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Should Microsoft Switch To WebKit? 244

Posted by timothy
from the all-the-cool-kids dept.
DeviceGuru writes "Although IE remains the one of the top browsers on desktops, it's being trounced on tablets and smartphones by browsers based on WebKit, including Safari, the Android Browser, and Google Chrome. Faced with this uphill battle on handheld mobile devices, Microsoft MVP Bill Reiss has suggested that it might be time for Microsoft to throw in the towel on Trident and switch to WebKit (though Reiss later decided he was wrong). But although there are lots of points in favor of doing so, there are also some good reasons not to, including security and a need for healthy competition to avoid having mobile developers begin to target WebKit rather than standards."
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Should Microsoft Switch To WebKit?

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  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao.hotmail@com> on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:36AM (#42567133) Homepage

    IE's problem is not the engine, it's the shitty interface.

    (Ditto about Windows 8, many would say.)

  • by blarkon (1712194) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:37AM (#42567137)
    In the past many on Slashdot argued vehemently for web standards. It's interesting that a lot of people who used to be pro-web-standard when Microsoft was non-compliant with IE are now saying "hey, we're only going to target webkit because ..." The same reasons that applied to avoiding an IE monoculture for web development apply to a webkit monoculture. Rather than bathing in schadenfreude, people should be kicking over bins just like they did with IE to ensure that the most popular implementation follows the standard, not the standard follows the most common implementation.
  • No monopoly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:38AM (#42567139)

    I think it's a bad idea to put all your eggs on the same basket.

  • by Xiph1980 (944189) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:41AM (#42567171)
    Why should Microsoft move to WebKit? I mean, yeah, it's a more secure browser engine perhaps, but it's still their prerogative to use their own. I think it'll be more important for Microsoft -- and any browser (engine) for that matter -- to follow the W3C standard accurately, possibly with their own extensions if they want, but in the basis they should support the standard to make sure web sites render uniformly and accurately over all browsers.
    That'll finally bring more choice to the user, in stead of the pseudo-choice now.
    I prefer opera and have that installed as my default browser, but still have IE and Chrome installed because some websites will only work on either of those. Between the three I can open all sites that I need, but it shouldn't be necessary if all just follow the standards, and consequently, all web sites only need to be written to that standard as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:44AM (#42567181)

    Trident is getting better with each major release, which is a good thing.

    And Microsoft still has some input towards standards as well, such as the WebRTC spec if I remember correct, or something similar that also had some features missing from it.

    Yeah, you could argue that things would be simpler if there was just ONE thing, the one thing that correctly interprets the specs, but it is also those incorrect spec implementations that have driven competition, driven the creation of new ideas to replace old ones and inspired so many developers to create methods to deal with them in their own ways.
    Not only that, without all this mess, there would be no experimentation with future specs, and all these separate browsers lead to browser prefixes being implemented, even by Microsoft recently.

    The main problem with web dev is most devs are terrible. Admittedly that is mainly a problem with such inconsistency in JavaScript, and HTML allowing spaghetti syntax all over the place.
    And lets not get started on scope. Holy crap, so many people are clueless about it. And again, that it is true globally in any form of programming. Abuse of global namespaces being the biggest headache in all programming, such things that make you want to headbutt your monitor with your fist, a physical impossibility! But damn it I will find a way and collapse the universe just so THEY don't exist!

    The next huge change in JS is going to bring a lot of new features, but also a bunch of changes to the way JS is executed.
    It is going to be a shaky decade when that comes about. But it will be for the better. I hope...

  • by Xiph1980 (944189) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:49AM (#42567215)
    It's your opinion that you don't like the interface of Internet Explorer. I agree with you on that, it doesn't hold my preference either, but that doesn't make it a shitty interface. There's a reason why many people still use Internet Explorer.
    You may call it what you will, (inertia, stubbornness, laziness, unwillingness to change,) but truth is that many people just prefer it and Internet Explorer is still popular amongst a big group of users, and in the same way you and I could be called the same for not wanting to change our opinion of browsers. Be it Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or whatever way you browse the web.

