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Internet Explorer Microsoft Open Source Software

Time For Microsoft To Open Source Internet Explorer? 165

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica's Peter Bright argues that it's time for Microsoft to make Internet Explorer open source. He points out that IE's major competitors are all either fully open source (Firefox), or partially open source (Chrome, Safari, and Opera), and this puts Microsoft at a huge disadvantage. Bright says, "It's time for Microsoft to fit in with the rest of the browser industry and open up Trident. One might argue that this argument could be made of any software, and that Microsoft should by this logic open source everything. But I think that the browser is special. The community that exists around Web standards does not exist in the same way around, say, desktop software development, or file system drivers, or user interfaces. Development in the open is integral to the Web in an almost unique way. ... Although Microsoft has endeavored to be more open about how it's developing its browser, and which features it is prioritizing, that development nonetheless takes place in private. Developing in the open, with a public bug tracker, source code repositories, and public discussion of the browser's future direction is the next logical step."
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Time For Microsoft To Open Source Internet Explorer?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    All the open source freeloaders will just copy it and run it on their linux. And why should Microsoft pay for developers to make a Browser just so it can be stolen and run on linux?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I think building a new browser is likely simpler.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @11:41AM (#48865437)

      I remember IE 4 for Unix. They had IE 5 for Mac.

      I think microsoft plan of isolating Linux from IE failed. Offering it to Linux may give it a few more years of life from it. As people will use IE for Linux to stick with those corporate intranets, that have been made in Front Page, or Visual Studio.

      • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @11:58AM (#48865597) Homepage

        How did it fail? IE dependencies were a major problem in migrating to Linux in the late 1990s and early 2000s when there was a desire to move away from Windows. IE stagnation retarded the move to web based applications for years. I'd say it was a massive success.

        • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @12:15PM (#48865771) Journal

          Anything that retards the move to 'web base applications' is a good thing.

          The whole Personal Computer revolution was based in the notion that everybody got their own computer, and a room full of IT drones in white codes couldn't hold their data hostage anymore.

          Basing people's access to computing power on their connection to the Internet is a bad idea. Let the Net be a domain for information exchange, not a program loader.

          • by jbolden ( 176878 )

            Remember that revolution happened (at least in big companies) where the core data was on mainframes and the PÇ was auxiliary. For small business / home that wasn't true. Now we have a mixed environment where people have responsive core IT providing mainframe like services and they have local applications for performance and variety. Seems like best of both worlds.

          • Anything that retards the move to 'web base applications' is a good thing.

            Yeah, the current move to Store based apps is way more helpful to spreading information to multiple platforms in an open and free manner.
            Down with the web.

          • It isn't "their" data, it's the company's data.

            I won't argue with the fact that "owning" your data is a lot more convenient, but there are several reasons why centralized data continues to be relevant:

            1. It's hard enough to find a shop where even desktop systems have their disks backed up to a secure but accessible location reliably. It gets close to hopeless when you're talking laptops and portable devices.

            2. If the data is on Fred's computer and Bert needs it, but Fred is off fishing in the Bahamas, there

          • by div_2n ( 525075 )

            Anything that retards the move to 'web base applications' is a good thing.

            That ship sailed the moment Javascript was born which was pretty early in the development of the WWW.

        • Eh... you make a good point in that it caused the sort of problems that Microsoft seemed to be aiming to cause, but on the other hand, it was temporary and eventually led to IE losing a lot of market share. Now web developers often target Firefox and Chrome, and IE has sort of become the second-class browser.
          • They are still levering it though, would you believe you can't set IE 10 or 11 home page through group policy unless you are running server 2012 or windows 8

            But then again Chrome is installed on all our systems anyway and google provide policy settings for Chrome. Yes it is annoying locking the home page but some times great idea's are handed down from on high.

          • by jbolden ( 176878 )

            Well yes. But remember net present value is an exponential equation.

