The browser wars are over. That's according to Opera evangelist Bruce Lawson. "There was a browser war, a war to the death, and IE very nearly won the web. And now we see that there doesn't need [to be one]…the only people injured in the war are the consumers and developers".
Lawson has been part of several web standards groups over the history of the web and says it's now the ubiquity of such standards that are making the browser market a more level playing field. "I think it's a collaborative attempt to determine the rules against which we will all healthily compete. They'll be no more deathmatches. People have asked me 'are the guys at Internet Explorer just pretending [about standards] but [they're serious]!"
IE "committed" to standards
The Opera evangelist recounted an amusing story from an Amsterdam conference at which he had successfully challenged his IE counterpart to a drinking match. Lawson is good company, and makes even the potentially dull subject of web standards sound intriguing.
"The IE team are committed, just as much as all the other guys to standards now. Everybody tried the proprietary 'we will win the web' [method]. Working with standards is now the only viable way now in this industry."
And what does Lawson think about Google's new Chrome browser? "We're really pleased," says Lawson convincingly. "And the reason is that we've always been about browser choice."
"We acknowledge that not everybody's going to like Opera, just like people don't always like coffee or strawberries. But people have to know there's a choice but it was on the news. And when consumers know there's a choice, they'll try some of the choices. At least the market knows there's a choice, and that only helps us all I think. If there's no dominant leader, everybody wins."
Standards are important
The Opera camp visited the TechRadar offices as an aside while on a university tour of the UK, preaching standards and appealing to talent. "We're talking about HTML 5.0 and demoing some of the new features as well as CSS 3.0, SVG and explaining to them why standards are really important."
"Five years ago when I started off in web standards, real computer scientists thought the web was a bit of a toy programming environment," explains Lawson. "It wasn't like C++. The difference now is that even hardcore comp scientists are taking web programming seriously."
"They're picking up on the fact that standards development is a collaborative issue between some of the major companies, which is not necessarily the mindset you'd have given the nature of the industry. All the big five browsers are now working together on important standards."
Lawson joked that a journalist had labelled them 'the pacifists' of the browser business. It's hard to disagree.