Remember the childish, exclusionary spitting match known at the time as "The Browser War?"
That was the time during the late '90s when Microsoft thought Netscape and the World Wide Web and the Internet in general was trying to horn in on a computer industry it commanded like toy boats in a little boy's bath, and reacted just as maturely.
Microsoft tried to make Internet Explorer the only browser anyone would ever use (by choice if they were willing, by caveat if not).
IE became part of Windows' UI and everything remotely connected with Netscape or Mozilla (or Quarterdeck, WinTapestry, Opera, OmniWeb and a hundred others) or with browsing the web with anything but IE was understood to be verboten by Microsoft, causing much of the industry and most end users to slink away to other browsers just for a quick breath of freedom from the Microsoft.
Microsoft and IE won, kind of.
Microsoft edged ahead in market share because everyone with Windows could be considered an IE user and could often be forced to actually be one (which led to a series of conversations between Microsoft and the Dept. of Justice about the nature of corporate power and whether the rules apply to companies bigger and smarter and more arrogant than the people trying to prosecute them.)
Despite a unilateral declaration of victory from Microsoft, end users kept choosing other browsers whenever they possibly could, even after Netscape went away and Mozilla took over the code and role of primary IE opponent.
Mozilla did that so successfully that IE is still just as common as ever. But it is so widely despised that a hoax claiming IE users are less intelligent than Mozilla users got huge play in the news and lots of discussion time online before even being seriously questioned. (The survey wasn't true; no one has done real studies to find out if the premise was.)
Microsoft's childish self-centeredness revives in Windows 8 browser policy
Microsoft looks ready to relive those glory days with a policy preventing browsers other than IE from running on Windows 8, at least the versions that run on ARM processors.
Windows RT – the version designed to run on low-powered ARM chips on tablets – will run Mozilla's FireFox and other browsers on the Metro version of the operating system's UI, but will have access only to APIs with limited functions, and won't be able to run at all on the "classic" desktop look of Windows 8, according to Microsoft.
Internet Explorer will run in either UI and have full access to all the functions of the OS and chips.
"In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability and security to which users have grown accustomed," according to a PCPro story quoting Harvey Anderson, Mozilla's general counsel in a blog post.
Anderson called the move a return to "the digital dark ages."
Google announced today it agrees with the concerns Mozilla raised and would like Chrome to be able to run unfettered on Windows 8 as well.
It will, of course. So will Mozilla.
Microsoft may want to bar competing browsers from its shiny new operating system, but it no longer has the clout or standing to bully anyone into using IE against their will.
If it does try to insist, user protests, blatant ridicule and take-this-Microsoft hacks will drive it to change its policy, even if the DoJ didn't come calling to remind Microsoft how big a pain the government is capable of being when it really wants to be.
None of that is necessary, of course. Microsoft could, and would reverse that decision if it looked more expedient to do so. I'm sure it will become expedient sometime before the official release, when an exclusionary policy becomes a crime rather than an ill-advised specification.
No matter what happens, non-IE browsers would be barred from the ARM version of Windows 8 for only a very short time before general opprobrium and federal litigation reverses yet another narcissistic, sociopathic policy that could make sense only within the deepest reaches of the small-minded, competitive, controlling dismissively contemptuous Microsoft mind.
It's been a while since that particular personality has spoken from Redmond; or at least it's been a while since the 'softies have allowed it to make any decisions.
Maybe, instead of locking it in a closet for a few years to make the DoJ happy, they should have smothered it to eliminate the danger it will ever escape to monopolize and annoy the computer industry ever again.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.