Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software Describe Joint Vision for Web Application Framework

Tuesday May 25th, 2004

The Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software have published a paper outlining their vision for Web applications. The paper, submitted in preparation for next week's W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents, describes a device-independent Web application framework based on HTML and backwards-compatible with existing Web content. The two organisations are keen to get parts of this framework in place soon to prevent a single-vendor solution (see Microsoft's position paper) becoming dominant. Co-author Ian "Hixie" Hickson's provides more insight in a recent weblog post on the matter.

#33 Re: I think a binary IE plugin is exactly what we need

by SpaceDogDN <>

Friday May 28th, 2004 2:13 PM

You are replying to this message

> I think MS is not developing IE rerndering because it doesn't want current web standards to evolve.

Perhaps, but further development costs money and resources too. Also, don't forget that an outdated browser is yet another method of forcing people to upgrade to Longhorn.

> In fact whatever the W3C come up with will prolly not get implemented in IE and therefore not used by web-developers or users.

That depends on what the W3C approves and whether IE maintains its current marketshare prior to the release of Longhorn. If the W3C approves standards that are backwards compatible with IE 6.0, as the Mozilla/Opera alliance proposes, and alternative browsers supporting this standard gain marketshare, more web developers will use the new standards. As more sites support the standards, alternative browsers will begin to gain even more marketshare, thus setting up a feedback loop.

Remember, HTML has long been designed to be backwards compatible. W3C specifications favor standards that seperate raw information from the format it's presented in. A good example of this is the concept of alternative style sheets, where you can effectively choose the layout of the page in browsers that support the feature. Another example is the use of XSLT to convert XML formatted data into other formats such as HTML.

The Mozilla/Opera plan is based on this concept. They propose extensions an improvements that allow greater functionality on alternative browsers without rendering the code useless in IE. For example, consider the following:

<input id="time1" name="time1" type="time" min="08:00:00" max="17:00:00" value="08:00:00" />

In a complant browser, this would produce a time selection widget with the default time of 8am. In IE, it would produce a textbox with the value "08:00:00". If an IE user properly formats the text in the textbox, then the value returned by IE would be no different than the one returned by an alternative browser. If it's incorrectly formatted in the textbox, then validation could occur via a server-side validation function. In this manner, the code is identical, and the form will work correctly in most browsers, including IE, but the page will look better and be easier to use with browsers supporting the extensions.

> "That's not fair! You said you were not going to upgrade IE!". Then MS will reply "Ahahaha! But we had to because the web is soooo old fashioned nowadays."

Umm. No, that's not going to happen. XAML and Avalon are such vital Longhorn features that MS would be killing migration to Longhorn by including it in an upgrade to IE on older versions of Windows. It's far more likely that they'd upgrade IE for W3C approved extensions to HTML than they would for XAML.

> So I think w3c MUST move foreward *ignoring* IE compatability and making sure there is always a *good* IE plugin to keep it up with the times.

Let's face facts: IE has such a huge marketshare that writing web applications solely for a format that Vanilla IE doesn't support is suicide. For starters, when I see a page that requires a special plug-in to view it, my first impulse is to go somewhere else. Furthermore, if Mozilla has a hard time getting people to download a 4.6MB browser, getting them to download a plug-in of similar size will be nigh impossible.

Furthermore, creating a new standard that doesn't allow backwards compatibility with outdated browsers, such as IE, also hurts other browsers that fail to implement the standard. Will Apple's Safari support the new standard? How about Konquerer? What about businesses still using outdated browsers like Netscape 6/7?

Also, who's going to maintain this plug-in you want, and where are the funding and programming resources coming from?

To be honest, I think W3C will take three routes. First, they'll accept the Mozilla/Opera proposal because it has minimal impact on existing browsers while extending functionality significantly. It also might force MS to upgrade IE so that they can claim to be keeping up with web standards.

The second route would be to create an improved version of XForms. This will keep the XML intellectual elite happy while not really affecting popular web standards in any meaningful way.

Finally, W3C will allow to allow Microsoft to submit XAML as a web standard. This will allow the open source community to create implementations of XAML on non-Windows platforms while exposing MS to maximum criticism should they try to attack such projects.

So effectively, W3C has little to loose by accepting all viewpoints. Let the best standard win.