Thursday, February 02, 2006

Microsoft releases revamped Internet Explorer

I don't understand the browser wars. Usually, I'm pretty good with this technical stuff, but this one doesn't make sense to me. So Internet Explorer beat Netscape in the original browser wars, and now wants to keep Firefox from challenging their dominance. But why? What does a company gain from having the most used browser? I guess I can see some benefit for Firefox, just to establish themselves or something. But what does Microsoft have to gain from their browser? They're all free, so they're not making any money from selling the actual product. There are plenty of ads on the internets, but none of them are related to my browser, so they're not making any ad revenue. So what exactly is there to gain from having the most used browser? Is it just some higher goal of "control of the internets" or something? I don't get it. If everyone started using Firefox, would that cause Microsoft to lose money somehow? I would think it would help, because they wouldn't have to keep pouring money into Internet Explorer. I'm sure there's a good reason for wanting to be the top browser, but somehow, it just escapes me.

Posted by


Toast said...

Actually, there's a very good reason for this. By having such an overwhelming percentage of the browser market share, Microsoft gets a lot of leverage to influence what coding standards, technologies, and protocols become incorporated into the W3C standard (kinda like the Constitution that defines how HTML and related markup languages are supposed to work), and that in turn drives the web software marketplace. If 95% of the world is using your browser and you say you want to add a tag for, I dunno, some new image display format or something, to the next HTML definition -- and, hey, conveniently, you invented that new image format -- well, your prospects for getting your wish granted are looking pretty good.

Now, the thing is, Microsoft has a history of going "renegade", adding support for markup code that's not in the W3C. But because they're far and away the biggest player, they can typically force the standards to play catch up with them. The more FireFox chips away at their position, however, the less Microsoft will get to push the rest of the web development community around.

John Howard said...

Yeah, good point, Toast. I didn't think about that.