            N dollars today is worth N*(1+R)^Y dollars Y years from now, where R is the risk adjusted return I'm aiming for (usually higher than .12). So if R is 15% and Y is 10 years that's slightly over 4 i.e. Microsoft would rather have 1 sale back then, than 4 sales today.

            IE in the last year moved from 2nd to 3rd place. IE in its history has never undersold Firefox.

          • MS still holds a hefty market share for intranet web applications. And targeting multiple browsers, including IE, has become increasingly easier over the years for those who know what they are doing. And MS market share has declined because there are now other choices. It's easy to capture a +90% market share when there are no competitors. .

            • Try to spin it however you want, but there've been competitors for quite a while (Netscape and Opera), and yet the market has shifted from Microsoft being so dominant that major sites commonly were "IE only" and wouldn't work in any other browser, to a position where its more common to see sites go the other way and say, "If you want things to work right, use pretty much any browser other than IE".

              It's not so bad now, since a few years ago Microsoft saw the writing on the wall and started supporting web st

              • Spin my ass. I was there when Netscape had the largest browser marketshare and then gave it all away to became nothing more than a footnote in the history of the Internet browser evolution. It was right around the same time Java was a full fledged cluster fuck but I will leave that sad topic for another day. In the time it took to resurrect Netscape into Firefox and Firefox into Chrome MS had already grabbed 90%+ of the browser market. And Opera was hardly a competitor that could threaten MS dominance in an

      • Corporate intranets made in Visual Studio work fine in other browsers and have done for a long time. This isn't 2003.

      • IE 5 was actually my browser of choice in the Mac OS 9 era. Completely different than the Windows version.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Why would anyone even consider that aside from the challenge of see if it can be built.

    • We all know that IE is tightly integrated into Windows and the two can never be separated Microsoft testified to that under oayh, and we all know that they would never lie to the court or congress. So making IE open source would demand that Windows be open source. Clearly Microsoft can't open source Windows, so they will have to keep IE closed source too. That's too bad, because I was looking forward to that piece of crap working it's way into other projects.
      • Windows and the two can never be separated Microsoft testified to that under oayh

        Integration doesn't mean they can't separate the rendering modules from the main app.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So the answer must be "no"?

    Isn't this the trend on /.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not as long as it remains integral to the Explorer shell...

  • Noooooooo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @11:30AM (#48865331)

    If they do that, we will get several months of extreme security problems due to all the issues hidden in there. AFAIK they have a whole new thing in development, and they should open-source that instead.

    • Yeeeeeees! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @11:51AM (#48865537)
      Whether they'd open-source Trident or whatever comes next, I'd be all for it. Then perhaps people could backport it to older versions of Windows and we could stop writing our websites against decade-old IE versions because people can't upgrade IE without buying a new computer.
      • Re:Yeeeeeees! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @12:24PM (#48865843) Homepage
        The problem isn't Microsoft or old versions of Windows. Old versions of Windows run Firefox and Chrome just fine. The blame for the problems lies solely on the users and corporations/organizations that refuse to use a current browser. If you need a certain version of IE for some old intranet application, then go ahead and use it specifically for that app. But there's no reason why websites available to the general public should be required to support old browsers.
        • No, the problem is exactly Microsoft and old versions of Windows. "I need this specific version of Internet Explorer for this custom intranet app" may be of relevance in big corporations but for SMEs the limiting factor is usually their Windows version.

          Internet Explorer is tied to Windows. You can't install IE10 on Vista. It's simply not possible. That means that for any SME running Vista IE9 is the latest version of IE. And they expect their shiny new website to be equally shiny in IE9. And no, they aren
          • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

            But the problem isn't backporting trident. It's forward-porting IE6. Anybody writing web apps today that require the latest IE is nuts. The problem is old web apps that were targeted to IE back when it was dominant. Those apps still exist, and those users need a version of Windows that supports that browser. New apps can run on those old Windows systems (and Macs, iPads and Chromebooks, etc) via Firefox, Chrome or Safari, but those old IE-specific apps can't run on a more recent Windows (or any other

            • Nobody cares about IE6. At least nobody who counts. As far as web design is concerned, the current shambling zombies are IE8 and IE9. Those are the ones I see people asking about and those are the ones we could get rid of if we could backport newer Trident versions.

