Ed Bott’s Lament

In “IE9: Microsoft’s new browser gets no respect at all,” ZDNet’s Ed Bott sees seething contempt where I intended even-handed calm, and asks why my discussion yesterday of the tone of a months-old IE announcement failed to discuss yesterday’s keynote at MIX10, which I didn’t see.

Ed, for the record: I didn’t see the MIX10 keynote, which took place while I was traveling home from SXSW Interactive and after I wrote “IE9 Preview.” I wasn’t responding to the keynote. I was responding to the article I linked to, “An Early Look at IE9 For Developers.”

As a hint, I linked to the article in my lede and referred to it by name.

Hours after I wrote the post, while I was sitting in a jet between Austin and New York, Microsoft unveiled updated information about IE9, with good news on its web standards support, which I’ve since had confirmed by neutral developers—neutral in the sense that their allegiance is to web standards, not to any particular browser or platform.

I look forward to studying up on the latest IE improvements. Contrary to your inference, I respect browser engineers as I respect people generally. Indeed, Chris Wilson, former IE lead, and Tantek Çelik, former IE/Mac lead, are my friends. Heck, a few nights ago, Tantek and I were partying like brothers at SXSW Interactive and I have often written glowingly about his and Chris’s achievements on behalf of web standards and browser UX.

I’m surprised that you built a whole article out of refuting things you inferred but I never said. Slow news day?


30 thoughts on “Ed Bott’s Lament”

  1. Isn’t it telling, though, that MIX10 occurs at the tail-end of SXSW? If IE9 is really relevant, wouldn’t you want to include those that attend SXSWi?

  2. Microsoft even made an early developers release available so people like Feldman could test it and judge Microsoft’s progress in standards compliance.

    Who is this “Feldman” fellow anyway?

  3. Z,

    I thought your article was informative and actually made me happy about IE (for once). I hope everything I’m hearing about IE 9 embracing web standards, HTML5, etc. is true.

    It sounds like Ed has some harmful presuppositions of his own that are causing him to view things askew. Or he skipped breakfast. Either way, I hope he re-reads it from a web developer’s perspective.

    Thanks for all you do!

  4. Yeah, I don’t know where he gets “harsh critique” out of your words. Judging by what I’ve read of yours, if you wanted to critique the browser or the engineers, it would have been succinct and obvious. I think the slow news day idea is solid…

  5. Eds criticisms seem valid to me (and those of several other sites). What an odd day to choose to publish an sensationalist article on a 4 month old post i.e. on the day of a developer preview of the product. Perhaps if you’d bothered to wait a few hours in order to see what was presented at the conference you would have discovered that most of your criticisms were unfounded. Then you could have written something constructive rather than just speculative musings about a product you hadn’t seen. Surely it would have made much more sense to have seen the product before questioning whether it meets the claims of the developers.

  6. If it bleeds, it leads. Controversy (even if false) sells ads, and, if you’re under the pay-per-article model, still gets you paid. It’s a win for everyone that matters to the publisher (who didn’t bother to have an editor fact check the article).

  7. Honestly, I don’t know how you can imply with a straight face Ed Bott was the one having a slow news day when your original post was a critism of the “tone” (not even the substance) of a four-month old post on the IE blog.

    I mean, obviously you consider yourself pretty up to date on this Internet thing, right? ;-) So surely you must have heard that Microsoft was going to give an update on IE9 around this time in March. What’s more, if you’re following the IE blog, you’d have noticed additional posts around Microsoft joining the SVG working group, so it would have been reasonable to be curious about what exactly they intended to show.

    So why wait until now to complain about a such a dated blog post? “Petty” seems to be about the only word I can think of, especially when it’s the *tone* of all things that’s upsetting you and you end with little more than another chance to beat the WebKit drum, which is something that’s been done so many times in so many forums that it simply isn’t interesting anymore. Clearly, Microsoft’s committed to Trident, for better or worse, so why keep pouting? It’s long since become tedious, and Microsoft’s announcements this week strongly indicate a reinvigorated commitment to standards, so why not make the best of that energy and channel it into feedback to make sure they do it right?

    Peace!

