In all the debate about the Microsoft-European Commission case about the bundling of Internet Explorer, there has been lots of heat about the discomfort that will theoretically be caused to Windows 7 users if their operating system would be shipped without a browser. Well, I am not about to insert myself in that discussion other than to say that in practise, there is a difference between theory and practise. But my meta-comment would be that there has been an absence of a discussion about what Microsoft’s dominance over the browser market at the turn of the century actually meant to the internet.
As we know, websites were being written for Internet Explorer (version 6) . The web was therefore being developed for use with a specific application controlled by a specific vendor, and that vendor had little or no interest in further developing that application (to the point of disbanding the Internet Explorer team). Or to put it another way, didn’t the web really start to become exciting once web standards were more widely used?
Now, Microsoft is in something of a bind, as it seeks both to become compatible with and competitive on the web. Internet Explorer 8 tries both to support web standards (their Acid 3 score notwithstanding) and offer backwards compatibility with previous IE versions. And so, if a web page doesn’t work in IE8, you are advised to press a “compatibility view” button to see the site rendered differently.
Enter this marketing campaign from Microsoft in Australia, the “Ten Grand Is Buried Here” contest. It involves a series of online clues that one can only view in Internet Explorer. Well, fair dinkum. It’s Microsoft’s money, it’s their campaign. But it gets truly surreal when you read that the latest version of Microsoft’s own compatibility list disables the contest for IE8 users, and so contestants in the classily-monikered competition are advised to switch off “Compatibility View” in order to take part.
Some lucky Aussie stands to win a lot of money, and for the rest of the contenstants, well, their prize is that they get to relive the days when the web was fundamentally broken.