              People generally don't use these versions of IE because some internal web app requires them. They use them because they're the most recent versions available for their version of Windows. And they're not going to upgrade Windows because they do
              • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

                But those are the users that you could conceivably tell to 'just download Firefox on your old Windows system' and then stop targeting old IE versions in your app. That'd be just as easy as getting them to download a backported IE11 to their XP systems - and possibly less confusing if the IE11 had to co-exist with IE8 or 9, and users had to know which one to launch for your app. At least 'launch Firefox' is a non-ambiguous instruction.

                And there is another class of in-house (or 3rd party) web applications t

                • The problem is not really the customers themselves but the expected visitors to the site. (And yes, I'm talking about websites. Web apps follow different rules as the customer and the user are the same person.)

                  Generally, customers expect future visitors to use something similar to what they themselves use. If the customer uses IE8 they will assume that a significant number of visitors will also use IE8. Telling the customer to switch to Firefox is useless as they can't assume that all visitors will now al
    • by Dracos ( 107777 )

      It wouldn't even take a new crop of IE exploits in the wild to make MS stock drop in price. The first two weeks would be a constant flood of blog posts detailing how crappy the code is. Trident is 17 years old, and many of us have heard how much of an unmaintainable mess the codebase has become in their attempts to implement web standards. Even then, MS would have to release it under a fully open license otherwise no one will taint themselves.

      The "new thing", Spartan, is just a rebrand of IE with a new s

      • " many of us have heard " Define "us". Hearsay and fanboi forums are hardly the birth place of factual information. But judging from the rest of your comment you must already have full access to the MS source codebase. You sound almost smart enough to develop your own super secure rendering engine which is capable of maintaining at least a 1 year backwards compatibility window so your users are not forced to upgrade every 2 weeks to maintain a running system. Of course nobody has managed that particular fe

    • I believe the only "whole new thing" they have in development is a replacement for the shell around IE, not Trident. Not that it's impossible they're working on a new engine anyway, but that isn't what's been announced.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        A pity. Their OS has gotten halfway decent with Win7, but their apps still suck. I had hoped they would at least fix the browser now.

        • What's kinda funny about that is that, as I understand it, they're only replacing Metro IE, with the desktop IE staying the same. The Metro IE is, of course, actually a very nice (tablet) browser, much nicer than the tablet versions of Chrome or Safari.

          So they're changing it.

    • What I saw on the "whole new thing" in development is that it still uses the Trident engine.
  • Too Late? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Galaga88 ( 148206 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @11:31AM (#48865345)

    Isn't Microsoft announcing a new web browser intended to replace Internet Explorer today? Maybe it'll be open source. Maybe it'll even be based on Webkit.

    I don't know how much licensed code is in IE that Microsoft would have to untangle the rights to before open-sourcing it, and given the fact that we've mostly figured out how to work around IE's problems at this point, I'm not sure if it'd be worth the effort to do so.

    It'd probably be best to just retire IE, let developers continue struggling through the known-workarounds they've been using until its market-share vanishes, and look forward instead of back. The time spent trying to figure out IE's source could be better spent developing/using a better platform.

    Regardless, I think every web browser should be open source, since they work on (theoretically) open standards, run cross platform, and are the defacto presentation layer for an increasing number of applications. Developers need to be able to understand the internals of the browser to assure the best quality of their own work. Really hoping that's what happens with whatever MS announces today with Spartan. (I just don't think IE is worth the effort to open source at this point)

    • Re:Too Late? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @11:37AM (#48865405) Homepage Journal

      Isn't Microsoft announcing a new web browser intended to replace Internet Explorer today? Maybe it'll be open source. Maybe it'll even be based on Webkit.