    (BTW, I’m enjoying the 3rd ed. of Designing with Web Standards :-) )

  8. Mr. Zeldman, if you would have read Ed’s post, you’d know that he realizes this and it’s pityful that you are an HTML/CSS guru and didn’t care to keep track of the fact that MS was going to give more details about IE9, but rather decided to wham MS for what it has done in the past. Get over it. MS did do some bad things in the past, but if you don’t encourage them for their current innovations, Google and Apple will reach the same position and will abuse their monopoly.
    Your last article was clearly written in a state of passion, rather than logic, because you mentioned in one of the comments about how MS decimated netscape. None of which is relevant to what is happening now.

  9. Great overview. I haven’t followed the IE9 updates because I don’t expect to be amazed. I think it’s that-that most people are angry with. Anything short of amazement, a complete 180, and a finite disassociation with their previous ways is a disappointment.They’ve let IE go too far down the rabbit whole to attempt a rescue now. Alice is gone, it’s time to find a new.

  10. Even with Microsoft’s new announcements, your article is still correct. It has a slight undertone of skepticism but what else can you expect when Microsoft has held back web innovation for a decade and cost us billions in wasted productivity.

    And again, at MIX they are setting the wrong tone once more. They are showing demos comparing their browser with Chrome and Safari. They are not in the position to bash the competition. They are miles behind. They should be humble, apologize to the community and deliver.

    I will celebrate and compliment Microsoft by the time they have lived up to their promises.

  11. As a web designer, I will never ever forget the past 15 years of Internet Explorers degrading torture.

    @ Ed Bott : You Don’t Mess With The Zeldman.

  12. Zeffrey, I see why you wrote the article yesterday. I too searched for ‘IE9′ and found that article. Regarding Microsoft’s tone-of-voice and branding bragging generally: you’re spot on – it is incredibly grating. I see the point you were making is not about technology, but about ‘enforced bragging.’ Good point, well made, I agree. But this is schizophrenic Microsoft at its best. You only have to browse around the Mix site to realise it has marketing, branding and design people every bit as subtle as Apple. There’s a reason why the Apple people don’t allow personal blogging, you know. ;-)

    But putting all that aside, what MS has actually delivered in the IE9 preview is worthy of praise and respect. In terms of the technology it is worth highlighting the distinction between Direct2D and DirectWrite, which are discrete but related entities. IE9 will include both.

    DirectWrite provides improved text rendering, animation and transformations, accelerated with Direct2D, if it is available. This is good and should make type-geeks happier and provide a better reading experience for end users. (Although, I’ll wager, type-geeks like myself will still not be entirely happy as there is still a definite ClearType-ishness about DirectWrite, probably attributable to the heavy hinting still going on.)

    Direct2D is a hardware-accelerated 2D graphics API, much like Apple’s Quartz. This is interesting and worth contemplating. It offloads 2D graphics rendering to the graphic card GPU, making graphics in the browser smooth and responsive. It also frees up the CPU to concentrate on JavaScript, HTML and CSS. It will do for the browser on Windows what Quartz did for the desktop on OS X; that is, it will enable designers to provide richer animation, and more tactile, organic, smooth interfaces and experiences. All the stuff you associate with Apple. All with web standards. That’s got to be welcomed and certainly couldn’t be described as “handing Apple and Google the competitive advantage.” On the contrary, it’s making HTML, CSS and JavaScript come alive. It’s handing Web Standards the competitive advantage.

    Having played with the IE9 preview I can honestly say I am impressed and excited, much to my surprise. To those who sneer at it: try it, otherwise you risk appearing the fool. Most remarkably, I find myself being engaged by the SVG demos. Yeah, that’s right, SVG. Not Flash, not Silverlight, but the web standard we all love to forget: SVG. In short, it looks lovely in IE9. As do the pure HTML/CSS/JS technology showcases. There’s not a proprietary technology in sight. In one demo, involving images spinning in 3D space – rendered using nothing more than HTML, CSS and JS – IE9 canters along at 60fps, Firefox plods at 15fps, while Safari and Chrome lie dead at the side of the road with 2fps. This is good, competitive, stuff.

