This year, I’m not moderating the Browser Wars Panel at SxSW. I did it for three years in a row, and maybe three time’s a charm. It got written up by PC Magazine each time, and that felt great. The truth is, I can no longer be unbiased (I work for Mozilla on Firefox now). What’s even more true is that I’m so occupied with standards-body issues that I’m concerned I no longer have my ear right on the pulse of what web developers want. Last year, Jeremy provoked a riot when he “threw some shit at the fan” (his words) about font formats. Me, I largely kept the peace, but couldn’t resist a little school-boyish bullying of Chris Wilson (then still the IE guy) about a few things, and I also got accused of going easy on Darin, the Google guy.
What makes a compelling story for me is the browser peace, though. The web as a platform (“The Web Platform”) wins through consensus about standardization. I blogged recently about standards in the device era. What I didn’t touch on is whether patents will thwart the attempt to build out the promise of a seamlessly interoperable web. I’m not moderating a discussion dubbed “Browser Wars” this year, but I’ll leave last year’s attendees (as proxies for their browser companies) some fly-by notes:
Dear Darin (aka Google Chrome guy): I’m sorry I went easy on you last year. You guys can afford to move faster than us on some things, because you don’t have the marketshare considerations we do. You also have an armada of people working on Chrome (I think you have more PR people than we have employees, but that’s cool). I value interaction with you guys, not least of all because you have big web applications that can help drive use cases for all the stuff you put through in standards (GMail, etc.). We don’t have that, so we need to be diligent about developer relations, which is my big passion these days. We’re doing great things with WebGL (and the guys you have in standards are top-notch). I just hope we can agree about other stuff, like the right course of action on HTML5 Video.
Dear Chris Wilson (aka Microsoft guy, aka “go to” guy for IE team for years and years): You really handled my nagging last year with grace, and you made me look bad for doing it (I’m sorry). And you know what? You guys’ recent blog post about working with the HTML5 Community was really, really encouraging. I’m glad we agree on some things, like the fact that the SQLite API is the wrong choice for the web, and that we’ll work to fix this with a successor proposal, like Indexed DB. But what about video, canvas, 3D graphics, and all those other things? I’m watching, and expecting big things from you guys. What’s generally surprising to me is that with the promise of an agreement on fonts and other things, we’re agreeing more than disagreeing. Maybe browser ballot issues in the EU, coupled with the stance organizations are taking about killing IE6, will collectively improve the situation for the web (that you guys kind of caused).
Dear Apple: *sigh. I guess you couldn’t make it to the panel for the past three years, but that’s no biggie. Your participation in standards more than compensates for your restrictions on public speaking. The iPhone’s got some great stuff with respect to Orientation Events for Safari in it. Maybe we can agree on standardizing this stuff, just as we agree on other device capabilities, like WebGL (which works in nightly builds). And Safari 4.05 really moves the needle on the web platform, implementing the kinds of Ajax improvements we worked on together. I’m optimistic that your patent portfolio won’t cloud the future, and that the web will benefit from your smarts.
Dear Chaals, Opera Guy: You’re a standards titan. You guys implement everything! Congratulations on Opera 10.50, which has slick features. Particular kudos on doing the right thing on HTML5 Video in Opera 10.50! It’s clear, however, that we don’t agree on Widgets vs. the Open Web. They are very different, but some of your guys argue that they really aren’t that different (see my general thoughts on what to do in the device space). I think equating them as the same thing is sheer folly on you guys’ part. That being said, Opera Mini is a smart piece of technology, and I definitely felt a little rueful that Firefox for Mobile (Fennec) won’t work on all the devices Opera Mini works on that I saw used by the audiences I addressed in India.
Lastly, Dear Web Developer: I’m keen to spend time with you here at SxSW, since you’re really what drives us all. Brendan’s here as well (as are lots of the Firefox team, addons, JetPack, etc.), and I’ll try and get the other guys (mentioned above) to come out for beers, maybe some time after the Mozilla Party at SxSW.