    Just because you don't like a certain interface, doesn't make it shitty.
  • by cnettel (836611) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:00AM (#42567283)
    Yes, they are on the same level, but the point in healthy competition is that you do not rely on the benevolent actions of the parties involved. A Microsoft and an Apple, with the same inherent company values and attitudes, are far better for the marketplace than just having either of them.
  • Konqueror indeed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:05AM (#42567319)
    I wonder if the people who were writing KDE back in the 90's ever suspected that their code would make it so far! If they heard 15 years ago that some Microsoft MVP would be talking about replacing the rendering engine of IE with the rendering engine from Konqueror, they would have shit themselves.
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:06AM (#42567321) Homepage Journal

    AC says you're dumb - I disagree with him. Your opinion is pretty well thought out.

    I do, however, disagree with your assessment somewhat. Trident needs to die, and die hard. Microsoft needs to pull that abomination out of Windows completely, along with all the ActiveX controls, all it's privileges, all of it's quirks, both good and bad.

    I don't believe that I'll ever think that Windows is a "good" operating system, but the removal of Trident would make it one hell of a lot better. Sure, I know that many of IE's worst vulnerabilities have been "fixed", but I shall never forget how many vulnerabilities there have been, or how bad they have been.

    As for Webkit - I've liked it since it's debut under Google's name. Sure, I realize it's not Google's invention, but webkit is cool.

    If/when Microsoft shifts to Webkit, they really, really, REALLY need to install it as an unprivileged application, and make certain that it just BROWSES. It doesn't need hooks into dozens of programs, it doesn't need privileges, it doesn't need much of anything. A few plugins, addons such as Mozilla and Google offer for their own browsers. Leave it at that.

    A browser on Windows should be just as much, and no more than a browser on any Unix-like. The browser shouldn't even be used for updates, as Microsoft has done for all these years. A separate and distinct updating program is a requirement, with no overlap in privileges.

    Yes, Trident needs to die, quickly, and hard. It would be a wonderful thing if five years from now, Trident were just history, with zero support anywhere. I'd like to see websites assist people with updating from Trident simply. Just stop coding for Trident.

    "This site is best viewed with ANY browser that is not Internet Explorer!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:10AM (#42567359)

    And developing to webkit instead of standards helps you with the XP/IE8 problem how exactly?

  • by ikaruga (2725453) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:16AM (#42567407)
    Arguing against IE back in the days made sense because it was a closed-source engine controlled by one company with monopolistic policies. Webkit is open source, anyone can implement it anywhere and anyhow they want. What else do you want? If you ask me, webkit could become the web standard itself, and as long as it's renewed every few years for new features(webkit2 is already in the works, btw), I wouldn't care. The only webkit related issue I can think of is the iOS gimped implementation, but that is more of an Apple problem than Webkit problem.
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:17AM (#42567417) Homepage Journal

    Webkit browsers passed all the acid tests long before Trident ever got close to passing. Trident was the lowest scoring engine, and as far as I know, it is still the lowest scoring.

    Maybe Microsoft has simply given up on ever getting Trident to pass? Maybe they know that Trident can never attain all the standards implemented today, or standards that will be implemented in years to come? Face it man, MS has been working hard in recent years just to get into the same league as all the other modern browsers.

    Webkit blows Trident away. Why WOULDN'T Microsoft take advantage of a more modern engine? It will save them tons of money!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:20AM (#42567435)

    The funny thing is, the reason developers are targeting WebKit is because of the iPhone (Safari) not because of Chrome.

    If it works in Chrome on Windows, it will work on Safari on the iPhone, without needing to test if it actually works on the iPhone.

    Although that has problems too, as Chrome and Safari use different Javascript implementations, and Google uses an inherently terrible method of sandboxing that wastes extreme amounts of memory. Also Chrome has no 64-bit version on Windows which is a non-starter, where as MSIE does have a a 64-bit version. Chrome and other 32-bit only browsers are rapidly going to hit a memoryspace wall should there be some shift in the way graphics resolution comes along. We see this problem already on the Retina displays, as the browser engines become unable to deal with pages that are wider than 1000 pixels (let me ask... how many people actually run their web browser full screen? Probably nobody.) Imagine now UHDTV at 7680 × 4320 that's over 7 times wider. So right now the only released Windows browser that can conceivably render a UHDTV native web page is in fact 64-bit MSIE.

    Someone needs to slap around the Chrome engineers and tell them the pre-fork model is dead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:55AM (#42567645)

    In the past many on Slashdot argued vehemently for web standards. It's interesting that a lot of people who used to be pro-web-standard when Microsoft was non-compliant with IE are now saying "hey, we're only going to target webkit because ..."

