Software group blasts MS browser plans
The Web Standards Project says the WindowsMe version of IE doesn't conform to standards that Microsoft pleged to support.

By Rebecca Buckman, WSJ Interactive Edition
UPDATED April 11, 2000 5:18 AM PT

A grass-roots software developer group is blasting Microsoft Corp. for not adhering to industrywide technical standards in its new Web browser -- and promoting proprietary technology instead.

The criticisms from the group, the Web Standards Project, come just a week after a federal judge ruled that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) illegally protected its Windows monopoly against competitors and attempted to monopolize the market for browsers.

The group contends that the latest version of Internet Explorer, to be shipped later this year along with the WindowsMe operating system, adds features that don't comply with Web standards that Microsoft had pledged to support. As a result, developers writing applications for the Web could find that their programs only work on Internet Explorer and not on competing browsers, such as Netscape's Communicator, said Jeffrey Zeldman, a New York Web designer who is the group leader for the project.

"They seem to be saying, 'We're the market leader. We can do whatever we want, and we don't have to implement the standards,' " Zeldman said. "If Microsoft does this ... then when you go to a site using Netscape, you may not be able to buy a book, read an article."

Microsoft responded that it never said its newest browser would support 100 percent of the standards adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, which is the dominant group working on common protocols of the Internet. But Shawn Sanford, a group product manager for Windows, calls Internet Explorer the "most compliant" of any browser with the W3 standards.

"We have to work with a wide range of customer segments and develop technology that will fit for all of those people," Sanford said. He said Microsoft isn't trying to bully developers into working with any particular browser or operating system.

Still, angry developers have peppered part of Microsoft's own Web site with criticisms about the standards issue. Messages in a discussion group following an article about the new browser urge Microsoft to "please support W3C standards, FIRST, before implementing proprietary, (Internet Explorer)-only, Windows-only features," according to one message, posted by an anonymous author.

Another poster was more direct: "Your betrayal of Web standards is an almost unparalleled event in cyberspace," the developer wrote. Several people criticized Microsoft for focusing on new bells and whistles, like colored scroll bars, instead of adhering to common standards.

One poster, however, said the blistering messages just came from "Microsoft bashers" sympathetic to the company's archrival, Sun Microsystems Inc.