RSS, Changing How We Experience the Web, Browsers, and Microsoft vs. AOL Time Warner

Last week’s post Friday Feast #46: The World of RSS Explorations was about how my Internet experience has changed for the better by taking advantage of finally utilizing RSS feeds. Little did I know that a few days before that Tim Bray wrote a thought-provoking post, Bye-bye Home Page? that explores how RSS has changed his hard drive’s HTML “home page” experience and ponders how much home pages in general really matter.

While I don’t use custom portal pages much and for the same reasons as Tim, I also agree that dressing up the home page isn’t how to keep folks coming back. My Yahoo! has lots of customization capabilities and quite a few newsfeeds, horoscopes, comics, weather, and more; however, I only occasionally use My Yahoo! and that’s just to check weather reports, local TV and theater listings, and read the comics. I do know plenty of people, though, who rely on these portal pages, often still using whatever “home page” came with their browser and not having a clue how to change any of it even if they would prefer something different.

IE’s Standalone Browser Discontinued

Speaking of browsers, you may have heard or read some of the articles about the May 7 interview with Microsoft when it was learned that they’ll be integrating the IE browser into its next operating system, nicknamed “Longhorn,” and that Microsoft will no longer offer a standalone browser. Additionally, AOL, on behalf of Netscape, settled its lawsuit against Microsoft, with Microsoft agreeing to pay AOL $750 million and AOL agreeing to a 7-year licensing pact for AOL to use Internet Explorer. Tristan Louis’s May 30th newsletter AOL/Microsoft Settlement: The Future and June 3rd weblog post Microsoft Lock-in? provide fascinating reading about some of the details and implications.

While the business implications of this are being discussed all over, I also think about what this means for us website designers, developers, and related fields. Jeffrey Zeldman’s post today, IE/AOL: the flip side, is well worth a careful read. Here’s an excerpt:

“Instead of tilting at windmills, we might spend our energy determining what the AOL deal and the death of a standalone IE mean in terms of the methods we use to create websites. It appears that we are about to enter a period of stasis, wherein we can reliably use the standards-compliant methods developed over the last three years, but not push the envelope beyond what IE6/Win can handle. There is both good and bad in that.

“The bad is obvious: further dominance by one player, lessened innovation because of decreased competition, and de facto standardization on an imperfect platform whose eventual improvements, if any, will be locked to a single OS that comes complete with Digital Rights Management.

“If you can’t see the good, here it is: 'what IE6 is capable of' makes a far better platform for standards-based design than 'what Netscape 4 can do,' which was where many of us were trapped the last time the browser space froze.”

So what do I think? Bottom line: I think it’s nonsense for Microsoft to no longer provide a standalone browser for its next version. I also don’t like any one company having a monopoly, whether it’s Microsoft or any other company, and I have concerns about how their monopoly will influence their relationship with W3C and their improved support for standards. I also agree with Jeffrey that browsers and standards have improved by leaps and bounds since the version 4 browsers were released while I share the frustrations about shortcomings, as Jeffrey mentioned, too, such as PNG transparency, CSS float problems, adjacent sibling selectors, SVG, and more.

I will continue to hope and work toward ongoing improvement, of course, with promoting and supporting standards and working with folks who create the software that we use for our work and to browse the Web. While I don’t instantly think gloom and doom because Microsoft won’t be providing a standalone browser with its next version, I do have concerns over the bigger picture with the AOL settlement and partnership details with AOL/Time-Warner and how that impacts Microsoft’s policies with W3C support. I also wonder what this all means for my friends who work for Netscape.

04:55 pm, pdt 4 June, 2003 Comments, Trackbacks ·';}?>

Categories: Browsers, Content, Internet, Software, Standards, Syndication, Technology, Weblogs

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