    The same reasons that applied to avoiding an IE monoculture for web development apply to a webkit monoculture. Rather than bathing in schadenfreude, people should be kicking over bins just like they did with IE to ensure that the most popular implementation follows the standard, not the standard follows the most common implementation.

    Webkit is open source. IE was not.

    The people and companies working on webkit are not trying to kill Mozilla. Hell, the biggest contributor to webkit is Mozilla's largest source of revenue.

    Webkit is used by many browsers on many platforms from many companies (Safari on mac and iOS, Chrome on everything, RIM's blackberry browser, ...). IE was intentionally tied to a single OS.

    WebKit has a long history of respecting standards. There are extensions which are prototypes for future standards, but they are clearly marked as such with vendor prefixes. If you don't believe me, read their mailing list. IE drew no line between standard and non-standard. From the trial we learned that this was an intentional strategy to kill competitors.

    Webkit is nothing like IE in terms of standards compliance. I don't want a monoculture, but comparing webkit to IE is silly.

  • by BZ (40346) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @11:58AM (#42567663)

    Actually, in a very real sense the engine _does_ belong to the competition. To actually get your code landed in WebKit you have to convince the current project maintainers (mostly Google and Apple) to accept it.

    Which means that if you want to do something that Google and Apple don't (both, often!) approve of, you have to maintain it as a separate branch and deal with the merge pain. No different from other projects where you have to collaborate with others, but a lot different from having control over the code as Microsoft does with Trident right now.

  • by rdebath (884132) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @12:23PM (#42567819)

    I would strongly disagree with this.

    Having a standards committee design the next step in a technical advance is one of the worst ways of working possible. What you usually end up with is a huge conglomeration of random ideas and special interests. For programming the result is frequently described as "feeping creaturitus" [wikipedia.org].

    The reason for web standards is not technical, standards don't help make better mousetraps they exist so that a hundred mice can wrestle the cat into submission. So that the little guys can make stuff too and they don't get forced out of the market by a brute who can throw either money or lawyers around to kill off the competition.

    If webkit became "the web browser" this would be no different from (for example) the single source of the Perl language. There wouldn't be the problem of the secret Trident, where nobody can compete or the technology can be politically leveraged to for the use of other software (eg an OS). Because, being freely forkable, if the current maintainers don't support an environment patches against the source can be added by others. What's more if the maintainers make enough of a fuckup they can be force out completely.

    But there is a problem for Microsoft; several years ago they claimed that IE was an essential component of their OS and they very hurriedly tried to make sure that this wasn't a complete lie. Because of this lots of parts of the OS now use DLLs and libraries from IE to do simple jobs or use IE as a local display processor. The result is that Microsoft will have a difficult job removing IE and it's html engine, so much so that it's probably easier for them to fix IE than to navigate the maze of interdepartmental politics that would be involved in removing it.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Saturday January 12, 2013 @12:50PM (#42567995) Journal

    Correct on IE, it is just using some weird design choices but I don't see how anybody can argue that Win 8 isn't wrong when this is the average user response [youtube.com] I saw at the shop. When the user needs a fricking training course to use your damned OS like its 1986 all over again? Something has gone HORRIBLY wrong. IE's biggest problem isn't the UI, its the giant fucking bullseye painted on it by hackers because they know the clueless rubes that are still running that 30 day Norton trialware from 6 years ago and think that works is using IE. Add to that the fucking braindead choice to not port back to their supported OSes so that the ONLY way you can use the same browser across XP/Vista/7 is to NOT use IE and you have a browser made of fail.

    As for TFA lets call a spade a spade, shall we? google needs their asses spanked for the redirect bullshit they have been pulling of late. If MSFT made all THEIR websites dump you into shitty mode if you didn't use the latest IE we'd be hearing screams of antitrust, but Google can pull the same shit and not a peep? bullshit, utter bullshit. I was against the "works best in IE" horseshit and I'm against the "works best in Webkit" horseshit, Google is making billions off the ads and data-mining they do in Chrome and this should be treated as what it is noncompetitive behavior. If the browser supports the features then they should work PERIOD and having to hack strings like its 1999 all over again is bullshit.

    I use a webkit based browser (Comodo Dragon) but even I don't want a world where the only engine we have is webkit, that is how we get nasty zero days that can infect the whole damned planet. Did we not learn anything from IE 6?

