The dream of the ’90s is alive not just in Portland, but in Internet Explorer as well.
As part of its series of self-mocking advertisements, Microsoft has launched a new ad, though this one is less mocking and more nostalgic. If you miss 56K modems, fanny packs or a time when trolls were little dolls with pink hair, check out the video above (at the risk of dating ourselves, a few of the things supposedly from the ’90s seem a bit more ’80s).
We’ve said it before; we’ll say it again: Internet Explorer, for all its many faults, really was a great browser at one point. And with IE 10 Microsoft is getting back to those halcyon days of the 90s, making a browser that once again bests the competition in many ways.
It’s the web browser developers love to hate, but while Internet Explorer may have gone through some dark times — IE 6, 7 and 8, we’re looking at you — Microsoft’s once ubiquitous browser deserves some credit for more than a few things web developers take for granted today.
Ajax, the Document Object Model (DOM) and CSS are all things that early versions of Internet Explorer helped to popularize.
Developer Nicholas Zakas, formerly the front-end tech lead for the Yahoo homepage, recently posted a look back at the innovations of Internet Explorer. Zakas’ post serves as a reminder (or a history lesson for those of you that weren’t around to experience it firsthand) of the good things Internet Explorer did before Microsoft essentially abandoned it for 10 years. As Zakas writes:
Sometimes it’s hard to remember all of the good that Internet Explorer did before Internet Explorer 6 became the scourge of web developers everywhere. Believe it or not, Internet Explorer 4-6 is heavily responsible for web development as we know it today. A number of proprietary features became de facto standards and then official standards with some ending up in the HTML5 specification. It may be hard to believe that Internet Explorer is actually to thank for a lot of the features that we take for granted today, but a quick walk through history shows that it’s true.
We’re not going to argue that lingering ancient versions of IE aren’t something of scourge on web today, but sometimes it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t always that way. In fact IE’s main failing is simply that it stopped innovating.
For some more examples of what IE gave the web be sure to read through Zakas’s entire post, which has copious reference links at the bottom for anyone who’d like to dig deeper into the history of the early web.
This release marks the sixth IE10 Platform Preview and there’s no doubt that the big news is the integrated Flash Player, something Microsoft originally planned to leave out of the tablet-friendly Metro version of IE10. Now the company has changed its mind about Flash. Dean Hachamovitch, Internet Explorer VP, writes on the The IEBlog:
We believe that having more sites “just work” in the Metro style browser improves the experience for consumers and businesses alike. As a practical matter, the primary device you walk around with should play the web content on sites you rely on. Otherwise, the device is just a companion to a PC. Because some popular web sites require Adobe Flash and do not offer HTML5 alternatives, Adobe and Microsoft worked together closely to deliver a Flash Player suitable for the Metro style experience.
Hachamovitch also notes that Microsoft worked directly with Adobe to optimize an embedded version of Flash for the Metro interface. That means not only is it reportedly less battery-hungry, but the Flash player in IE10 Metro supports touch gestures like double-tap and pinch-to-zoom so the Flash experience will be consistent with everything else in Windows 8′s tablet interface.
While IE10 Metro will indeed support Flash, developers shouldn’t expect Flash to work everywhere. Instead, Metro IE10′s Flash support is more of a last-ditch effort to make sure that big-name legacy sites with popular content will work on any future Windows 8 tablets. “While any site can play Flash content in IE10 on the Windows desktop,” writes Hachamovitch, “only sites that are on the Compatibility View list can play Flash content within Metro style IE.”
In other words, don’t start building web-based Flash games and expect them to run on Windows 8 tablets.
Flash isn’t the only new trick up IE10′s sleeve; in fact, in the long run the far bigger change may be Microsoft’s support for the “Do Not Track” header, a user privacy tool originally created by Mozilla that is in the process of becoming a web standard. Not only does IE10 send the Do Not Track header, but Microsoft has turned it on by default.
While Safari, Firefox and Opera also support Do Not Track, all of them leave it to users to turn on the feature. Google has pledged to support Do Not Track in Chrome, but thus far does not.
Web developers take note, the latest version of IE10 adds support for non-vendor prefixed versions of standards that have reached W3C’s Candidate Recommendation stage. That means IE10 will support CSS transitions, transforms, animations, gradients, and the font-feature-settings property without the -ms- prefix. (The prefixed versions will continue to be supported as well.)
There’s quite a few other new features in the sixth preview of IE10, including performance enhancements that Microsoft claims will make IE10 “fast and fluid while panning, zooming, and scaling content” through a touch interface. You can test out the company’s Chalkboard demo, a panning, zooming, content-scaling stress test for browsers. Without a Windows 8 tablet to test on, it’s impossible to tell just how fast IE10 will be in real-world browsing on an actual tablet, but you can get some idea of what the experience might be like in the Microsoft video below. For more details on other new features in IE10, be sure to check out the IEBlog announcement.
