A hot topic in the blogging world recently has been: is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser dead? Ironically, most of the good stuff to read has been via “Comments” forms – ie readers writing back to a weblog post. Robert Scoble from Microsoft said “The right question is: ‘is the Web dead in Longhorn?’ ” and he got over 30 comments written to his weblog. Some were the usual bleatings about fixing CSS and why can’t IE have tabs like Mozilla, etc. I posted a comment myself, which said: “How about converting IE into a browser/editor, so we can read and write the web at the same time??” I put no justification into this remark, as I was just curious to see if I got any bites. Well Robert himself replied, saying yes he’d like that too. But he also said something about not wanting to upset weblog vendors. This response was deleted from the Comments section soon after, as I can’t find any trace of it now. But never mind about that, I liked hearing that the concept of a browser/editor is being kicked around in the Microsoft world.

Weblog tools have come close to achieving the 2-way web dream of allowing people to both browse and edit the Web. But I don’t believe there is an existing tool that bundles (dangerous word) the browsing-writing-aggregating functionalities into 1 product. I use Radio Userland as my web writing tool, Feedreader as my RSS aggregator, and (you guessed it) IE as my browser. It would make sense to have an all-in-one tool that does all 3 of those things, not to mention also being a PIM (Personal Information Manager) a la Chandler or Haystack

A few bloggers believe Microsoft’s plans go even further – that the browser will be integrated (a nicer way of saying bundled?) into Microsoft’s next-generation Longhorn OS. Or as DonXML nicely put it: “Longhorn has become the first major step towards a Web Based OS”. If you throw writing and pub-sub functionality into this new web-based OS, then weblog vendors would have reason to be afraid. Or do they? Maybe it will come down to who innovates the best, who has the most functionality you require, whose dream you buy into (think Open Source ideology). 

The web browser as a product may well be as good as shelved by Microsoft. But as Tim Bray points out: “…what program, I ask, do most users spend most of their time in? The web browser.” Ergo, if Microsoft’s most used product is being obsoleted, you can bet there will be a replacement that does what the browser did and much more.

richard macmanus