Microsoft's IE7 Leaves Businesses Picking Up the Hefty Tab

November 14, 2006

I cut my programmer's teeth on visual basic... 5.0, I think. Since those days I've been constantly amazed by how an Aggie economics major could figure out, using Microsoft's relatively user-friendly tool sets, how to solve business problems through developing custom software. I stayed with Microsoft all the way up to Visual Studio 2005, when the expense of the platform -- combined with the improvement of open-source platforms -- encouraged me to seek solutions to my clients' problems elsewhere. Still, I've remained in awe of how this company changed my world by making such power so accessible to me. So it is with some sadness that I confess the mixture of sadness and fury toward the organization that is largely responsible for my career development. All thanks to the simple release of a new version of Microsoft's browser. IE7 will cost businesses millions -- if not billions -- in labor costs resulting from the browser's new interpretation of CSS; changes which cause many web sites which render properly in IE6/Firefox/Safari to render incorrectly in IE7. Granted, this problem has its roots in the fact that IE6 itself was quite non-compliant. That is, Microsoft failed to respect the standards set forth by the industry to help increase development efficiency and provide higher levels of accessibility to all users of the WWW. Developers have had to use many non-standard "hacks" to make pages work correctly in IE6 for years, and I presume that the use of some of these may very well be causing some of the issue we are seeing today. But the fact remains that Microsoft has turned a cold shoulder toward the notion of backward compatibility, and many of the businesses that will inevitably pay the price for that decision will not even fully understand what they are paying for. Explaining to some of Digett's customers why their site is broken -- and why they must pay to fix it -- is a manageable task, but it's also a costly one... for both us and our customers. Why? Why would a company with the resources of Microsoft pull such a hair-brained stunt? I suppose we'll never know, and I suppose Microsoft will never be held accountable for it. But then I wouldn't be surprised if, six months from now, we see the makings of one or more class-action suits directed at the deep-pocketed behemoth. If you hear of such a thing, would you please send me an email? I might like to get in on that action.