Microsoft’s IE8 vaporware passing Acid2 gets cheered in corporate media

More Microsoft advocates than I can link to (1, 2 are a couple) recently wrote non-critically about Microsoft’s recent announcement: Internet Explorer 8, the upcoming version of Microsoft’s proprietary web browser, will pass a standards-compliance test called “Acid2“. As this was covered widely in mainstream corporate press, this is not really news.

What’s news is how people commenting in and on this story don’t question why they should believe Microsoft at all. Why shouldn’t everyone continue to push for the use of free software web browsers? Why should we treat vaporware as good news?

It’s quite common to be able to get free software programs as soon as they’re updated to do something new. Firefox, for instance, is recompiled and distributed nightly. You can download a nightly version and test it all you want. All Microsoft did was produce a screenshot ostensibly demonstrating MSIE8 passing Acid2. They distributed no code for people to verify this alleged standards compliance for themselves, not even proprietary code. To me this represents a significant low in how many people are willing to give credit for something they can’t verify, something typically called vaporware.

At best this is another example of a proprietor making tiny steps toward something resembling what users want, but only when the proprietor is pushed: Microsoft’s announcement comes on the heels of Opera (another web browser proprietor) launching a Microsoft antitrust complaint. Merely a coincidence or unsurprising behavior coming from the target of significant antitrust action (the largest American antitrust case is the Microsoft case and a recent EU antitrust action that resulted in Microsoft getting paid to produce some protocol documentation under NDA)?

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