Do as we say, not as we did: Microsoft and standards

Microsoft is sniveling that mobile web sites are written with Webkit browsers in mind, because Webkit has 90% market share on tablets and phones.

For those who are over 30, the irony is nauseating.

You see, in the early 1990s, there was this dream of HTML (and to some extent, Java) making the Web a wonderful, platform-agnostic place where stuff just worked, and it didn’t matter if you were viewing it on a Unix workstation in a computer lab, a Mac in another computer lab, a Windows PC at home, or using something that had only been imagined at that point–like, say, a tablet or phone.

Then along came the self-styled bastion of standards, Microsoft, and its embrace and extend strategy. By adding nonstandard extensions to Internet Explorer and doing anything they could think of to entice people to use them, they ensured the Web didn’t look right unless you were running Internet Explorer on Windows. This bad behavior caught the attention of the Department of Justice and nearly got them broken up, a la AT&T, in the late 1990s.

Then Microsoft bungled the mobile revolution while Apple and Google zoomed past it. Apple and Google both used a once-obscure open-source browser engine called Webkit to build their mobile browsers, which is how Webkit ended up with 90% market share on mobile devices–amusingly, about the same market share that Internet Explorer enjoyed at its peak.

Microsoft certainly has a point, that following standards is a good thing. But hearing it from Microsoft is rather jarring–like hearing Ronald McDonald tell you to eat baked fish and steamed vegetables and wash it down with a big glass of tomato juice.

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