Upon its debut in 2000, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 for Mac OS X was the best browser on the planet. Macworld’s Tom Negrino wrote in his review, “Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 is not only the best Web browser ever released for the Macintosh, but also arguably the best Web browser ever released for any computing platform. Built for speed and compliant with Internet standards, IE 5 strikes an excellent balance between users’ needs and developers’ desires. Thanks to performance far superior to that of the aging Netscape Navigator 4.X, there’s no compelling reason not to download the new version.”
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the end of development of future Macintosh versions of its Internet Explorer browser, citing competition from Apple Computer’s Safari browser.
Since when does Microsoft fold their tent and walk away from a fight? And compliment their competitor to boot? Well, only when they’ve won. The only surprising thing about this is that it took so long for Microsoft to knife the IE Mac baby.
Let’s face it; it doesn’t matter to Microsoft if Mac users use Internet Explorer anymore. 85% of the world’s computers accessing the Internet use Microsoft IE. It wouldn’t matter if Apple made a browser that could teletransport its users directly to their virtual destinations in an instant, because the world’s web developers and designers wouldn’t be able to use that feature unless they wished to exclude 85% of their potential traffic. Those who make the sites on the Web have to make them work for Internet Explorer first.
Now it’s up to Microsoft to decide whether to support open standards or develop their own that work only with Internet Explorer. Does anyone wonder which course they’ll chart?
I personally have to use Microsoft Internet Explorer to access three sites running IIS that require IE to login. It’s just three sites – for now.
Apple is going to have its hands full making sure Safari supports whatever Microsoft decides they’ll need to support. Apple now works for Microsoft as the developer of the Mac version of Internet Explorer called Safari. There is no cost to Microsoft. They just set the standard and Apple does all the work.
The only ways around this are for people to create Mac-only websites to take advantage of Safari’s future extra-IE features and technologies (further weakening standards), for web sites to not use Microsoft servers, in which case the sites will still have to work with IE or forfeit 85% of the users, or for Apple to increase its share of the installed base to levels that would threaten Windows and Internet Explorer dominance.
Sure, Safari is fast, has Tabbed Browsing, excellent Bookmark management, and a raft of other features, and Apple can continue to improve what is arguably already the best browser on the planet even in Public Beta 2 form. But, when it comes right down to it, Safari must work with sites developed, designed, and intended for Internet Explorer. And it’s already been proven through and through that 85% of the world will accept what they are told is “good enough,” just look at Wintel. Only a select cream of the crop feel they deserve the very best, can recognize what’s best, and are willing to pay for it.
Microsoft Internet Explorer, by way of the Windows monopoly, has become so powerful that it doesn’t need to exist on the Macintosh.
Steve Jobs does have at least two huge aces up his sleeve: Safari for Windows and Mac OS X for x86. But, without Steve dropping his own private Fat Man or Little Boy (or both) on the computer industry, Safari developers are stuck adhering to Microsoft’s whims, constantly making sure Safari can read pages developed and designed to work with, you guessed it, Microsoft Internet Explorer.
SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.