It struck me this week. Browsers nowadays are so kick-ass that they outdo Chuck Norris’s badassness. The current momentum of skyrocketing browsergoodness can’t even be surpassed by Holland winning the worldcup next Sunday. Or perhaps it can, but let’s have a look anyway at where browsers are today shall we? Pure for the the sake of the great joyride that we’re in for when going retro.
The era of e-solutions died along with Web 1.0, Web 2.0 has past, along came AJAX, here we are now in the midst of a worldwide HTML5 / CSS3 party and it ain’t over till the fat lady tweets. There’s cloud computing everywhere, desktop tasks shifting online, more sharing options than all of Justin Bieber’s followers can throw a stick at and the only things Facebook and Twitter won’t get you into is your car. LG is right: Life’s good.
Back in 1998 Microsoft was sued over misusing their monopoly by shipping Internet Explorer along with Windows 95. Bill Gates explained how IE was so tightly integrated in the OS ecosystem that it wasn’t possible to separate the two. Even though tools like nLite have long proven this to be technically false for Windows 95′s successors, they were inseparable at the time. By design that is.
It killed Netscape and allowed Microsoft to push new ideas to market such as the XMLHttpRequest, ContentEditable and filters like shadows, gradients and opacity. Proprietary or not, remember that we’re talking last century technology here. Sure, the barndoor transition didn’t make it but their critiqued approach of adding non-standard features stimulated innovation for the benefit of users all around the globe, making IE the best browser experience there was for web apps considering the timeframe and competition. You could rely on it to work and due to its native ActiveX rendering on Windows it was fast as lightning.
And let’s not forget: IE wasn’t Windows only! Because of a five-year agreement between Microsoft and Apple, a special IE unit was doing a more-than-excellent job on IE for the Mac. It was even considered being superior to the Windows version, so when Microsoft pulled the plug it was officially because Apple had begun working on Safari around 2002, though rumors are that IE-for-Mac was outperforming its Windows counterpart.
The need for standards
With Steve Jobs at the helm of Apple, Macs became a more prominent alternative to the Windows desktop at homes and offices, and along with the choice of platform came demand for choice of the browser. Firefox bursting out of the Mozilla Suite couldn’t have happened at a better time, and with more browser vendors upping the ante, standards were demanded. Enter W3C.
Knights of the Rounded Corners
The W3C turned into the Knights of the Rounded Corners as they fulfilled the role as keeper of requested markup and styling features. Working drafts guided innovation and vice versa, and Microsoft’s critiqued approach of adding proprietary implementations was now deemed perfectly normal as vendors were pushing fancyness ranging from -moz-marching-ants, -webkit-flood-my-floor to -o-my-goodness. And don’t we love it all.
In the meantime, standardization lemmings threw rectangle “W3C Valid” badges in the face of their visitors, sometimes on websites implemented with alt texts on spacer gifs and tables for layout.
Standards didn’t always lead to quality, and W3C bet their money on XHTML and lost. Luckily for us, WHATWG stood up and said
“XML is not the way to go. HTML is. Let’s build what we actually need.”
If it is as good as the standalone browser counterpart it’s going to be pure awesome and I can’t wait to get my hands on the first tablet running it. And the great thing is that so many apps have proven to be better on the web than on the desktop. Here at Q42 we dropped Microsoft Office over Google Apps years ago and we wish we had done so much earlier.
How is this relevant for Quplo? Well, Quplo lives inside the browser and that wasn’t possible a few years ago. I can’t even remember what we were thinking when we had the Visual-Studio-Dot-Net-Requiring-Downloadable-Installer in mind. If there is one lesson I have learned it’s this:
If you’re going to build an app, ask yourself if there is any reason not to make it browser based.
We made the call almost halfway in the process but I’m still glad we did. Considering the history of events mentioned above in terms of browser innovations, the future is an interesting and appealing one and it’s probably going to affect Quplo in many positive ways.
Next week we’ll go live and I’m thrilled that we are. But for now, let’s hear it for the browser!
Hip Hip Hooray!
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