"Behind the Scenes"
|November 2013||The monthly newsletter by Felgall Pty Ltd|
JScript is Dead
In early web browsers there was not even the concept of a scripting language. Early web browsers were designed to display static web pages and that was it. None of the earliest browsers even thought of introducing such a thing - perhaps that's why none of those browsers survived once a browser with a scripting language was released.
Microsoft had obtained a copy of the first browser written by the programmers who created Netscape back in their university days - a browser originally called Mosaic and later after the university sold it Spyglass Mosaic. This had been a popular browser prior to the launch of Netscape which had deliberately set out to have the same guys who wrote mosaic write a mosaic killer - something they achieved with Netscape. So when Microsoft finally entered the browser market with Internet Explorer their browser was a modified version of Spyglass Mosaic. As this was basically a browser that had already been made obsolete by the release of Netscape, Microsoft didn't do too well with their browser at first but they started working on improvements to try to catch up with Netscape.
The browser wars hit their peak with Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer 4 with both browsers providing all the same functionality but using different code to do it. Some web sites even produced two versions of each page as the only way to provide full functionality to users of both browsers. Microsoft was gradually leveraging their way to greater market share in the browser market - something they'd considered to be entirely unimportant until after Netscape was first released.
Microsoft gained their biggest advantage when the people at Netscape decided that the code behind Netscape had been patched too many times and that a complete rewrite was needed (you can imagine how much worse the code behind Internet Explorer must have been since it was based on code that had already been rewritten from scratch in creating Netscape - however this didn't bother Microsoft.
With no new version of Netscape to compete with Microsoft had a clear path to dominance with Internet Explorer 5 and 6 which were also somewhat innovative in implementing proposed changes to the standards before the standards were finalised. Yes there were standards for the web tby that point which browsers were effectively being forced to consider as no one wanted to risk being the loser in another battle between incompatible browsers as had happened with Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer 4. In fact IE5 implemented some of the new standards so early that the concept had changed by the time the standard was completed and so IE5 implemented a variant that had subsequently been changed. The only way that Microsoft could handle pages written for both the IE5 version implemented before the final standard and the final version of the standard was to find a way to provide a switch to Internet Explorer 6 telling the browser which of the two ways to use. This was the origin of quirks mode and the use of the doctype as a switch.
With Internet Explorer 6 dominating the market, Microsoft stopped development. Almost everyone was using their browser because it had the best support for the standards and it had JScript as a scripting language.
Microsoft's failure to continue developing Internet Explorer eventually meant that what had at one time had been the most standards compliant browser was now the least standards compliant. There were also more and more security holes in IE6 being identified that could only be plugged by turning off some of the features of IE6 that were not available in other browsers. Microsoft was forced to release Internet Explorer 7 simply because the patches that were needed to resolve all the security holes without completely disabling the features that gave IE the advantage over other browsers were too great to handle any other way.
Following from some feedback I received after the September newsletter I have started work on modifying the appearance of the newsletter. This is the first time I have updated the way the newsletter looks (apart from a few minor colour changes) since the first issue back in September 2000. You can expect to see further changes to the appearance of the newsletter in coming months and any further feedback is most welcome.
The following links will take you to all of the various pages that have been added to the site or undergone major changes in the last month.