Wondering About Microsoft’s Commitment to the Browser

I’m not surprised to see that the release of IE 7 has been tarnished by the discovery of two pop-up security flaws in its first two weeks of availability.

I realize that there’s been considerable buzz around the renewed browser battle between the latest iterations of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox. It’s true that both browsers are improving, gaining functionality, features, extensibility, privacy, security, stability.

But I wonder how committed Microsoft is to the browser. It took a long time for Microsoft to move from IE 6 to IE 7, and Microsoft must be conflicted about the increasing shift of applications from bloated desktop clients to relatively thin, web-based front ends.

With or without Microsoft, the browser will become capable of support a growing array of interactive, rich applications. Even the offline problem — how to access and use web-based applications when disconnected from the Internet — is being tackled by Google and Adobe, among others.

I don’t think Microsoft is intentionally undermining its own browser development. Microsoft is doing its best to compete in the browser space. However, it is doing so under the philosophical constraint of envisioning the browser in a narrower, more dependent sense than its competition at Mozilla, Apple, Google, and elsewhere.

That leads to a compromised product, with weaknesses — security-related and otherwise — that might not have surfaced had Microsoft viewed the browser more expansively.

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