End of the Browser Wars?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Well Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 last Thursday, 19th March 2009. To some this may be the end of the browser wars as IE8 does indeed come with vastly increased standards support. Microsoft, to its credit, took notice of developers who spoke up about the way the browser would by default serve up pages in its IE7 mode. To get it to render in the IE8 standards mode, the developer would have to ‘opt-in’. Thankfully Microsoft did change this, so the default behaviour is IE8 standards mode.

As for whether this brings an end to the browser wars, it is too early to fully tell.  IE6 still has around 18% browser market share, and seems to be dropping very slowly. So until IE6 has under 5% or so, developers will still have to cater for it when developing websites.

However, there have been a few large sites lately that have taken the decision to make their sites work in IE7 and above only (or at least some parts of their site). This may help speed up the decline of IE6, which can only be a good thing.  Overall though, it may still take some time to be able to completely ignore IE6. It may just be up to individual site owners as they develop their site to decide whether IE6 users are worth their time, money or effort.

As this BBC news article suggests, with the current releases of the major manufacturers, you could say that the browser wars are indeed coming to an end. There is an increased air of co-operation between browser manufacturers. There may still be time for more to be said along these lines though, with Opera complaining to the EU about Microsoft and IE, and the EU looking into it. Maybe this has already forced Microsoft into allowing users in the next version of Windows to ‘not have’ IE8 installed. The rendering engine itself and files necessary to be used in the file manager and other programs will still be available; otherwise a lot of programs won’t work. We shall see how everything pans out.

IE8 is a good step towards bringing the two rounds of browser wars to a close. There is now more choice than ever when it comes to what browser people use to access the internet, and each manufacturer is improving standards with each iteration of their browsers. This can only improve life on the web, both for developers and end users.

It is currently an interesting time in the world of browsers and the internet. All the current browser manufacturers gain from having the others in the market and they can all help each other and all ‘netizens’ by continually improving their products. The next ‘big’ thing in terms of browsers, may well be how much each manufacturer integrates HTML5. Some browsers already have some elements working in their browsers. Lets just hope that more of it is integrated into web browsers. It can only help keep the web moving forward. Watch this space!