Microsoft! Open Source Internet Explorer

I mentioned previously John C. Dvorak’s PC Magazine article where he calls on Microsoft to abandon development of Internet Explorer because:

All of Microsoft’s Internet-era public-relations and legal problems (in some way or another) stem from Internet Explorer.

He advised them to:

pull the browser out of the OS and discontinue all IE development immediately…. Then, Microsoft can worry about security issues that are OS-only in nature, rather than problems compounded by Internet Explorer.

I was thinking about that article again recently and John is absolutely correct to say that most of Microsoft’s negative image is due to internet Explorer (and how they abused their monopoly to gain it market share).

However, while I think it is extremely unlikely that Microsoft will abandon Internet Explorer, an even better idea might be for them to Open Source Internet Explorer. Think about it. It isn’t like they’d lose any revenue – they already give Internet Explorer away.

If Internet Explorer were Open Source, security holes would be found and patched far quicker. A developer community would quickly emerge and Add-ins/extensions would suddenly abound.

Of course, this would all be very beneficial to Microsoft’s image as well.

In order to do this, they’d also have to de-couple it from the Operating System, but they should have done that years ago anyway.

9 thoughts on “Microsoft! Open Source Internet Explorer”

  1. I think it’s definitely an interesting idea, but IE7 is already saving MS from a lot of their PR problems of the past. I personally think they deserve a great amount of credit for embracing web standards (albeit way too late). Also, the best open source contributors are the kind of nerds (no insult intended, I’m both a nerd and an open source contributor) that know better; they’re not going to work on MS products to help solve their issues. If anything, they’ll take a good gander at the code to see if they can find any new holes to exploit! 🙂

  2. they’re not going to work on MS products to help solve their issues. If anything, they’ll take a good gander at the code to see if they can find any new holes to exploit

    But if they do find holes, Eoghan, that’ll help Microsoft identify and patch them more quickly!

    Also, given IE’s market penetration, an Open Source’d IE would be a very attractive market for people to write add-ins/extensions for it – Open Source, or otherwise, dontcha think?

  3. Why do you assume things will be patched quicker? All updates will still have to go through their internal security audit and QA system. Customers with support contracts would be right to reject them if they didn’t. Microsoft have enough people to find bugs and enough smart people to fix them, and even without code there’s a raft of small security companies who routinely turn up exploits by studying the application’s behaviour.

    The reason IE 6 is a POS is that it was neglected. If they didn’t stop it’s heart after locking in their lead we wouldn’t have had half the trouble we’ve had, but then company’s like Symantec, Webroot, and ZoneLabs wouldn’t have made out like bandits.

    As for writing extensions, a vibrant extension community is the last thing their corporate customers need. Look at the P2P file sharing extension for FireFox which uses standard SSL ports. You go to the trouble of blocking ports on the firewall and having internal software hunt down and destroy these security risks only to have some idiot open them up again in an application which was classed as being harmless using an encrypted protocol touched by nearly everyone with a net connection on a regular basis.

  4. It’s never going to be open sourced because it’s too tied into the Windows architecture. If IE went open Microsoft would either have to lobotomise it in order to keep their Windows secrets, eh.. secret, or expose the inner workings of key Windows components. It’s never going to happen.

  5. Firstly IE7 when it comes out will be a great browser. I was at a presentation erlier this year with Chris Wilson, Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Platform team. IE can’t go open source. There is so much stuff from the browser architecture that can’t be seperated from the OS. From what I can see it is easier for Firefox developers to fix and develope than it is for the IE team. It comes from past mistakes and fixing them is not easy. I think the IE team has listened and fixed nearly every serious html and css bug that their is. So they have made a very serious effort. I am a firefox user by the way. I also think that Microsoft has changed. They are more open, even if it doesn’t completely rock just yet

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