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Microsoft are being measured by it.

The first beta of Windows Vista (formerly Longhorn) is out and naturally it's already made its way onto the net. And within is a beta of IE7 - and that beta has already made its way onto the net too.

One thing the world's forgot all these years while fighting the vulnerabilities in IE is just how crappy Microsoft programmers are. Take away the vulnerability issues and what you're left with is a very sad story. These guys (and girls) simply don't know how to program, how to design, how to think. The IE7 beta proves that beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Even the history of IE says a lot. It's not the result of a brainstorm in Redmond where someone suddenly realised the world needed a browser; it's the direct result of being threatened by a budding Mosaic/Netscape and trying to protect one's sacred Windows domain. Code was bought - or stolen, depending on which version of the story you believe - and marketing consiglieri were sent out to destroy access to Netscape.

The real work was always done in the boardrooms, on the desks of the legal eagles, in the transoceanic conference calls - and of course in the scheming and conniving.

The task of the IE team was to make not a best of breed product but merely one adequate enough to replace the Navigator Microsoft had to destroy.

These are facts recorded in history and proceedings from the US Department of Justice trial - there is no disputing them; but what becomes obvious now, when Microsoft for the first time in ages look at their dusty code, is that without being able to bully people away from accepted standards, they cannot program for all the tea in China.

IE7 already in beta fails at almost every sophisticated rendering test thrown at it. Never has any other browser in the history of the World Wide Web come close to performing so unbelievably poorly - even in a beta. Most companies would not even think of releasing something so bad. But this is the world of Microsoft, an area protected by a reality distortion shield where all laws of nature otherwise in effect cease to apply.

And why is this so? Because the in house 'talent' never understood the Spyglass code in the first place. Because the web has changed dramatically since the browser war.

And because Microsoft cannot at present force corporations to accept their inept programming as standards anymore. Not for now.

For now Microsoft have to show they understand the code, understand the HTML specs, understand how to work like programmers work in the rest of the world. It is a yardstick we're being shown, and Microsoft are being measured by it, and it's not exactly a pretty sight.

Is anyone willing to go out on a limb and bet Microsoft can get this contraption of theirs W3C compliant in a year and a half? And even if it were so, how long would the world have to wait until the next blooper? Or worse - the next unstoppable world-wide epidemic?

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