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Monday, April 18, 2011

Native HTML5, the new IE6, and bla bla bla ...

I don't know about you guys, but I am kinda bored by all these news and tweets against Microsoft ... don't get me wrong please, you may have realized over these years I have rarely been that nice with M$ products, but there is time to complain, and time time to move forward and appreciate, at least, what we have now compared with what it was 10 years ago.

IE6 is Death, Long Life to IE6

Back in time, IE6 was the kick ass browser every web developer was dreaming about:
  • tons of security issues to hack in order to have access to any sort of private data (btw ... it's still like that ...)
  • hybrid JScript/VBScript engines with different privileges for each language and none of them based concretely over a standard
  • the predecessor of what we call today Ajax
  • hybrid box model able to understand the worst markup we can possibly imagine so ... wannabe developer friendly (I'll be back to this point later)
... and so on ... with all its glory ...

Why NO future IE will be the next IE6

Now, over last 10 years many things happened:
  • Firebird changed its name: Long life to Firefox
  • Webkit made its path down to any sort of device
  • Chrome became the must have browser
  • Opera reached version 11.50-beta-HW-accelerated-maybe
  • we are not alone anymore ... !
We are not living anymore in that era where WEB was letting us think about spiderman, internet was working only inside intranets, and no competitors were showing off yet.
We live in a different segment of the browsers timeline, a space where web surfers are more concious, less passive, and specially less ignorant ... we live in a time-frame where internet is almost everywhere and it's even portable in our pockets ... is IE there? We never cared about it, and this is the future!

Feel Free To Choose!

The Antitrust somehow forced Windows OS to let the user chose one out of 3 browsers ... I mean, more than this I wonder what do we expect ...
I have never seen such technique in any other Operating System ... but we still complain whatever IE will block people forever ...
Moreover, even if there is no choice, nobody in my family is using Internet Explorer, unless it's at work and hopefully to use work related services, not to go on Facebook or the HTML5 version of Youtube ... you know what I mean ...

Legacy Support: The Beginning Of The End

The most common excuse we can ear from a Company about the usage of IE6 is this notorious "legacy code" buzz word. For all those non techy people out there, when you ear this word this is the translation: "We don't have money to update our slow and deprecated infrastructure and we don't have enough competent people able to migrate data and business logic into something better that could bring only more value to our infrastructure and our daily basis work. Since as I have said at the beginning we don't have money, we cannot temporarily hire external Companies that would be able to do that as well ... uh, I forgot to mention we are simply out of the market 'cause we are stuck in year 2000 or earlier and new technologies ... which new technologies?".
Moreover, if we want to be reached with our online services by these companies and their employees, it is not just about the browser!
All PCs in these companies are most likely relict unable to perform any good with latest "special FXs" we all would like to put in our web ( transitions, shadows, WebGL, etc ... )

In an Ideal Web World

This is how the web development would have been in the ideal world every developer is dreaming about:
  • write once run everywhere exists
  • jQuery would have never been created
  • hobbyist and wannabe web developers, the specie more than ever growing these days mainly thanks to precedent point, would be the only web developer category so ... engineers, go and get a real job!
  • browsers won't have a name since they all act the same and there is no difference except some performances number
I am kinda joking but let's face reality. "Web For Everybody" does not mean that all browsers will be the same, it means that we must be good enough to be able to bring the web in as many browsers as possible ... this is our job, and if everything would be the same, our job would be the most boring ever ... isn't it?
The reason me and many other thousands like me are challenged on daily basis are indeed limits we keep facing in different environments.
These limits may be extremely hard to solve, cross platform speaking, but thanks to latest technologies, thanks to latest browsers, and thanks to our hard work, we can already bring what we really want in every platform: this is our job!

IE9, IE10, and the Native HTML5

I honestly do not mind about marketing words, neither users mind that much. They eventually update their browsers and if no happy, they change it again: easy.
What I do mind is that IE9 supports for HTML5 is good enough to bring fresh new content and design in every house.
What we can show today in this browser and others is unbelievable if we think we had to deal with bloody PNG alpha channel and IE6 for ages!
Why do we complain that much then?
I do believe the only day we should really complain is the day we have used all possible techniques, fallbacks, and alchemies we could imagine to shrink 100% of IE9 potentials, the same we have done over these years with IE6 ... isn't it?