      I sure hope not. We need competing browser engines to keep things honest. The competition between them is the only way we ever get standards compliance.

      • In best Slashdot style, I did some research *after* posting this, and found out that they're sticking with Trident, so at least that bit of competition will be kept.

      • Isn't Microsoft announcing a new web browser intended to replace Internet Explorer today? Maybe it'll be open source. Maybe it'll even be based on Webkit.

        I sure hope not. We need competing browser engines to keep things honest. The competition between them is the only way we ever get standards compliance.

        Spoken by someone who wasn't around for the web browser wars of the 90s...

        Multiple browsers led to less compliance, not more. Both Netscape and IE were in a rush to add their own non standard HTML elements to "outdate" the other. ActiveX didn't come along at a time that IE owned the market. ActiveX came along at a time when IE was in fierce competition with Netscape, and needed to BREAK the standard to push Netscape out of the market.

        Having lived through that, I've never understood the logic of "we need mul

    • I don't know how much licensed code is in IE that Microsoft would have to untangle the rights to before open-sourcing it, and given the fact that we've mostly figured out how to work around IE's problems at this point, I'm not sure if it'd be worth the effort to do so.

      To expand on that a little, you've touched on some of the real costs of open-sourcing something like this, and there are others, such as documentation, community support, etc. I think the author of TFA is speaking from idealism, but from a strictly business point of view, you have to consider the costs versus the benefits. One of the primary business benefits of open sourcing something often is to attract unpaid volunteer developers. But that's unlikely to happen in this case: not only do the open source

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes, indeed. But, my impression is, this is going to be just rebranded IE with all the same issues of integration and bugginess and security holes as IE, just with a "new and improved", "best Browser Ever", "Faster than IE" marketing jargon that might work on people too stupid to remember the last 20 years.

    • Spartan has a very cleaned out trident engine. So much so it is a new fork without baggage and much faster.

      It can't run legacy code. MS has old engine for corporate sites and loads a tab of IE 11.

      IE is not the piece of cap it was last decade. Spartan is much needed as why should quirks mode slow down porting html 5.1 features

  • Wow! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by creimer ( 824291 )
    That's a lot of spaghetti code in Internet Explorer. I don't think the open source community has enough programmers to unravel that mess.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      How do you know what the code looks like? Just an assumption because lol Microsoft code so bad lol?

      I wouldn't use IE either but it has improved a fuckton, surely code quality has too if it hasn't been completely rewritten even.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by creimer ( 824291 )
        Historically, Microsoft has always written in spaghetti code for Windows. Also, their financial compensation encourages new lines of code over refactoring old lines of code. Which is why Windows ships with the old black-and-white Command Line and the new colorized PowerShell.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Which is why Windows ships with the old black-and-white Command Line and the new colorized PowerShell.

          Except that that is completely false, and it ships with the old command line shell due to compatibility constraints. No enterprise customers are going to buy your new operating system if their existing line of business applications won't work, and we're talking about applications for which the source code or original team may not even exist anymore. Linux has the luxurious advantage of being able to arbitrarily break backwards compatibility, because in terms of market share almost nobody uses it anyway.

          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            Except that that is completely false, and it ships with the old command line shell due to compatibility constraints.

            I read somewhere that the programmers didn't want to rewrite the old command line, as they get paid for writing new lines of code. Hence, they wrote PowerShell. They could have rewritten the command line and still maintain backwards compatibilty.

            Linux has the luxurious advantage of being able to arbitrarily break backwards compatibility, because in terms of market share almost nobody uses it anyway.

            Except that is completely false. Many of the Linux utilities and command line shells are 20 to 30 years old. That's a lot of backwards compatibility. SystemD is a major exception to that rule.

    • Why not? They have enough programmers to create an equal mess with FireFox...

    • That's a lot of spaghetti code in Internet Explorer. I don't think the open source community has enough programmers to unravel that mess.

