Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
We want to applaud the IE 8 team for the work that they have done, but also keep pushing to make sure that it really happens:
I was reminded of a discussion last Friday where I voiced my frustration that as much as IE 8 looks to be a good point release, we know next to nothing about itâ€™s intentions with regards to ship dates or auto-update deployment. Iâ€™m not talking exact dates or firm plans here, just â€œwithin the next N monthsâ€ or â€œweâ€™ll wait N (plus or minus 3) months to put it on Windows Updateâ€. Knowing those things fill in the missing bits of making any plans around IE. No plan is complete without a â€œwhoâ€, a â€œhowâ€, and a â€œwhenâ€. Right now weâ€™ve got the first two bits (ish), but the third is a mysteryâ€¦.which means we donâ€™t have a collective plan.
By the transitive property of IE being the monopoly market-share browser, we can clearly state that we have no idea when the Open Web will be revved. This is based solely on the IE teamâ€™s lack of commitments. This is a terrible result, and one which I think the frenzy over IE 8â€™s features has obscured.
He then talks about the browser platform:
Which brings us back to IE being a platform. The bits that webdevs care about must change in order for the web to get better, and today webdevs are platform customers without a commitment from their biggest supplier to ship another version beyond the one theyâ€™re working on now. If this were any other sort of platform, this would never ever fly. Code-in-escrow would be demanded along with a roadmap, or at a minimum a commitment to an N+1 version in a reasonable time frame. But webdevs donâ€™t have that leverage by virtue of the disintermediation that browser economics now demand.
So as webdevs, we must be canny enough to find a way to â€œbetterâ€ which doesnâ€™t put all of our eggs in any particular basket. Every browser that we depend on either needs an open development process or it needs to have a public plan for N+1. The goal is to ensure that the market knows that there is momentum and a vehicle+timeline for progress. When thatâ€™s not possible or available, it becomes incumbent on us to support alternate schemes to rev the web faster.
And, how all web developers can push forward with projects like Gears:
Google Gears is our best hope for this right now, and at the same time as weâ€™re encouraging browser venders to do the right thing, we should also be championing the small, brave Open Source team that is bringing us a viable Plan B. Every webdev should be building Gear-specific features into their app today, not because Gears is the only way to get something in an app, but because in lieu of a real roadmap from Microsoft, Gears is our best chance at getting great things into the fabric of the web faster. If the IE team doesnâ€™t produce a roadmap, weâ€™ll be staring down a long flush-out cycle to replace it with other browsers. The genius of Gears is that it can augment existing browsers instead of replacing them wholesale. Gears targets the platform/product split and gives us a platform story even when weâ€™re neglected by the browser vendors.
Gears has an open product development process, an auto-upgrade plan, and a plan for N+1.
At this point in the webs evolution, Iâ€™m glad to see browser vendors competing and I still feel like thatâ€™s our best long-term hope. But weâ€™ve been left at the altar before, and the IE team isnâ€™t giving us lots of reasons to trust them as platform vendors (not as product vendors). For once, we have an open, viable Plan B.
Disclaimer: I work on the Gears team!
Posted by Dion Almaer at 9:45 am