways. I just think they got a little too into the propaganda, and now I hear a lot of web developers repeating that propaganda without really understanding the consequences.

Comment by Joe Hewitt — August 22, 2007

IE Sucks … badly! It’s ok the blame the coders for this.
Just imagine how much Money was wasted for the sides
made in the web … to work or even look good in IE!

It’s ok to blame this creators of this bad app.

Comment by Jens — August 22, 2007

If ‘innovating’ means creating software that is buggy, not reliable and non-conforming to established standards then I don’t want any of it. Instead of crying and running off to a new project perhaps they should have fixed their broken software. I know I do when mine breaks.

Comment by Robert — August 22, 2007

I work as a freelance webdev (xhtml/css/ajax). First I code for Firefox and then port to other browsers. Safari almost allways needs no special massage.

When it comes to the IE port – thats hell. Port to IE6 and IE7 costs about 30% of project time and 90% of pain in the arse.

In my Opinion IE has been the unbeaten champion for years in terms of arrested web-dev.

Comment by Jan Mentzel — August 22, 2007

…agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of Joe’s message here. Standards have their place, no doubt about it — yes, let’s all push to make the standards more advanced and more compatible for FF, [WebKit], IE, et al., goes without saying, so we can all write less code and make our apps work across all browsers. Noble goal. ‘Everybody in the pool’. But standards do not become standards until there is innovation, this is the whole reason for wanting competition among the browser makers (to encourage innovation) and we should not *wait* to ‘include all’ before moving forward, like that annoying kid in AP Calculus class who doesn’t get it, no matter how clearly Professor Powers explains derivatives & integrals. Sorry, love him, but leave him behind for a year, don’t hold up the whole class. Let him catch up || The layer between the UI and the browser that the iPhone introduced broke established paradigms for mobile browsing [for the better] and they are pushing innovation not only with web apps but with demand for mobile phone bandwidth. We shouldn’t b*tch about minor details related to standards waiting to catch up, when we have been presented with a burgeoning growth market for what we do. Write a CONDITIONAL statement, you lazy asses ;). Great leadership by Joe and the spirit of his message. Hats off-

Comment by Mark Holton — August 22, 2007

The only reason we currently have even the standards we use now is cause back in the day, IE devs where not held up by standards and tried out a lot of different things (you can thank the IE team for giving you Ajax btw). Of course some things got a little messy, and ppl complained about that, now they complain IE is not as feature rich and complete as they want, well… its on your head.

Comment by Mark — August 22, 2007

Seems like everybody missed the point here.

Comment by Dougal — August 22, 2007

I can’t even be bothered to compare, it might well be that in 6 months time, current mobile technology becomes an ancient joke.

As for IE4.. Netscape 4 killed IE3, and IE4 blew Netscape 4 away. Every other browser was a joke and real hardcore internetters used Gopher or TelNet anyways, thinking that internet should be used as intended (pure text and files) instead of all that fancy nancy graphics.

Oh my, I’m getting nostalgic.

Comment by Ben Gerrissen — August 22, 2007

I think the best way is creating a 100% standarts compatible browser and then extending it with new features without breaking the rendering mechanism. IE didn’t do that and today it is a pain to work with IE6.

Comment by sempsteen — August 22, 2007

I strongly disagree with the notion that you shouldn’t set down standards and demand browser makers to adhere to them. Most of the problems in my day to day web app development stem from the fact that IE6 does not follow the standards, I have to support IE6, and I can’t support only IE. At the worst of the browser war (back in the IE4/NS4 days) it was nearly impossible to create advanced sites that weren’t duplicate designs for each different browser. Nothing could make me long for those days again.

Now, where things went wrong is that the W3C got hijacked by the mobile/accessibility crowd and was pulled into “the great redesign”, aka CSS3/XHTML/XFORMS, which never really went anywhere. The idea of having standards is still very sound, it’s just that the execution at the W3C up until the relaunch of the HTML working group was broken.

Comment by Joeri — August 22, 2007

The thing I don’t understand is when people create sites for the iphone but don’t make them flexible enough to work in other touchscreen wireless pda’s.

Having moved to an iphone from a an xv6700 (which had full touch screen and could load all the Windows Mobile Browsers) I was amazed that people would make a site with the specific screen dimensions of the iphone rather than one that would expand to fill any browser screen (something that iUI does nicely, I’ll note).

It seems very shortsighted to make full blown apps that only work in a fraction of the potential audience when with just a little bit of attention you can make the same site function perfectly well in the WM PDA’s, Blackberries and Palms.

Why target 2% of the global market when pleasing the other 70-80% of it isn’t really that huge of an issue.

It would almost be the same mentality of building a website that only works in Safari 3 and will break IE and Firefox.

Comment by JP — August 22, 2007

…and I have to agree with Dougal, I’m not sure I see what half the comments here have to do with what the actual articles is about.

Comment by JP — August 22, 2007

I second that. What are you guys rambling about ~ sounds like a free-for-all.

Comment by Chad Wagner — August 22, 2007

I like Firefox – not having IE isn’t a bad thing :)

As stated by Jens, if innovation means busting standards all the time, causing double the work for web designers, then I find it more ‘irresponsible’ rather than ‘innovative’

Comment by Steve — August 22, 2007

@Joe – the WaSP prevented browser vendors from innovating you say? What nonsense.
Microsoft gave up on IE6 years ago. It was largely due to the WaSP that we now have IE7. For years web developers were not particularly bothered about new features in Mozilla and Opera browsers because Microsoft was by far the majority browser. Of course, those browsers have added new features anyway, SVG, XBL, CANVAS etc. Nowadays, new features are discussed and developed by standards bodies (WHATWG). This way the various vendors can introduce features that will be compatible with other browsers. To me this seems like an improvement. Do you want to go back to the browser wars? Were those the good old days?

