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Re: Microsoft IE -- it just gets better and better

From: John Franks <john@math.nwu.edu>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 11:40:04 -0600
Message-Id: <199601291740.LAA28362@hopf.math.nwu.edu>
To: www-talk@w3.org

In article <96Jan27.121019pst.2733@golden.parc.xerox.com>, 
Larry Masinter writes:
> As far as I can tell, the HTTP working group and its
> content-negotiation subgroup doesn't have a solution to the problem of
> how to do the full complement of feature-set negotiation that is
> currently supported by user agent.
> 
> We have a lot of ideas of how it *might* work, and are aware of a lot
> of issues that must be considered, etc. But not as yet a workable
> proposal that satisfies all the constraints, or a generally agreed
> prioritization of the constraints.
> 

[an *excellent* discussion of the difficult issues involved in content
 negotiation omitted]

Thanks for the fine discussion on just how hard it is to do content
negotiation.  An issue you didn't mention is the interaction of content
negotiation and proxy-caches.  This is one of the thorniest problems.

It is important for people to understand that the difficulty is not
laziness on the part of HTTP designers or the refusal of browser creators
to accept standards.  We just don't know a very good solution to this
family of problems.

> 
> Could most of this be handled with media type registration? E.g., if
> Netscape were to accept: text/html and text/netscape-2.0-html, then
> Microsoft's browser could express its willingness to accept either or
> both. Is this a workable solution?
> 

I agree with others that this is probably not adequate for the
distinctions content providers want to make.

Despite all its faults, content negotiation by user-agent seems to be
emerging as the choice of major content providers.  It is the only
thing available today which meets their needs.  No alternative is
apparent on the horizon.  I suspect we may have no choice but to live
with it.

Microsoft seems to be embarking on a direct attempt to sabotage
content negotiation by user-agent.  It is hard to guess if it will be
successful.  There may be legal ramifications (I suspect there would
be legal consequences if I marketed a word processor which identified
itself as Microsoft Word).  Microsoft's strategy could backfire when
MSIE users get pages which don't display properly on their browsers.

Also, identifying Microsoft browsers as Mozilla2.0b3 seems a bit short
sighted.  The real 2.0b3 browsers will expire, presumably within a few
months.  At that point the only browsers claiming to be Mozilla2.0b3
will be the counterfeits.

Perhaps this is really an attempt to sabotage the gathering of browser
use statistics.  If so that could backfire too.  Microsoft will
increase Netscape's numbers at the expense of their own.  It is not
clear they will be able to make the case that they are a significant
part of Netscape's market share.

-- 

John Franks 	Dept of Math. Northwestern University
		john@math.nwu.edu
Received on Monday, 29 January 1996 12:41:52 GMT

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