Vendors Should Avoid IE Monogamy

The recent security woes that have plagued Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser have caused significant problems for many parties.

The recent security woes that have plagued Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer browser have caused significant problems for many parties. A group that may not feel the pain yet—but soon will, we predict—is the vendors that have built their products to work best or only with IE.

During a recent meeting with several members of eWEEKs Corporate Partner Advisory Board, we discussed some of the fallout from the IE problems and the high-profile recommendations to stop using it. Although most of the Corporate Partners said they had no plans to move users off IE, almost all of them said that, going forward, they would not implement enterprise products that work only with IE. In a competitive market such as Web content management, decisions such as this could be a killer for many vendors.

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So what can Web content management vendors do to wean themselves from IE dependence?

If vendors are relying on IE for DHTML (Dynamic HTML) to create a more interactive Web interface, they are just being lazy and should have moved off the Microsoft browser long ago. Web standards such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), DOM (Document Object Model) and XHTML (Extensible HTML) make it possible to do all the same things, and more.

In addition to gaining cross-platform support, having a Web interface that is standards-compliant is just good business sense, especially if integration with other enterprise applications is considered.

Things get a bit more problematic if IE and Microsofts ActiveX controls are being used to provide a rich-text-editing environment. Coming up with something that works the same across all browsers can be tough.

Ektron Inc.s eWebEditPro, which is already used for rich-text editing in many Web content management products, offers a potential solution. eWebEditPro is designed to work with Netscape and Mozilla browsers as well as with IE. However, eWebEditPro requires that IE be installed on a system.

Several open-source efforts to come up with a cross-platform rich-text editor are under way, but most are based on Mozilla. Within Mozilla itself, there is a project called Midas that is a rich-text editor for Web pages. Other projects, such as Bitflux and Twingle, are similarly based on Mozilla technology.

Another option that has been used by some Web content management vendors is to simply build an editor in Java instead of ActiveX. For now, this may be the best solution, as a product gains both cross-platform and cross-browser benefits by running its rich-text editor in Java.

Of course, this solution, and the move to open standards, will require coding and reworking of code. But software companies do this kind of work all the time for a variety of reasons (often just to satisfy one big customer).

Next page: Loosening IE bonds.