Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Microsoft has completely lost the web development community."

Last year Mark Pilgrim released a free e-book/site called “Dive Into Html5” (  The site/book has served as a valuable resource on a recent Html5 project we’re working on here at AIS, and I have frequently gone back for details on topics such as local storage and canvas.  It is an excellent book for any bleeding edge web developer.  It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

This week, Mark posted his observations on how publishing a free e-book (which is also purchasable in print format) works well for him, and that it gives great insight into what parts of the book are being read, and by whom. He then makes the following observation:

6% of visitors used some version of Internet Explorer. That is not a typo. The site works fine in Internet Explorer — the site practices what it preaches, and the live examples use a variety of fallbacks for legacy browsers — so this is entirely due to the subject matter. Microsoft has completely lost the web development community. (emphasis mine)

I forwarded this internally within AIS, and a nice debate ensued.  One common complaint was the hyperbole of the statement, and I agree; a more accurate line would likely be "Microsoft as a browser vendor has lost significant mindshare in the bleeding edge web development community."

Personally one of the things I love about Html5 (using the term the way the hypers would – to mean modern web development with client-driven UI interactions using JavaScript, CSS(3) and some HTML5 semantics) is that it has in some ways unified the web development community:  The debate a few years ago was about JSP vs .NET vs PHP vs Python vs Rails vs someotherservertechnology.  Folks from different camps seldom interacted and learned from each other.  With Html5, the backend processes are completely irrelevant, as long as they don’t muck with the Html (ASP.NET webforms is still a major sinner here, unfortunately) and developers using all sorts of backend software and operating systems are now adding to the collective knowledge, mostly working towards the common goal of getting as much functionality as possible, pushed to end users through mostly standards compliant browsers. 

For instance, our Html5 app is backed by ASP.NET MVC 2 and SQL server.  We do all our development on Windows, in Visual Studio – we’re looking to deploy to Azure.  Clearly we’re MS developers.  But we could just as well have done the app in Php against MySql running on linux and apache, and we’re taking cues from folks using python, java, Rails, Node.js, php and God knows what on the backend.

At the same time I haven’t used IE by choice for about 5 years, maybe more…

I was asked what I thought MS could do to gain back some developer mindshare – so here goes:

  • My thoughts are that if Html5 and the set of bleeding edge technologists that go with it are any kind of priority for MS,  they need to do some or all of the following:
  • Find a way to upgrade the legions of IE 6, 7  and 8 users to IE9.  This will obviously not be easy,  but they could do something similar to what Google did with Chrome frame (i.e. make IE9 a plugin for the older browsers),  or they could do something like the makers of the “IE Tab” Chrome and Firefox extensions do,  allow IE to be hosted inside Chrome,  and only activate it for certain sites.  Or let users install IE9 side by side with the older versions.   All of these would have as goal to encourage end users to use the latest possible browser for the task they need it for,  and to make them install IE9 instead of Chrome or Firefox.
  • Make IE9 the paragon of standards compliance.   (They are actually getting close to this...)
  • Bring IE9 to WP7 and whatever tablet software they're coming out with.
  • Reduce the focus of Silverlight as a browser plugin,  and make it more about web-deployed desktop apps.
  • Drastically improve the support for css and javascript in Visual Studio, including debugging and unit testing.   And give this toolset away in the form of VS Express.
  • Evolve the Dev tools in IE9 to become better than Chrome's inspector and the Firebug plugin.
  • Separate the IE development from Windows to allow quicker iterations
  • Do more things like the jQuery deal. The world of CSS is a mess (we desperately need mixins and code forks like those provided by media queries), MS could take the lead here…

The point is, whether Mark’s browser percentages are statistically valid as an indication of web developer’s preferences, or to what degree Microsoft is lagging/losing developer mindshare; these are not the pertinent questions.  The fact is that Microsoft is now not a leader in emerging web development areas – maybe they never were – but should they want to be, they need to take action. IE9 is shaping up to be a great browser, and they need to push it aggressively.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Bing Bar Begone

I rarely use Firefox anymore, because it takes forever and a half to launch (I should figure out why that is…).  Anyhow, I started it today, just to find the frickin’ Bing bar taking up new real estate.  Where did that come from?


Mozilla support has the answer:

This is the kind of crap that Old Microsoft would do.  With all the recent goodness coming out of Redmond, I really didn’t expect this.  Bad Microsoft, bad.