Microsoft has released a new preview of Internet Explorer 10, a major upgrade to the company’s flagship web browser. As was rumored, the latest IE10 preview includes a fully integrated, touch-optimized version of Adobe’s Flash Player.
The consumer preview of Windows 8 with no Flash support in IE 10 Metro.
Microsoft seems to have changed its mind about Adobe Flash and will include a bundled version of Flash with its upcoming Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 web browser. Previously Microsoft announced that the Metro version of IE 10 would run without plugins like Adobe Flash or even Microsoft’s own Silverlight.
The rumor of an about-face on Flash comes from leaked Windows 8 screenshots that have turned up on rumor sites WinUnleaked and WithinWindows. Microsoft declined to answer Webmonkey’s questions for this post, noting only that “Microsoft does not comment on rumors and speculation.”
Rumors and speculation though the conclusions may be, the screenshots tell the story and the story is simple: The latest developer builds include support for Flash in Metro IE 10.
To get around the “no plugins” policy for IE 10 Metro, Microsoft appears to have included the Flash runtime in the actual browser, meaning that it’s not technically a plugin. But even with the new plugin that’s not a plugin, don’t expect Flash to work everywhere. Instead, Metro IE 10′s Flash support looks more like a last-ditch effort to make sure that big-name legacy sites with popular content will work in the Metro version of IE 10.
Flash in Metro isn’t going to work everywhere, though. In fact, Microsoft will maintain a white-list of sites that can access the Flash player in Metro. Microsoft’s previously published Internet Explorer Compatibility View lists dozens of sites including Hulu, CNN, Amazon, Adobe Labs and other popular sites with older, Flash video. (Wired is on that list as well.)
It’s unclear how much of the leaked info represents a change in Microsoft’s policy toward HTML5 video and web standards. Historically, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to maintain backward compatibility and it may be that dropping Flash entirely was simply too much for the company to stomach all at once. Also bear in mind that these leaked screenshots are of early builds and things may well change considerably before the final version of Windows 8 is released.
Mozilla is crying foul at Microsoft’s coming Windows 8, which will limit what third-party applications like Firefox can do on future Windows devices. The limitations in the coming Windows RT — Microsoft’s name for the flavor of Windows 8 specifically tailored to tablet-friendly ARM chips — mean that on ARM-based devices Microsoft’s Internet Explorer will enjoy privileged access not granted to other web browsers.
In a post on the Mozilla blog, Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s General Counsel, says that Windows RT’s restrictions signal “an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages.”
While Mozilla is already hard at work on a version of Firefox for Windows 8 on traditional PCs, Microsoft’s restrictions mean that there will be no similar version of Firefox for the new Windows RT.
The crux of Mozilla’s gripe is that in Windows RT Microsoft gives its own Internet Explorer access to special APIs other web browsers can’t use. The result, according to Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler, is that “there’s no way another browser can possibly compete with IE in terms of features or performance.”
Mozilla believes this represents the same abuse of monopoly power Microsoft used to sideline Netscape in the early days of the web. The special API access for Internet Explorer in Windows RT “restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation,” writes Anderson.
Dotzler points out that at least part of what makes this different than Apple’s iOS — which imposes similar restrictions on software and prevents Firefox from running on iOS — is that Microsoft still has binding agreements with the EU about browser choice on Windows, and Windows RT is still Windows.
The new restrictions, writes Dotzler, “are in direct violation of the promises [Microsoft] made to developers, users, and OEMs about browser choice.” So, while Microsoft may be aping Apple with these new application limitations, Apple has the advantage of not needing to worry about past anti-trust agreements.
Furthermore, argues Dotzler, while Windows RT may be aimed at tablets at the moment (an area where Microsoft is currently nowhere near having monopoly power), Microsoft’s long-term goal is for Windows RT and ARM devices to include servers and laptops as well. That would mean that if Microsoft succeeds and ARM chips are running Windows RT on laptops, tablets, phones and toasters near you, there would be only one browser available on any of them — Internet Explorer.
It’s unclear what Mozilla and other potential competitors plan to do about the restrictions in Windows RT. Anderson concludes his post writing simply, “we encourage Microsoft to remain firm on its user choice principles and reject the temptation to pursue a closed path.” Since Windows RT hasn’t yet been released there’s still time for Microsoft to change its mind and lift the current restrictions. For now at least Mozilla seems willing to wait on Microsoft’s next move. If Microsoft doesn’t change course the fact that Mozilla’s complaint was penned by its top lawyer may give some hint of where this fight is headed.