Vendor (un)Lock

PCWorld.com – IE Continues to Lose Grip on Market

PC World suspects continued bleeding of Internet Explorer’s market share may be staunched somewhat by dependence on proprietary markup and scripting practices to access certain websites. My emphasis added:

Firefox still appears to be maintaining the momentum of its highly publicized 1.0 launch ten weeks ago—the project says users have downloaded more than 19 million copies of the browser. But it could ultimately be stalled at a low figure by factors such as incompatibility with some websites. Enterprises also frequently build in-house applications on the proprietary Microsoft technology supported by Explorer, a factor Microsoft says it is counting on to maintain its dominance. If for nothing else, Explorer is necessary to access Microsoft’s Windows Update site.

However, it is ultimately in enterprises’ interest to support standards rather that proprietary technology, since every Explorer-centric application increases a business’ dependence on Microsoft, according to Francois Bancilhon, chief executive of Linux vendor MandrakeSoft SA.

Well, Francois surely isn’t the only one that says this. Any sane and non-masochistic web developer will say the same thing if they understand the benefits of web standards. (And when I say non-masochistic, I mean that strictly in a web-design-productivity sense. I’m sure there’s plenty of practicing masochists of the beat-me-whip-me-make-me-write-bad-checks variety out there who also cannot stand to see sloppy code.)

Quite simply, making the decision to support MSIE only – rather than taking a standards-based approach – is a risky business proposition. Because what if all of a sudden more than half of your potential customers are now using Firefox as their system default? Would you want to just turn away half of your customer base just because you neglected to do a standards-based design in the first place? What if that number jumped even higher? It’s not inconceivable. Even the current numbers are significant: non-IE browsers make up 10% of the potential visitors to any given garden-variety public website. Who in their right mind turns away 10% of their customers? It’s like the sign at the roller coaster entrance that says “you must be this high to take this ride”. All an upstart new competitor has to do is to code a website to standards and invite those outcasts over to have a compelling feature that might attract that many of their clients away.