Comment by Dean Edwards — August 22, 2007

Dougal and JP, I think people are upset because Microsoft is trying to innovate/change the game, without putting their best effort with making their product follow the standards that they want to change.

I would love for someone to innovate. Innovate your heart away, but please allow your platform to stand on the current standards so that today I will be able to use your product with ease.

Comment by emehrkay — August 22, 2007

IE 4 was a lot better than its competitors, irrespective of its javascript/css limitations. The browser is moving forward with every release as every new release has some new features based on MS’ experiences and user feedback. I heard IE 8, which is to be released with Windows 7, is going to be awsome.

Comment by Balendu Sharma Dadhich — August 22, 2007

IE 8 is going to be awesome… compared to IE 7, maybe?

So, before we had to develop applications for Firefox and then made sure they worked under Safari, Opera and IE – multiplied by the number of major compatibility-breaking versions they have. Some added support for mobile browsers. Now, we need to add iPhone. Tomorrow, we’ll have to make sure our web app works “natively” on Microsoft Surface. Then, iPhone 2. And we’ll be adding more and more work to our already big plate, we will work under a lot more stress, we’ll deliver a lot more slowly and a lot more costly… when is this going to end?

Not to mention adding support for Facebook today, tomorrow for MySpace and so on and so forth. Even a simple web app turns to be a behemoth, don’t you think? It has to support native login, Open ID, Card Space, then Microsoft’s new Web Authentication (Passport 2.0), Google Auth, Yahoo! BBAuth and so on and so forth.

Why don’t we simply boycott all those people trying to make our life more miserable? :-)

Comment by Nikolay Kolev — August 22, 2007


Haha – you have it easy. Imagine how hard it is to support native software across all of those platforms (and variations within each). Not that it excuses everything – just trying to make people remember those dark days. (if they had them) You know, the kind of days where some s.o.b. “sales staff” manages to convince the higher ups that we have to support “super keen platform X” because one of the customers nephews sons friends has it.

Almost enough to bring you to tears. (not to mention the oppressive heat index going ever higher with more test hardware there to torture you )

Comment by Jesse Kuhnert — August 22, 2007

Dean, I didn’t mean to say that the WaSP prevented innovation, but that one consequence of their campaign was that the average web developer has a negative reaction when they first hear about new proprietary features. This definitely impacts the motivation of the browser developers negatively.

Comment by Joe Hewitt — August 22, 2007

I’m glad you people brought this up because the people at seem to be missing the point. iPhone works excellent (well, more or less) with the ‘normal’ versions of the sites and that these ‘iPhone interfaces’ are for relieving the users and enhance speed and effectiveness for mobile usage. And AFAIK, once the other mobile browsing softwares has caught up with the desktop browsers at a level that the iPhone has, they too should be able to use the ‘iPhone interface’ as the iPhone hasn’t really incorporated any browser-specific stuff that breaks compatibility (apart from some prefixed CSS3). Correct me if I’m wrong.

Comment by Andy — August 23, 2007

Actually Andy that’s part of the weird situation, with some thought a “Built for an iPhone” application is more likely to work on a none iphone mobile browser, than a non “built for an iPhone” app.

It’s supposed to be a selling point that the iPhone can view the ‘real’ internet better than all the other mobile browsers (and it does). It’s just funny that people are making apps that work great in Palm OS, or WM browsers because they’ve been designed for the iPhone.

@emerkhay: “Dougal and JP, I think people are upset because Microsoft is trying to innovate/change the game, without putting their best effort with making their product follow the standards that they want to change.” But that’s not what the articles are about, it’s like people read IE and innovation and none of the other words and just went off on a rant. Probably one of the most derailed comment threads I’ve seen in a while (not saying it’s not an interesting debate, just doesn’t really have much to do with the post).


Comment by JP — August 23, 2007

I’m divided on this. I think standards deviance can go both ways, we’ve seen it (XHR and ActiveX, for example, good and bad respectively.) Like product development anywhere else, the good new ideas are picked up and copied by others and the bad ones ultimately are dropped. Developers might have to suffer through buggy browser implementations and so on, but it could always be worse – I think things are still a lot better with the 5th-generation+ browsers as compared to the old NS4/IE4 days.

I believe Apple were advocating building standard web sites with standard practices in mind for the iPhone, as opposed to fully-customized sites with custom codebases. Their browser is for all intents and purposes (IMO), a mobile version of the desktop Safari minus a few mouse and key events due to the physical design of the phone. We’re seeing iPhone-only-type apps out there as I suspect people want an iPhone-like UI, it’s the early days of development and so on – but again I think Apple are saying instead just to consider the phone as another variant of Safari, and not to treat it so specially.

Comment by Scott Schiller — August 23, 2007


I agree with where I think you are coming from. One thing though I do not think you made very clear in your post is the difference between open innovation and proprietary innovation. IE brought great innovation with activex but also useless innovation because it can only be used by one browser. If all innovation heads in that direction I can imagine teachers saying “Now kids we are visiting 4 sites today, please open IE, Firefox, Opera, and Sarfari because each site uses a different technology.”

Web innovation is different than past software innovation because cross-compatibility has to be built in whether standard or not.

Comment by Alan Doucette — August 24, 2007

I don’t understand how adherence to standards and innovation are mutually exclusive. To say people are afraid to innovate because of standards is like saying car makers are afraid to add new features to their cars because they need to meet emissions standards.

Comment by Juan Nunez — September 19, 2007

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