    Does this mean Microsoft finally get it? It seems so. Or, at least, the teams that work on these technologies within Microsoft get it. In a way, IE9 feels like a real victory for web standards. It feels like a sun splitting the horizon of a new era. On this occasion, we should save the cynicism for another day.

    It should also be strongly noted that Mozilla are hard at work building Direct2D and DirectWrite into Firefox 3.7. So even more people will benefit. Mozilla might even beat Microsoft to the punch and release 3.7 before IE9. Wouldn’t that be something?

    P.S. I thought Firefox’s tab name truncation was cute in this instance.

  13. Thanks, Charles, for the details on DirectWrite and Direct2D. I’ll be curious to see it for myself, and to hear what the type design community and my friends at Typekit make of it, vis-a-vis “web fonts.”

    Having played with the IE9 preview I can honestly say I am impressed and excited, much to my surprise. … Does this mean Microsoft finally get it? It seems so.

    I’m hearing this as well. In fact, a few standardista friends who weren’t at SXSW this year and had been checking in with Microsoft for months wrote to tell me about IE’s greatly improved standards compliance the day before the poorly timed MIX keynote.

    Alas, Gmail failed to deliver my mail while I was at SXSW. (Go, cloud computing!) Thus I did not see the “IE9 is starting to really rock” messages from formerly skeptical standardistas until yesterday, when Gmail unblocked itself and sent me a river of outdated email messages.

  14. Thanks Charles for the links. By looking at the IE9 preview, I am also somehow impressed and looking forward to try it soon. It really looks very promising.

  15. And yet despite the good stuff, Microsoft still like to lay some humdingin’ bad stuff on us: there is no Canvas support. That bears repeating: there is no Canvas support. Now that stinks.

  16. I actually like IE. It’s a sentimental favorite. (So shoot me.)
    But I worked through the IE9 Preview today and came away with a big “So what?”
    It’s still catch-up any way you slice it.
    I’ll still be an IE9 Beta tester. But let’s call a spade a spade.
    I think you’ve called this pretty much the way it is.
    (And DirectWrite is a Windows thing, not specifically an IE thing, and it will be years before it becomes the baseline. Nice to know where we’re headed, but until Vista SP2 is the oldest Windows version out there, we slog along until that day comes.)
    On the other hand, the world doesn’t run on the Mac and it’s 5% market share. And price counts, too.

  17. Concerning the forced bit of rah-rah: the thing that stuck out to me, going over the test-drive link Tim Sneath provided on the previous post was the claim that Safar9 and Firefox only support CSS borders and backgrounds 27% of the way, whereas IE9, of course, supports it 100%. Why? They’re happy to tell you in a footnote, which is good because you can see it coming from three miles away: “Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and Apple Safari 4.0 do not support non-prefixed versions of the ‘border-radius’ property.”

    Nevermind that they’ve been driving developer awareness and experimentation by releasing their prefixed rules, and nevermind that this is a comparison between a browser that’s not even in beta yet vs. browsers as they exist now. Slap a big red fail on that and tout 100% vs. 27%. How is someone supposed to look at that and say, “Yes, this is the sort of transparent, non-manipulative reporting that I trust”? I mean, come on, it’s as near as you can get in this sort of thing to a ‘products which have our patented formula’ move.

    Not that I’m not excited about IE9 being good–I’m hopeful. But your point in this case is backed up right in MS’s rebuttal. (And my hope is somewhat dampened by IE9 not running on XP at all.)

  18. Concerning the forced bit of rah-rah: the thing that stuck out to me, going over the test-drive link Tim Sneath provided on the previous post was the claim that Safar9 and Firefox only support CSS borders and backgrounds 27% of the way, whereas IE9, of course, supports it 100%. Why? They’re happy to tell you in a footnote, which is good because you can see it coming from three miles away: “Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and Apple Safari 4.0 do not support non-prefixed versions of the ‘border-radius’ property.”

    Wow, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a marketing person forced that “benefit” against the wishes of the engineering team (no offense to marketing people in general).

    As you and everyone reading this knows, there’s a reason that the other browsers only support prefixed versions of border-radius: it’s because the spec isn’t final and may change. The prefix is their way of supporting an emerging standard while also offering backward compatibility to future browsers if the spec should change. Viewed in this light, prefix-less support could be a drawback, although it sounds like a benefit. (And it does have a benefit the prefixed versions lack: it validates.)

