[opendtv] Re: It's Active X, not IE

  • From: Mike Enright <menright1@xxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 05 Jul 2004 15:04:36 -0700

John Willkie wrote:

>So, the question of the day is: are those sites lacking in W3C compliance,
>or is it the browser that is not W3C compliant?
Mozilla is more compliant than IE. Microsoft people nowadays claim that 
no one wants compliance (that is, they claim no browser USERS do).

>Back a decade ago, it was IE that was not fully W3C compliant. 
A decade ago is 1994. That is a fairly early date in the browser wars, 
and periods of 6 months to a year make a huge difference. For example, 
MSN was in beta test in April of 1995 along with Windows 95. MSN went 
live in the fall of 1995, Windows 95 having released in August. Some 
copies of the Windows 95 beta given out in April of 1995 had temporary 
free MSN access thrown in. MSN at that date was using something called 
Blackbird to enable third-party content providers. In early 1996 
Microsoft decided to get with the Internet. By late 1996 MSN was using 
MSIE, HTML and ActiveX instead of Blackbird, which burned lots of small 
businesses that had invested in Blackbird. In 1996 I was trying out 
Draft CSS1 on my personal web site using MSIE, the only browser that I 
could easily get that handled CSS1.

> These days,
>I believe it's Mozilla/Netscape that lacks W3c compliance.  It's been a few
>years since I designed a web site and ran pages through the W3c validator,
>then tested them against all common browsers, and obscure ones like the
>Netscape implementations.  I found that fully W3c validated web pages would
>create problems with Netscape, and not with IE.  Netscape, I was told, was
>unhappy with the W3C, and so held up any "Microsoft inspired" changes in the
Netscape was never "obscure". In the pre-open-source time frame, when 
Netscape was the market leader, Netscape may have been more 
non-compliant. Microsoft was smart to beat Netscape over the head with 
standards when MSIE was the minority player. The situation has changed 
dramatically since then. In many respects the exact opposite situation 
pertains. Mozilla's Gecko engine is certainly more compliant than MSIE now.

>For me, the tipping point was with IE 3.0, the most obvious helpful feature
>it offered was "auto-complete" where it remembered web sites and pages you
>visited, and would complete the common ones, or offer a selection of
>choices.  Apparently, Netscape, with the Mozilla and Gekko engines, never
>tried to see what new things were in IE.  Because, it wasn't until Netscape
>6.0 (bloatware, like all Netscape installations after 1.2) some five years
>later, they offered this helpful feature.
Here's the part where you see where I'm coming from. I was initially, in 
'95 and '96, gung-ho to use Netscape over IE because Microsoft was 
clearly the entity to avoid. Being an early adopter I tried to use the 
public beta version of the about-to-release Netscape browser (I think 
3.0 Gold-- Gold as in branding not release status). The browser itself 
worked okay, except that uniquely among all the FTP transactions I did, 
the biweekly update of that Netscape beta was impossible to download 
over FTP using Netscape. So after a few rounds of using IE 2.0 (or 
sometimes other methods) to download the upgrades, I gave up on 
Netscape. I didn't try a "Netscape" browser again until the 
open-sourcing in 1998. (One of my machines is full of Mozilla milestone 
release browsers) I don't remember the autocomplete feature so much, 
different features are must-have for different people. I actually was 
pretty solidly using MSIE starting with 3.0 beta.

Netscape Navigator 6.0 was the first open-source-based Netscape browser 
based on the Gecko rendering engine and the Mozilla project. Because of 
its origins, its standards-compliance proposition was a huge improvement 
over Netscape 4.x. NN6.0's release roughly coincided with when the 
little STB contract-software company I worked for was bought by AOL. (I 
no longer work for AOL)

Mozilla.org has always been run by standards-oriented, 
open-source-oriented people. The Gecko engine was started from a clean 
slate by Netscape folks, to comply with standards and meet some other 
goals not being met by the standard Netscape offerings of the day. 
Sometime after the Netscape browser source was thrown open in the 
Mozilla project, the Gecko engine became the engine for the Mozilla 
browser. The Netscape division had standards religion (everyone of every 
rank everywhere was a believer, not just the few with mozilla.org email 
addresses) by the time I transferred to Netscape in 2002. In the summer 
of '03, Mozilla.org became completely independent of AOL.

Netscape-branded packaging of Mozilla is pretty irrelevant today. There 
has been talk of a Netscape 7.2 release, but I don't know anyone that 
that release matters to. Influentials have migrated to Mozilla Firefox 
and recommend it over the Mozilla suite (sometimes referred to as "Sea 
Monkey"). There is still effort going into the suite, but I can't 
remember seeing anyone recommend it since Phoenix 0.5 or so. The 
Netscape packaging of Sea Monkey includes an AOL Instant Messenger 
client and some other baggage. It is unclear to me what the difference 
between Netscape 7.2 and Netscape 7.1 would be.

Mozilla Firefox is just a browser, using the Gecko engine. I have been 
using it exclusively since the version called Phoenix 0.5. 

>I had been Netscape all along, until IE 3.0 made life easier.  I may want to
>encourage usurpers, but not at ALL costs.
Even from my position I didn't recommend Netscape to technical friends 
until slightly after I transferred to Netscape and saw that Netscape 6.2 
was useable in my own daily work. Until that point I had not used 
Netscape or Mozilla as much.

>Now, Doug, to bring it back to religious differences, you are a Mac user,
>no?  And, so, your computer lacks Active X compatibility, does it not?
Technically, an ActiveX implementation has existed for Microsoft 
Office/Mac, but I've never heard of MSIE/Mac interoperating with it and 
obviously it would be tricky for MSIE/Mac to download and run x86-based 
ActiveX objects (in other words, it doesn't happen), so MSIE/Mac would 
not be vulnerable to ActiveX-vectored malware. MSIE/Mac is an 
independent project from MSIE/Win and has had slightly better standards 
compliance. I believe MSIE/Mac is an orphan now. New Mac users get Apple 
Safari, derived from an open source project.

>John Willkie
I would also say that putting the blame on ActiveX is just wide of the 
mark. Many apps can and do host ActiveX objects, but MSIE is unique in 
the extent to which it provides mechanisms for causing trouble with 
ActiveX objects. If you assume that MSIE is implemented perfectly (for 
argument's sake, please) and that ActiveX is implemented perfectly, 
there is a configuration of the two working together that creates unique 
vulnerabilities for end users, via silent downloads of ActiveX and via 
access to ActiveX objects that can be addressed from a page in the 
browser that you wouldn't expect to be part of the browser bailiwick. 
The essential piece of this configuration is MSIE. NSAPI is the 
interface between browser plug-ins and Netscape browsers. MSIE could 
have stuck with reverse-engineering that interface. If it had, I think 
that *some* of the problem we are talking about today could have still 
existed. That underscores how essential the browser's design and 
implementation are in the situation we actually do have.

 > <snip>

Mike Enright
mail: michaelt@xxxxxxxxxxxx AIM: enr Yahoo: michaeltenright
Beautiful Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California

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