The above two links will take you to some interesting numbers, although nothing you haven’t seen before. IE has enjoyed a majority position in the browser market for what’s going on 3 years now, and the new wave of standards–compliant browsers are barely making a scratch.
Is this really much of a surprise to anyone? Let’s think about how Microsoft pulled this off: IE came bundled with Windows so that your new computer had a browser right from the get–go. The more technologically advanced of us had the option of upgrading, but we will always be a small minority. The path of least resistance in getting on the internet was and is to use the default browser, which is exactly why Microsoft won the last round, and why IE isn’t going anywhere.
And we shouldn’t forget about how many of us were cheering them on back then, too. What was the alternative? The oft–derided Netscape Navigator 4, which was obsolete almost as soon as it was released. Then it hung on like a bad head cold, years after anyone in their right mind could believe it. Even today traces of its odour still linger like recently disposed fish gut.
So we’ve come full circle. We were ecstatic to see something better than NN4 replace it, now we’re beginning to hope against hope that something will replace its replacement. “IE is the new NN4.” I’ve heard it more than once.
Given the great new browsers in the past year from the Mozilla project, Apple, and Opera, we are finally getting the standards support we’ve been aching for; but is it doing us any good at all if the rest of the world ignores them? We’re trying to hit a moving target, and they ain’t cooperating.
What’s it going to take to move to the next level? Short of a revolutionary change in technology or mindset, not only are we stuck with the most popular browser vendor dragging its heels on a new release, but we’re also faced with a user base that sees no reason to upgrade. The WaSP’s recent Browser Upgrade Campaign was an unqualified success in eliminating the remaining few percentage of NN4 users, but will they have to start it up all over again once we see IE7?
Tantek Çelik posts that MSN for OS X came out Thursday with a huge update to the Mac IE5 rendering engine, Tasman. That’s a glimmer of hope that something might be around the corner from Redmond for IE itself, but will even that be enough? What if no one upgrades?
This is why I find it hard to salivate over the new offerings of CSS–3, and why I can’t be bothered to care about the tiny or major differences between XHTML 2.0 and 1.1. We’re not going to be in a position to actually use either of those for a very long time yet.
It’s great to have new browser releases to keep the market fresh; it proves that there’s hope for the future. But for right now? There’s no point in lamenting the most esoteric CSS–2 selectors won’t work in any browser but Mozilla. Instead I’m going to take the training wheels off my XHTML 1.1 and CSS–1 and see how far I can go with the tools I have now. Come along for the ride, it’ll be more fun.