  19. As you and everyone reading this knows, there’s a reason that the other browsers only support prefixed versions of border-radius: it’s because the spec isn’t final and may change.

    Er… is that not the case with pretty much everything else everyone complains about too? Is CANVAS final?

  20. @DN :
    They’re not trying to say they got things like SVG at 100%, they’re just making test cases for the future. They’re getting 100% on those test cases because they made them.

    Firefox and Safari should support border-radius, now, so it’s a valid point to put in the use-case. I think Chrome does, already.

    At any rate, Mozilla and Apple will implement those use cases as soon as possible, and everyone will have 100%. That’s how progress is made.

  21. I’m believing your piece (not Ed’s) is best called a very poorly timed mistake… and it really ‘needed to be said.’ The slow new day comment; not necessary. Bit the bullet. Let’s just move on….

  22. @JackC:

    My piece was poorly timed, I agree — but not by choice.

    I had no idea as I sat down that morning to write a post after reviewing the then-most-recent IE9 update at a reader’s request that Microsoft would have major IE9 changes to announce hours later that same day.

    Although I had been invited to Mix to preview IE9 before others saw it, I turned down that invitation because it conflicted with SXSW Interactive, which I attend annually, and where my company throws an annual party, and where I was already scheduled to lead a panel, sign books, etc.

    And, as I’ve already mentioned, the updated IE9 news came out while I was in a jet flying across the country.

  23. I’m just curious, what major announcements did Microsoft make at MIX that significantly change how we should view IE9? It certainly was something of a coming out party to (properly) show what they have been working on. It was useful to see the improvements in some test results (CSS3 selectors, Acid3). It was gratifying to see a working browser prototype. The speed of GPU-enhanced rendering is pretty impressive, even for a Mac user who likes to sneer at Microsoft graphics from time to time. It was also good to see the performance of IE’s JavaScript catch up, more or less, with the others.

    But, even last November, the major outlines were pretty clear. Support for CSS3, HTML5, SVG. And acceleration via GPU. Everybody should have known the JavaScript had to speed up as well. All of this is good news.

    The details on the improved font rendering is certainly interesting, bot not even Ed Bott found time to talk about this, and that seems like one of the significant new items of the presentation. The Direct2D vs. DirectWrite issue has been quite enlightening to me, and that came from the comments on you blog and from digging around a little with my friend, Google.

    Ed Bott seems to think that MIX was a game changer. Are there changes that I missed?

  24. “Safari and Firefox only support CSS borders and backgrounds 27% of the way, whereas IE9, of course, supports it 100%. Why? They’re happy to tell you in a footnote, which is good because you can see it coming from three miles away: “Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and Apple Safari 4.0 do not support non-prefixed versions of the ‘border-radius’ property.”

    Interesting. I read that as a note to web developers, like “if you try to impliment border-radius on these browsers, note that you will have to use prefixes,” rather than “the reason this test fails is because we ignored prefixed properties.”

    That is, you’d get these results even if you used the prefixed properties.

  25. Strike that, having given the table a once over, it seems my interpretation is rather silly! ^^; Perhaps they should have an intermediate result, like “passes with prefix”, it’d be less misleading.

  26. Ok, not intending to pun everyone here … but what are you guys on ? simple scheme:
    BROWSERS -> CONTENT -> CONSUMER ( UX -> consumer doesn’t care about standards he only wants to see the content ( remember content is king ? ))

    what you are proposing seems
    BROWSERS -> COMPLIANT STANDARDS -> DEVELOPER HAPPY cause he doesn’t need to code 500 extra lines ( developer isn’t always the end-user )

    so my question is simply … have you forgot who you develop content for ? last time i checked was for the user and not for yourselves.

    with all do respect, I do appreciate standards, it makes it easier do develop and deliver content to the end user, but really you ought to stop bashing every other company in the face because of their implementation or lack of something that makes our lives easier.

    but answering in context, Microsoft still has a lot to go for regarding web standards, they are finally trying to catch up, don’t know why and honestly i don’t even care why they are trying to catch up only now , yes 1998 was twelve years ago like someone said, but

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