At the end of July, there was a huge fuzz when Microsoft released beta one of its upcoming version 7 of Internet Explorer and it basically just contained new interface features and two CSS bug fixes. As a web developer, I was very saddened by this in my review, but only a few days later, Chris Wilson wrote a post about all the standards support goodies beta 2 will have (and yes, I agree with what many people have said, beta 1 should have been called alpha since it was far from feature complete).
And this got me thinking: from a business perspective, why should Microsoft care about supporting web standards? The reason Microsoft had to release a new version of Internet Explorer is because other web browers, I guess mostly the ones in the Mozilla product suite (Firefox etc), gained some user percentage and attention. But to the end user, seeing the new additions added to beta 1 of IE, that should be enough to slow down/stop people from switching to its competitors. I mean, most people don’t give a damn what web standards a web browser supports. Like above mentioned beta 1: if it contains tabs, popup blocking and RSS support like the other web browsers being available, while being as secure as well, that should be sufficient.
People started using other web browsers than IE because of security flaws and lack of some features, not because they weren’t satisfied with how IE handled standards.
Most users’ demands on a web browser is that its secure, contains the interface options they like and that web sites work in them. With the sorry state of most web pages out there today and Microsoft being allowed to bundle IE in Windows, I think, business-wise, that what they added in beta 1 would be enough to maintain most of the web browser market for a long time. End users don’t need more proper web standards support in their web browser than was implemented in IE 6, until most web pages are properly coded and take advantage of (or even, in some cases, rely on this to give the user the maximum experience of the web site in question) the things possible with CSS 2.1, correct DOM event handling and so on.
Don’t get me wrong here, I for one is very happy that Microsoft has decided to improve its standards support, and I guess we owe our thanks to the dedication of the IE developing team. But a part of me can’t help thinking that it wouldn’t have been necessary to keep their web browser market share.