There’s a piece by Tom Warren at the Verge titled, Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6. When analyzing an accusation like this, you have to break it down into two parts:
- The actions of the accused
- The motives behind the actions
The facts are pretty straight forward. Internet Explorer 6 did not comply with web standards; it pursued its own standards in a myriad of ways. It wasn’t trying to create a roadmap for other browsers to follow in its footsteps. Warren lays this out well:
Ignoring web standards meant that developers started to code their sites around Internet Explorer specifically, and would recommend that their customers only accessed their site through Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 6 existed for a full five years ignoring web standards and with a number of security flaws.
When we look at Chrome, it’s much different. Nobody’s writing code that’s Chrome specific. Instead, people are writing apps that are W3C standards compliant and that only happen to be currently implemented by Chrome. These apps are using bleeding edge technology that eventually all browsers will support (unless, like IE6, they choose to not follow the standards). In the interim, the developers are doing the right thing by recommending the browsers that support the necessary set of functionality that their apps require. It so happens that Chrome is the only browser right now. That’s not Chrome’s fault. Blaming Chrome for being faster with the trigger than its competitors is unfair.
Those are the facts. What about motives? Back to Warren:
“One issue is that Google developers often create many of the new standards, they are extremely active in new feature development for the web,” explains Jason Ormand, a performance engineer at Vox Media. “They write up proposals and get them through the working standards group, W3C, so that they become standards.” That often means Google is the first to ship with these standards, because the company has been advocating for them. Mix that together with a lot of developers using Chrome for web development and the issues are obvious.
Your presuppositions will determine whether you think Google has nefarious motives or not, and not all presuppositions are created equally; some are based on fact, and others on myth. More so than any other browser team, the Chrome team is composed of developers who are passionate about pushing web technology forward. They envision new tools that aren’t possible with today’s standards. They go through the appointed means, W3C, to change those standards. Then they implement them at the same time as the standards are being put together, while other browser developers are asleep at the wheel. When the new standards debut, only one browser supports them — Chrome. If you want to blame anyone, you should really fault the slower moving teams for the other browsers — Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla. Who’s fault is it that a web app is only usable in Chrome? It’s not Chrome’s fault. Are you really going to fault Chrome for supporting a W3C standard? No. It’s Apple’s fault for being late to the game. It’s Microsoft’s fault. It’s Mozilla’s fault. Their developers are in the loop when any given W3C spec is being put together. They know it’s coming. They know Chrome will ship with it. Of course they know. But they procrastinate, because they do not think that it is important.
And here we are in 2018, with amazing and wonderful things like Service Workers that are currently only supported by Chrome and Firefox. It’s not Chrome and Mozilla’s fault that Apple and Microsoft are late to the game on Service Workers. It’s Apple’s and Microsoft’s fault. They have no one to blame but themselves for not allocating the developer talent that browsers deserve.
IE6 came to prominence because it was the browser that shipped with the Windows operating system. Chrome doesn’t enjoy that privilege; it doesn’t come by default on macOS or Windows. Chrome has to be manually installed. Chrome is in competition on an unequal playing field. It has an upstream battle to fight against Edge and Safari since they come pre-installed on their respective OS’s, and yet Chrome is winning. It has a majority of the market. The only possible conclusion you can derive from this data is that the majority of PC owners think that Chrome is the best browser available. If you disagree that Chrome is the best browser, you’re in the minority. Either everyone else is misinformed, or Chrome somehow has a magic spell over people, or — or — Chrome really is the best browser. To the victor belongs the spoils.
Chrome isn’t building a proprietary platform. Rather, it’s pushing the envelope for what can be done in a browser, and it’s achieving that through the open standards of W3C. Chrome is getting blamed simply for having a faster metabolism and caring more about the web than any other tech company. I don’t find those things to be blameworthy. It behoves the other browsers to double their efforts and catch up so they don’t keep losing more market share. The solution isn’t for Google to hit the brakes. That’s anti-progress. The solution is for the other browsers to get back in the game.
If the problem with IE6 was that it didn’t follow the standards, then Safari, Firefox, and Edge are the new IE6, in as much as they fail to support the functionality that modern web apps require. Chrome’s behavior is so different from IE6’s philosophy that comparing the two browsers is false equivalence.