Simon Willison’s Weblog


Don’t build web apps that only work in IE

26th January 2005

This is a rant, for which I will make no apologies. The wonderful thing about web applications is that they free you from being tied down to a specific platform. A well written web application is accessible from any platform that can run a web browser. Netscape and Microsoft both realised this back in the mid-90s, which is why Microsoft pulled out all the stops in winning the browser wars; they knew that the browser as an open application platform was a direct threat to their Windows lock-in. It’s not inconceivable to argue that this was the main reason they added so many weird little proprietary DHTML extensions to IE in the following years—and it’s those that are the root of the problem.

Why do I bring this up now? Because of this article: IBM goes silent on Linux desktop effort on InfoWorld. Apparently IBM’s much publicised attempt to shift all of their internal desktops to Linux by 2005 hasn’t been going to smoothly. Here’s their biggest problem (my emphasis):

Though IBM volunteers have set up an internal IRC (Internet relay chat) channel where Linux problems are discussed online, users may experience problems running IBM’s internal Web applications. Most of those applications are written for the Internet Explorer browser, which has not been ported to Linux. Internet Explorer is the only browser supported by IBM’s internal support desk, according to another IBMer.

Writing internal web applications that only work in Internet Explorer in this day and age is short-sighted and inexcusable. If you really have to target only one browser, at least make it something open source and portable across platforms (the Mozilla family comes to mind). Even better, stick with web standards; you might find yourself reaping the benefits in a few years’ time.

This is Don’t build web apps that only work in IE by Simon Willison, posted on 26th January 2005.

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