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Sunday, June 13, 2010

IE 9 HTML5 Testing: “Works on My Machine”

One of my esteemed colleagues on an internal forum posted about how great IE 9’s HTML5 support was, based on the result of Microsoft’s test pages.  MS’s tests are sadly self-selective however: meaning they only seem to test for elements that IE9 supports:

“Cross-browser Test Results Summary:
W3C Web Standards Number of Submitted Tests Internet Explorer 9
Platform Preview
Mozilla Firefox 3.6.3 Opera 10.52 Apple Safari 4.05 Google Chrome 4.1
HTML5 40 78% 63% 48% 43% 43%

Compare that to my own results running on the 6(!) browsers I have installed:


Html5 is the first time in a decade that the browser vendors have had a new major standard to fight over; I’m just grateful that this time around we’ll have an army of frameworks such as jQuery that can level the development playing field for us.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Comparative Performance of Underscore.js in Chrome and IE

I came across the very handy-looking Undersore.js today, and clicked on the test & benchmark link. I first ran the test in Chrome.  The results below show number of operations per second.  Looks like each, map, keys, values, and range are pretty inexpensive operations, whereas uniq and intersect should be used sparingly.  All makes sense. 

Then out of curiosity, I ran the same tests in IE and Firefox.  The exact numbers are not significant as the results vary by 10-20% between subsequent runs in the same browser, but the range is pretty illustrative.  And yes, I know IE9 is harder, better, faster, stronger, so this is not a fair fight.  I can’t wait for IE9 to replace every previous IE version…


(higher is

Test Chrome 6 IE 8 Firefox 3.6



























_.uniq() (sorted)




























Again, why I use Chrome as my default browser.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I use Chrome

While checking her email on my computer yesterday, my wife asked me why I use “that Google POS browser” (Chrome).  I think she was annoyed that it was unfamiliar to her, and that it’s just the latest example of me doing something geeky that gets a bit on her non-geeky nerves.  Oh well – marital bliss... 

For the record (not that she would read this…), this is why I use Chrome:

  1. It is clean.  No clutter.  This actually matters.
  2. It is fast: Below are the results of the V8 Engine Benchmark scores.  Sure the benchmark is written by Google, sure it only measures JS performance, and sure it doesn’t mean that Chrome is 20x faster than IE8.  But it is faster, just as Firefox3 is noticeably faster than IE8:

Benchmark test results from run on my laptop

V8Benchmark_IE8 V8Benchmark_Firefox3 V8Benchmark_Chrome
IE 8.0.6001 Firefox 3.0.6 Chrome 1.0.154

Now if only Chrome was as extensible as Firefox is, and if only people would start writing standards compliant html and JavaScript (people = Microsoft, really – SharePoint and OWA are the two biggies), then I would ONLY use Chrome.  As is I’m stuck with all three.  Sigh.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pre-stolen Idea: The Google Chrome Omnibox

Are you feeling lucky?

Image by dullhunk via Flickr

Just the other day I was saying to one of my office mates that Google Toolbar ought to replace the URL address bar with a suggestion-style drop down list that would suggest URLs for you, similar to how the Windows Explorer intellisense works.

That is, if I started typing goo - it should suggest to complete that with, or, etc, etc.  The Firefox address bar does this now, but only for URLs that are in your history.  With all the PageRank data available at their fingertips, Google should be able to suggest the URL of a page that is NOT in your history.

And now, apparently, in Google Chrome, they will:

Google Chrome - the comic book, page 19

Time to brush the dust off the ol' JavaScript books - or buy some new ones.  JavaScript is not going away any time soon.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Opening a Windows Help File Page in Firefox with IE Tab

To open a help file page (the url of which you can find by right-clicking the page and selecting properties) in Firefox, add the following rule to your IE Tab options:


This should then open the page in an IE Tab within Firefox.

The reason you might want to do this is that you can then add local help file pages to your favorite online bookmark manager.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Opening an XPS file In Firefox with IE Tab

Microsoft's new XPS file format doesn't play too nicely with Firefox, in my experience.  If Firefox is your default browser, trying to open an xps document throws the browser into an infinite loop of dialog boxes and new tabs, not much fun.

You can fix this if you have the IE Tab extension for Firefox, but it won't work automatically, you have to make a slight change to the default configuration.

Open the IE Tab Options, and edit the first filter that was placed there by default:



XPS files should now open properly in an IE tab within Firefox.

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