All of This Has Happened Before and Will Happen Again

Jacob Rossi from Microsoft put together an article for Smashing Magazine that discusses Microsoft’s Project Spartan web browser, Inside Microsoft’s New Rendering Engine For The “Project Spartan”.

Unlike other click-bait efforts that only speculated that perhaps Spartan was going to be WebKit-based, showing their own preference instead of any real understanding of the browser world, this one is filled with lots of great information. You should read it.

The first few comments, on the other hand, started off a mess (with many more on Twitter since the initial announcement). Two examples from the article:

So here was the opportunity to swallow their pride and join WebKit to make the internet a better place

…and they built *another* closed-source, proprietary rendering engine.

[Slow sarcastic clap]

« IE did shape the web in a positive way »

This made me laugh more than it should. You seem to forget why Internet Explorer has felt the need to change its name in the first place. And it’s not because it was «too good» or «too innovative»…

Many folks jumped in and corrected, down-voted, and generally balanced the insipid whining. Christian Heilmann, who has logged more years working for Firefox than most devs have logged using it, waded in to challenge many of the incorrect assertions.

Bruce Lawson, who happens to work for another browser vendor (Opera) noted all the things Internet Explorer did for the web in his five-year-old post In praise of Internet Explorer 6. It’s also a cautionary tale about where reliance on a single rendering engine will take us.

What these two guys have in common, besides working for the competition, is that they have been on the web since its dawn. They’ve seen what happens when one browser gets too big (Internet Explorer) and how we spend the next decade-plus digging out from the mess.

How did we get into that mess? By people coding for one rendering engine.

Everyone who calls for WebKit in Internet Explorer is exactly the same kind of developer who would have coded to Internet Explorer 15 years ago (and probably happily displayed the best viewed in badge).

If you are that developer, then it will all be your fault when it happens again. When WebKit is no longer the hot engine. When Chrome loses its dominance. When Apple’s market share falls to match the developing world. You will be to blame.

Do you think that won’t happen? Just look to Android browser fragmentation, or WebKit failing to support a standard that Firefox and IE have nailed, or Chrome introducing its own proprietary features (can’t find the link; it’s coming), or failing to use best practices as it tries to carry the next big thing forward, or the complete lack of developer relations from Apple. We’ve had over half a decade of warning signs.

It’s happening again, and every petulant, lazy developer who calls for a WebKit-only world is responsible.


Update: February 3, 2015

My rant continues in my post Best Viewed in 1 of 11 Flavors of Chrome! It’s built off PPK’s Chrome continues to fall apart at brisk pace. Even I didn’t know there are so many Chromium variants.

One Comment


per usual, you nailed it. great post.

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