Don’t get me wrong. Not everything Microsoft has ever done has been evil-personified in software form.
I’m told the Xbox is alright. I have to say that though. One of my best friends works for that division of Microsft. And he has certain photographs I wish to keep out of the public eye.
One of the reasons I have such a distaste for Microsoft is perfectly-explained by this story.
Here’s some back story… in plain English I hope.
One of the biggest problems facing web developers is ensuring the sites they build look and work the same (or, at least, similarly) in different web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc).
Now, this shouldn’t be difficult.
All a web browser does is read a set of instructions (the HTML) which tells it what to put where – a photo here, some text there etc (this is the simple version before any geeky readers chastise me for this).
The problem is, they all interpret the HTML ever-so slightly-differently.
It’s as if the same plain English phrase has been translated out of English into Spanish, French and Italian – and then translated back into English. Whilst the three “re-translated” phrases will say roughly the same thing, they’ll all say it in a slightly-different way.
Things aren’t as bad as they used to be – well, unless you’re still using Internet Explorer 6 (don’t ask, I’ll have nightmares – just read this) – and the discrepancies are usually easy to work around, though occasionally with techniques last seen in the works of Heath Robinson.
And there are a series of tests that every new web browser can be run through to see how “compliant” they are to the “rules” of HTML.
Right – up to speed?
Guess who’s been caught cheating on their tests?
Acid 3 – guess what the earlier ones were called? – is the test in question and it determines how closely a web browser follows the standards of HTML (and other web-related technologies, I won’t bore you with the details). The latest version is based around HTML5, the all-new, singing, dancing version of HTML which is going to change a lot about the way we interact with web sites and what is possible using a basic web browser (without the need for Flash and other such “add ons”).
And yesterday Microsoft was proudly trumpeting that the latest version of Internet Explorer 9 (aka IE9, the browser is still in development and not available to Joe Public at the moment) outperformed everything else: crowning itself “God of all web browsers” in effect.
There were just a couple of tiny, little, “I hate to mention them really” problems.
So, what happened when someone actually ran IE9 through something more akin to a real “Acid” test?
Imagine my shock and horror.
It came last.
The latest version of Firefox (3.6) scored a C, Opera (10.61) got A++ (good work Opera, take the rest of the day off and treat the 14 people who use you regularly to a drink), Chrome 6 got A+, Safari 5 got A, IE8 got an F… I’ll repeat that IE8 got an F and the all-new, shiny, “look what we did ma!” IE9 got a D.
Ok, so it didn’t come last – that was IE8 – but I think I’m allowed a little poetic licence. I’m writing about Microsoft after all.
When asked for a comment, a Microsoft spokesman said: “Er, no habla Inglasi… we ‘ave nobody ‘ere can speakka de English. Sorry.” And then they put the phone down.
* There’s some debate as to whether Microsoft actually checked IE9 against the ‘real’ Acid 3 test or whether it simply used it’s own version.