eWeeks Peter Coffee accuses the browser vendors of monkeying around and only going for low hanging fruit in terms of innovations. I dont think the criticism is justified with the exception of Microsoft. Redmond has stopped all improvements to the Web browser except for security fixes. And as Peter points out in his article, it is likely there will be no improvements from Redmond until 2007 when the new Longhorn emerges.

But lets look at the record of the past few years for the other vendors. First- Mozilla, Opera, and Apple with Safari have added a steady stream of features not the least of which is the hard trench work of making their browsers more standards compliant – especially DOM, CSS, XHTML, and JavaScript. Contrast this with Redmond that continues to promote proprietary extensions in all of these areas and does not provide a “stick to standards switch” in its Front Page, Visual Studio and other development tools which would insure for developers that when the switch is on only W3C, ECMA and other stanadrds code would be allowed (like Adobe and Macromedia do).

Next consider, the brower innovations from Opera who have been steadily adding features like mouse gestures; tilable, multiple browser windows; and most recently work with IBM on speech enablement of the browser. True, Mozilla and others have imitated with tabbed windows and their own gestures; but these innovations if they had emanated from Redmond would be getting splash and multiple story treatment in the IT trade press.

Ditto for Mozillas innovations. Peter accuses the browser vendors of monkeying around and only choosing low hanging fruit. But Operas mouse gestures and speech enablement and the Mozilla SVG and XUL developments are hardly low hanging fruits. And remember all the browser vendors but one do not have billions of dollars of research money and a kitty of a few extra $56 billion in the bank like certain parties who have stopped all improvements on their IE browser.

So Mozilla has had to be sparing and frugal of their manpower investments. Yet, I would submit that Mozillas XUL development environ has been profound and ignored. XUL is an XML-based User interface Language. Its precedes Microsofts XAML by at least 2-3 years as well as others like Laszlo LZX and Macromedias MXML. XUL coupled with CSS, JavaScript plus two other Mozilla browser development extensions XBL-eXtensible Binding Language and XPCOM-an XML Component model — these elements comprise a framework for developing cross-platform applications which are but do not have to be browser based. Again, if this had been developed in Redmond, the trade press and Fred Langa would be jumping up and down, praising it from the rooftops. As it is astute developers have been quietly adopting and/or emulating/copying Mozillas seminal ideas. For example, Oracle is rumored to have a major addition to its Application software based on XUL or the Oraclized equivalent.

Whose Monkeying Around : IT Trade Press

In the world of browser development it appears that a strong case could be made that the party that has been monkeying around and going for low hanging fruit has been the IT trade press. Think Editorese – 95% IE market share, Microsoft has stopped development, small Open Source and a Norwegian outfit as competitors – leave this one for the Legends of Sleepy Hollow. Meantime Mozilla issues an app development coup, Opera does amazing interface things, Google is ready to unleash God-knows-what and Microsoft gets away with an Iraq-sized continuing stream of security blunders. Ohhh – and on the sly, Redmond sets up its own coup: putting the finishing touches on proprietizing the Web interface.

Now tell me dear readers – who is the big banana eaters around the browser world ????