      Yes, but we need a good laugh sometimes, especially if they include IE6 in the OS package...

    • Less than the mess that is otherwise know as FireFox

      • At least FF has been available as OS from the start and is not a proprietary build from a company that has been well off for a long time.
  • I'm not saying we need a closed source browser more than an open source one, so a better question would be do we need another broswer at all?
    Sure competition is good, even when the product is free, but why do they want to make a new browser at all when there are so many out there already? And if they did why would they bother to open source it and who would be interested if they did? If you want closed source you may need to reinvent the wheel, but if you're going to open source it anyway why bother startin

    • Otherwise it's just a huge duplication of effort, a lot of time wasted at MS.

      Of course Microsoft are already spending their resources developing IE. You have to wonder whether they are getting value for money: why not just ship Firefox or Chrome with their OS?

      Open sourcing it as abandonware (or nominally to some new or existing "foundation") is an option they should take seriously.

  • IE was made an inextricable part of the operating system during the browser wars. Even if Microsoft decides to 'turn the corner' and do this, it would mean completely refactoring a nontrivial portion of an OS that already faces staunch resistance from both corporations and users alike. The best they had done was comply with a european court order to permit choices between browsers for users, and even then the OS still relies heavily on iexplore code without directly permitting browsing.

    TL;DR: an open so
  • Why not make the same arguments for Office? Or for Windows?

    If anything, they should perhaps make it easier for plugins to be linked. Yet do not forget that end-users are not their customers. Companies are. Be it big companies that buy licences directly or computer manufacturers.

    At work I am not even able to install AdBlock, so why would I be wanting to use Chrome instead of IE? As an IT person, IE works for what it does at the job, so why would I want to add anything else (unless the CEO wants it). You can

    • BYOD?
    • Why not make the same arguments for Office? Or for Windows?

      Unlike those two, they give IE away as part of "the Microsoft/Windows system". So, on the face of it, IE is an expense but doesn't directly produce revenue. However, it does add some genuine value to Windows in terms of giving users a useful tool for immediately downloading a better browser.

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      Why not make the same arguments for Office? Or for Windows?

      Office and Windows bring in money, IE does not, at least not directly or as substantial. Making them open source would bankrupt MS. IE too would have been commercial, but was made free as a tactical strategy by MS to bankrupt (or cut off air supply of) Netscape since MS was afraid the Netscape Navigator browser would take over platforms and make operating systems, such as Windows, not as useful/important anymore. Navigator would've turned OSes into

  • Better yet, dump it, and include an OSS variant in future Windows.

  • Opening sourcing IE would just perpetuate it, and I'm not sure I want that to happen. I would, however, like to see them use a public issue tracker (and I'm not talking about Connect here) that allows the part of the public that cares to help drive feature prioritization and bug fixes.
  • I don't know, being open source hasn't helped Firefox, which keeps getting progressively worse with every release.

  • Way WAY past time. But one possible issue might be that Microsoft doesn't want anyone to see how yucky the code is.

  • Who would want this thing? Why invest time in an open source project that's doomed from the start?
  • So people can patch IE 6,7 & 8 so they can keep it updated in Windows XP. Screw that shit...
  • Since when is Safari and Opera 'partially open source'? I thought they were always closed source. Unless they're just talking about webkit
    • Yes, they're referring to the layout engines (Webkit and Blink); that's the partiality of each respective browser in regards to 'open source'

  • This won't happen as so much of Internet Explorer code is mixed-in with the help sub-system, Microsoft Office or embedded in the Operating System. That's why Internet Explorer won't run on anything else except Microsoft Windows.
  • "Most recently, Microsoft brought new memory defenses to the browser, loading Internet Explorer with two new protections called Heap Isolation and Delayed Free .. last week .. Jared DeMott successfully demonstrated a bypass for both"

    ref [threatpost.com].
  • -Fan of Opera 12.x and below

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