Bespin – Start of the Browser Wars II

Mozilla are the people behind Firefox. And some users may know it for XUL – the XML based User-interface  Language that Microsoft has copied and proprietized as XAML. Some people may know that Mozilla has also a major role in JavaScript having Brendan Eich, the designer of Javascript, on staff. So naturally Mozilla has been pushing the state of the art for JavaScript with Rhino (Java based JavaScript engine), SpiderMonkey (C based JavaScript Engine), Tamarin (the Actionscript 3 and ECMAScript 4 C++ version of JavasCript) plus helping define the next version JavaScript 2 or ECMAScript 4.

Mozilla is also working on a number of other important projects in Web development. Thunderbird and SeaMonkey continue work on eMail and browsing technology. Tinderbox supports their own development operations and cross platform builds. XPCOM is a cross platform component object model and XUL Runner is a framework to run XUL+XPCOM based projects in a variety of embedded and other operating environs. In sum, if you get the idea that Mozilla is not a one FireFox/JavaScript pony – then you have a feel for the range that is Mozilla Development’s capabilities. Hence, on this factor alone Mozilla’a Bespin is of interest.


Bespin is an online code editor that goes well beyond TinyMCE and other online editing tools:

Bespin looks at making development editing more relevant for co-operative version control environs like CVS, capable of collaborative work among several developers, yet still deliver fast response time online and allow for both full screen and command line (think vi etc)editing. It is ambitious and has attracted a lot of attention from developers. And well it should.

But Bespin is also drawing a line in the W3C/Web Standards sands. Bespin uses a lot of upcoming HTML 5 features including canvas and media technologies. Now this is important because Mozilla is using what Microsoft is not. In effect Mozilla is saying that its growing browser market share (20-35% depending on who is doing the counting and growing at about 1-2% per quarter)allows it to support and use W3C standards that Microsoft, to date, is taking a  … where have we seen this before … raincheck on. In short, the tanks are rolling in position for Browser Wars II.

The Browser Wars are Now Fully Engaged

Microsoft is now confronted with three trends that they cannot allow to continue:

1)The IE browser is consistently losing market share. See here for some of the latest evidence.
2)Web and Mobile development is where all the developers and their actions are happening not PC desktops where Microsoft has almost ruined its Windows brand with Vista.
3)Microsoft has lost thought and mind leadership to Apple, Google, and the damn Open Cloud.

So I expect a full response from Redmond starting at the upcoming MIX conference where Microsoft reveals the latest in its increasingly proprietary, “it must run best in Windows” Web software. Just take a look at Atlas, IE, LINQ, Silverlight and XAML for starters. Each is semi-open which is to say they use some Web standards but also ignore a number of  of the popular ones. IE is a perfect example, it still has many proprietary JScript + DOM extensions yet still cannot handle W3C standards like complete cSS2+3, SVG, XForms, E4X, etc, etc.

So expect Microsoft to float the notion at MIX that with ASPX, LINQ, XAML, Silverlight, WMP, and other Redmond proprietary technologies, developers don’t need the W3C standards and they should just come on over to what they will describe as superior PC Desktop + Web technologies. And of course when they say PC Desktop, Redmond means proprietary and Windows mostly.

And the writing is clearly on the wall.

The new IE8 marks this change in tune from the promise that “we will support all W3C  and Web standards” from circa 1998 to the current “we will pick and choose”. One can see that lE8 really falls short of full Web development as it falls further behind the rapid improvements of Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari. IE8 still cannot match the other browsers for CSS, DOM , and full W3C standards implementation. It has a much slower JavaScript engine. IE also retains many proprietary JScript and other.NET inspired extensions. And so expect the thrust of the MIX conference to be that Web Developers, if they drink the Redmond Kool Aid, they will be able to develop faster and with more goodies. Silverlight as a Flash and AJAX features replacement. The .NET engine as performance and “Redmond-espoused” provider of greater  reliability/security. And LINQ, Live plus the Astra Server as the data processing engines of choice. As for being able to integrate and run across OS platforms – again it is  a message of semi-open with a right of reversal clause.

The idea will be “semi-open” – able to read and present on some  other OS platforms  using some other browsers but not work natively there. But as always, Microsoft reserves the right to change and drop support for currently anointed browsers and OS platforms as it has done in the case of IE on Mac and support for W3C standards. Meanwhile, for raw speed, features, and performance – Windows is going to be advanced as the place to be.

Now Microsoft will “support” other platforms.  Read Mac primarily for some Microsoft tools with some  concessions to a few Linux distributions – most likely Novell’s Suse. But really no Symbian, BSD, Solaris, nor Apple iPhone nor anything Google. So in effect this is not so much Browser Wars as “Who is going to own not just the Web but the broader Presentation Interface and Client” Wars. And interestingly, Bespin adds to the already robust AJAX Frameworks and  makes an awfully good case for the W3C and the Open Web ways of development. Again, see for yourself here.

Last updated: Feb 27, 2009

2 thoughts on “Bespin – Start of the Browser Wars II”

  1. How can I resolve my apple ipad tablet 2’s front going through camera? When I use my personal iPad’s front going through camera, there are always a line of pixels that are white-colored or cream color, depending on the gentle. They are always in the same place, also it doesn’t get a new back facing camera and the normal monitor. What must i do?

    1. Sorry –

      I am just up to iPad 1 and I am finding it a blank spot on many GUI and control features. My suggestion – go to an Apple store and find a “genius” there – and if she/he solves your problem, bring back a coffee and donut, they work long hours.


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