Browser wars redux? Why bother...


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18 September 2004

Some people are still trying to have browser wars. Now it is apparently between Firefox and IE. What a misguided concept.

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Star Trek covered the issue years ago in an episode titled “Let that be Your Last Battlefield” (which is probably the only good episode in all of season 3). In this episode there are two characters. One, named Lokei, has black skin on the left side and white skin on the right. Another, Bele, has black on the right and white on the left.   The point of the episode is to illustrate just how inane the concept of racism really is. But the lesson is easily extended to any scenario where meaningless differences are used as a divisive technique. This is true of the silly arguments between VB and C#, Ford and Chevy, and is equally true of the so-called “browser wars” of today.   When two things are identical except for superficial differences then it is a massive waste of time and energy to get worked up over who picks which thing. People who consider themselves “superior” for picking on set of superficial differences are simply (not to pull any punches) idiots.   Years ago when I was a DEC VAX guy we used DEC branded VT terminals (VT52, then VT100 and VT220).   Another company, Wyse, had VT terminals that were cheaper so we switched to them. These terminals also had a couple odd features we didn't use – after all, we still had lots of DEC terminals, so we stuck with the common (standard) ESC sequences.   Browsers are the same thing. Since HTML has stagnated (or was that standardized?), it doesn't really matter what browser you use. Who cares? Virtually all web sites out there use HTML 3.2, because that’s the de facto standard that works reasonably well on all terminals – oops, I mean browsers.   The difference between having tabs or not, the specific icons on the toolbar, or how favorites are organized are immaterial. In the end, all the current browsers pretty much understand the same ESC sequences (except now those sequences are HTML – whoop de doo).   Sure, some people are foolish enough to use the browser as a programming platform (as in using client-side script to do a rich UI). Those poor people are stuck with IE (or whatever browser they targeted), but that is a poor strategy anyway. Note the total lack of development tools support for client-side programming. There's not a vendor out there who is encouraging or enabling client-side programming. It is a total dead-end wasted investment in the long run.   No reputable Internet company is foolish enough to go down the client-side script road. Only misguided IT shops are doing this, and they are going to get burned over time...   If you want a rich client, use Windows or GNOME or KDE. That’s what these technologies were designed for!!!! Don’t bastardize a terminal/browser into doing something way beyond its design parameters. That’s like using a duck as a pack animal when there are perfectly good mules and horses standing right there.   In the end, when you look at IE or Firefox, either switch, or don't switch. I honestly don't see where it matters. This is fundamentally the same debate as whether to switch from VT terminal vendor X to vendor Y - only now the price for both products is zero.   IE is black on the left side, and Firefox is black on the right. Other than superficial differences they are the same damn thing.   In the Star Trek episode the two “races” had fought so long and hard that they’d literally destroyed their planet. Lokei and Bele were the only members of their world left alive. Thankfully the “browser war” is unlikely to decimate Earth or even the IT industry, but it certainly does have the potential to waste more time and energy than free products can possibly be worth…