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Re: [xml-dev] XML support in browsers?

On Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 7:02 AM, Michael Kay<mike@saxonica.com> wrote:

> That seems a little unfair. Microsoft introduced an implementation with a
> pretty high level of conformance quite soon after the XSLT standard came
> out.

Microsoft made a perhaps well-intentioned mistake of implementing a
beta version of the XSLT 1.0 spec and shipping it in IE 4. They then
made then horrendous decisions to continue supporting the incompatible
beta version for years, and to stop all development on conformant
versions. They have continued to prioritize conformance to old, buggy
versions of Microsoft products over conformance to the actual

> People were reluctant to use it initially because there were still a
> lot of older browsers around, and later they were reluctant to use it
> because support was absent or incomplete in non-Microsoft browsers.

That's rewriting history. Actual XSLT 1.0 support arrived in other
browsers well before anything approximating it showed up in IE. (I'd
argue it still isn't there in IE 8.)

> Sadly, this kind of inertia seems to be built-in to the web. We all have to
> move at the pace of the slowest. But the slowest in this case was not
> Microsoft: it was their users and their competitors.

The Netscape implosion didn't help, but the fact remains that when
Microsoft had the opportunity to drive the Web (and XSLT) forward,
they instead put on the brakes and came to a dead stop for years until
Firefox finally kicked them in the rear. I don't believe this was an
accident. I think Microsoft made a deliberate decision to impede the
progress of Web applications to help maintain Windows lock on
application development in a traditional desktop environment.

This inertia is not built in to the Web. At various points in history
the Web has moved forward rapidly. Think 1994-1996, or 2005-2006. Just
maybe we're getting ready for another big leap forward (though I tend
to think we're leaping into a pit, we're likely to spend a long time
digging ourselves out of.)

The key to forward progress seems to be vendors, especially browser
vendors, competing on features. Progress slows to a crawl in times of
browser monopoly. Netscape stopped moving forward circa 1997 when they
had an effective monopoly, Microsoft stopped innovating when they had
an effective monopoly. Today we have the most competitive browser
ecosystem we've ever had, and progress seems to be starting again.

> I'm not quite sure what you have in mind with the "continuing to this day".
> If you mean the minor glitches in the implementation such as whitespace
> handling, well yes, they are regrettable, but they aren't a major factor in
> determining the course of history.

White space handling is a continuing problem, and hardly minor.
Incorrect, non-standard MIME types are another. These should be easy
to fix, but Microsoft's persistent refusal to fix them 10 years in
makes me seriously question bother their competence and their

Elliotte Rusty Harold

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