  • by Plumpaquatsch (2701653) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @12:55PM (#42568033) Journal

    Now if Microsoft would switch to something other than Windows 8 and RT, maybe companies like Samsung wouldn't be abandoning them in droves.

    http://www.samsung.com/global/ativ/ativ_s.html [samsung.com]

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @01:16PM (#42568165) Journal

    Trident in IE 10 scores a decent in HTML 5/5.1 and CSS 3.

    It is not the piece of crap it once was in IE 6. Just because you have not used it in 12 years doesn't mean it is the same as in 2001.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @01:21PM (#42568215) Journal

    I do not give a shit whether it is opensource. I do give a shit whether it enslaves the web and enforces another decade of stagnationm [pcmag.com], where we can't move on to HTML 6 and corps lock a special version of Chrome from this decade to support their apps.

    Maybe Android 3.x will be used and corps will downgrade their phones for just that one version 10 years from now if the W3C makes changes that the current webkit does not support. Only Google's way of doing it is different.

    IE 5.5 was cutting edge and MS was inventing new standards and it was the best browser back then. THe problems came when w3c decided to recommend the same standards implemented differently. Then IE 6 did things one way, and Firefox rendered them in another.

    Open source or not I do not want to see that problem again.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @01:34PM (#42568315) Journal

    That was over 10 years ago.

    Lets go to today? Right now webkit is causing problems being this decades IE 6 [pcmag.com] in terms of mobile browsing and HTML 5 and css 3.

    If you own a Windows Phone (I know you do not, but bare with me ..) and go to disney.com or cnn.com will it render correctly? Nope. THey use ---webkit prefixes. HTML5Test.com is part of the problem too as Google is in a pissing match on being the best browser, but what that site doesn't tell you is that these are not implemented the same as W3C drafting process.

    In an open web you should be able to use the OS and browser you choose. What if you want to use a FirefoxOS phone? Will these sites still feed ---webkit specific code? THe answer is yes and you will have to click desktop version on it.

    Don't you see a problem with that?

    Recently, IE 10 is a great browser with good HTML 5 and CSS 3 and standards support. MS had to change as it is not the monster it once was. Google is just as evil and we all know Apple is after watching Samsung leave the US market due to crazy patent lawsuits.

    Webkit is too prevalient in my opinion. We need more engines so webmasters wont do anything stupid and vendors do not get greedy and do anything stupid as well. Webkit is bringing flashbacks from IE 5. Remember at one time it was the best browser too and was just starting to convert Netscape users at the time. Chrome is the way point today.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @01:40PM (#42568357) Journal

    Webkit is making MS honest.

    Have you tried IE 10? I know the thought probably sends shiver down your spine but I have to say MS really is caring and shaking in their boots. It is a great browser. I fear webkit becoming too dominate at this point and Windows Phone users are whinning they can't view mobile sites as they cater to just webkit.

    I can't advocate openstandards and bash IE 6, yet fully support webkit at the same time. I would be a hypocrite otherwise. What if you want to use FirefoxOS in your next phone? Will you be screwed over? Right now, yes.

    IE has standard behavior now. Since IE 9 it passed all the acid tests. Just because you hate one browser doesn't mean you should support the entrenchment of another or support things like html5test that test non standard non implemented things. It encourages all the things that caused IE to be proprietary when implementations of things like the CSS box model came about locking corporate desktops up for decades.

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @01:55PM (#42568463)

    The problem is that if they start getting a significant share of the browser market again, they're almost guaranteed to start their old extend/extinguish trick. Microsoft needs to stay an 'also ran' in the browser market until they learn to play with others.

  • Re:Wrong approach (Score:4, Insightful)

    by afgam28 (48611) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @03:24PM (#42569105)

    Right....maybe they should switch from using NTOSKRNL.EXE to Linux too. After all, no one cares about the kernel; users and developers only care about the UI and APIs that sit above it. And maybe they could turn Visual C++ into a front-end to LLVM, and have .NET target the JVM. All of these changes would save Microsoft from the trouble of developing several large pieces of software.

    From Microsoft's point of view, of course they should keep Trident development going. I'm surprised this is even being questioned. To do otherwise would be to give control of the web over to Apple and Google. The only reason that Apple and Google care about standards right now is because Microsoft is still a big player in the game. If it was up to Google, they'd be making their own proprietary versions of HTTP, JavaScript and ActiveX ;)

    Then there's Apple - and even though I'm a Linux user, I'm happy that Microsoft is there to keep Apple in check!

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