Why Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 scares me!

People who know me, know how much I hate HTML and how it was a horrible document standard (if you can even call it that) from the very beginning. Today web “applications” are built on top of this document standard to such a massive degree that everyone has lost the plot and decided that the future of the web is HTML + JavaScript. Google makes investments in a JavaScript virtual machine, which to their credit is incredible (for what it has to work with).

Today I installed a virtual machine of Internet Explorer 8 on XP SP3. Oh my god, I was terrified. Now I know that IE8 is still in Beta, but what scared me is our old IE6 Quirks mode site was pixel perfect, and our supposedly web-standards based UI was flaky with buttons disappearing on page refreshes, lines of text disappearing on the bottom of elements etc. So much for the future of the web.

Ignoring this I get the feeling MS has taken the approach that the browser is “the OS of the internet”. The reason the browser cannot be this is because everyone, (people who use the web, as well as those who produce content for it), wants the browsing experience to be the same for everyone on the planet. This is important, but unfortunately it means that Browsers really shouldn’t be innovating by adding features, but more removing and streamlining (making them faster) the one thing they were originally designed to do… Display documents!

Internet Explorer 8 is suffering from bloat… BIGTIME! Every release of Internet Explorer I feel like they’ve added something, I get this innate feeling that Internet Explorer 6 was more lightweight, more nimble. Then IE7 came along and added tabs, which take for-ever to add… then IE8 came along and added web slices… OMFG… just give up guys. Web Slices are going to go the way of active desktop, not because they aren’t a useful feature, but because there’ll always be the one stubborn browser out there that doesn’t want to implement them.

Looking at IE8’s out of the box UI in XP makes Google’s Chrome look like the best browser on the internet not for it’s features, but it’s lack thereof. There’s no crap (yet) it just does what it does extremely cleanly and simply, and I love it and would only use it if it was just a little more mature.

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Internet Explorer’s Great Wall of Chrome

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Browser Chrome done right (Google’s Chrome)

I think Microsoft’s best move has been making Silverlight a cross browser application platform to write proper applications with proper threading, memory management and network communication protocols. This is excellent news to me, as it gives the internet a REAL operating system. But what worries me is there is a large anti-MS movement out there touting Flash or Flex (or JavaScript *shudder*) as the future of web application development, not because it is necessarily better, but because it isn’t a Microsoft technology. Moonlight is probably the most important mitigation to this, but I get the impression people don’t see it as a real alternative because it will always be lagging years behind Silverlight (just like Mono is lagging behind .NET). MS would do well to give a very big hand to the Moonlight guys and make sure they never release Silverlight without a Moonlight release close behind. They have to realise this is the only way that Silverlight will get permanent adoption to the point where all browser’s come bundled with support for running Silverlight apps.

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