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Everything Old Is New Again

The new browser war is the same landscape, with a few modern twists. The bits that are the same are obvious:

  • We have the standards for the data. HTML, XML, XHTML, CSS, and a plethora of other standards commoditize web browsers and various bits of server infrastructure used for the web.

  • We have the same profile for the data. In the best of all possible worlds, it's highly portable, highly manageable, highly interoperable, highly queryable.

  • We also have a hall of mirrors that keeps us stupid. This time it's not performance that dazes us—it's popularity.

The modern twist that we face is that browsers are nearly commoditized already. They're free, and there's little money in them—certainly not the megabucks of the early relational era. In fact, lots of web technology is free. Apache is free; HTTP is free; PHP, JavaScript, and Perl are all free. The web therefore represents a no-value zone for tools vendors such as Microsoft. If standards are broadly applied to that zone, Microsoft is effectively prevented from extracting any monetary value.

Standards have historically not been broadly applied to the web, and Internet Explorer is the reason. Deep in its little mind, open, manageable, standardized data is not that welcome. Microsoft is silent on standards compliance, and in our hall of mirrors mentality, all of the discourse on browser popularity does nothing but support Microsoft's position. It distracts us from the true issue of the value of standard data. Microsoft gets the required smokescreen rhetoric for free. (Oracle must be livid that they had to do the work themselves to delay full SQL92 support.)

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