Premature Complaining VS Research

The main reason people adopted libraries such jQuery is the ability to bring "unthinkable" features even in older browsers. Hacks for rounded corners, DOMContentLoaded, canvas shims, Flash fallbacks, Sockets, PNG32 support, and many others have been all over the place in latest years ... and what do we do now?
Rather than appreciate the fact we don't need them anymore and focus on what we really need next we would like to cuddle ourself behind the excuse "as usual, IE lacks behind".
Now, honestly, ask yourself how many times you have been dealing with WebSockets, Database API, WebWorkers, WebGL, and all newest technologies we may already complain about without having a clue what the hell are these useful for ... and without considering that we will always have a way to fallback.

Is WebGL missing? Not Really, Not Now

Is not that since the browser has it, everybody can use it ... is much more. WebGL opens doors to the GPU and I bet +80% of web developers out there have zero knowledge about OpenGL ES 2.0 potentials and GLES shaders language.
Apple clearly confirmed they have no intention to put WebGL support in their devices, and the reason is kinda logic: it is easy to put the GPU in an infinite loop and drain the battery or make the device unstable.
Microsoft had different reasons to do not invest much into WebGL: DirectX
Chromium invested time to create Angle which aim is to convert OpenGL ES 2.0 calls into DirectX and make WebGL possible in Windows OS as well.

Different Fallbacks

If we really care about WebGL, if we really need to put such heavy content in our web pages or our advertisements ( shaders + textures + runtime parse/translate/compile ) we can always fallback into shims through Silverlight or Flash Player, as soon as it will implement Adobe effort to bring hardware accelerated 3D content within.

Wasn't Flash Death? ... NO!

... and thanks gosh will hopefully never die! Flash has been our best friend for all those missing features now partially re-implemented in HTML5 and Flash has been always one step forward.
All those shims about storages, databases, files uploads, canvas, sockets and all the magic behind some library scene ... flash is not good but it's not that evil as well.

So, What's Next?

If it's about IE9 limits, we can simply wait that day we have discovered all possible ways to do what we need to do while if it's about WebGL we need some kick ass 3D developer with excellent knowledge of these 3D APIs: Silverlight and Molehill, aka Flash Player Incubator.
With these kind of developers out there we could have possible shims for WebGL or, even better, a jQuery3D library able to make WebGL development easier and, hopefully, without GPU loops and memory exhaustive problems.
Finally, what I really would like to see out there, is less "oh my god we are stuck forever again" and more "hey, I have spot this limit, let's figure out how to break it".

My 2 cents and happy holidays everybody, I'll be back in few days.


Lucian Armasu said...

The point is not that IE9 doesn't have WebGL. It's that IE10 will not have WebGL, and who knows if it will even come to IE11. That's at least 2 more years where Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera will have WebGL and IE won't.

Andrea Giammarchi said...

while the point of this post is: it does not matter!

IE will keep loosing market share if WebGL is so important, plus there is always something missing ... in every bloody browser!

Gabriele Romanato said...

IE's share is actually falling, though I think that the main reason is due to the fact that the newest versions of IE will run on Vista and 7 (and 8 in a while). As you know, on I'm constantly pushing readers towards the adoption of the new versions of IE and I actually want IE to pass the Acid Test 3 because I want it to be one of the best browsers on the web, not just for developers but mainly for users who will experience a better performance during web surfing. I'm totally against this archeological trend that forces us to support wrecks and aborts like IE 6 and 7, and you know better than me what this means from a JS perspective. This stupid trend also exposes users to security problems, not to mention usability issues. I totally agree with the standpoint of your post, and I'd like to see other sites and blogs to endorse your view. We are crusaders not against IE, but against these stupid trends that want the web to get back to the 90s. MS is against these trends too, because it's pushing new products on the market and encouraging users to adopt these new technologies.
Honestly, this is the best post on the subject I've ever seen from years. Thanks Andrea! :-)