It may sound like heresy and would create quite some controversy in the online space but let’s face it, the browser wars are over. Since AOL decided to get out of the browser business, the Mozilla foundation has successfully managed a transition and is now moving forward on adding value to their offerings.
By adopting Mozilla as their core rendering engine, Microsoft could achieve a number of quick wins: first of all, it would allow it to adopt a number of new features that many users have requested. Things like tabbed browsing, an expandable plug-in architecture, a rendering language for the application layer (no more XUL vs XAML discussions) would come out of the box.
Second, it would put an end to issues relating to standard compliance that have plagued the different implementation. Since Internet Explorer controls the market, and Mozilla and Firebird represent a substantial portion of the remaining of the market, throwing Microsoft’s support behind Mozilla would mean an increase in market share for IE in that compatibility issues between the two browsers would become inexistent.
Such a move would also get Microsoft more involved in the open source community and could be seen as extending an olive branch to that world by saying that Microsoft employees can work side by side with open source volunteers to produce great software.
Last but not least would be the fact that Microsoft could offer versions of IE for more platforms, discontinuing its concept of abandoning the Macintosh platform and extending into Linux and other Unix system (wouldn’t that be ironic?)
While it is evident to see what advantage Microsoft gains, some people may wonder what are the advantages for the Mozilla foundation. On this end, I would see a couple of things.
First of all, a player like Microsoft backing Mozilla would solidify the financial footing of the Mozilla foundation for years to come. Another issue would be in terms of market share: While IE has a dominant market share and Mozilla still remains the second player by a large margin, such an alliance would make both browsers only one, hence turning the platform in the de-facto industry standard.
Another advantage to the Mozilla foundation would be the marketing power of Microsoft coupled with the technological advances made by the Mozilla foundation could help standard compliance flourish around the internet. At the current time, many web developers only develop for Internet Explorer because it has the leading market share.
The firebird effort would also benefit from this as I am assuming that Microsoft would still want to keep Outlook as its email client (the integration with Exchange server means that trying to get Microsoft to move to a new email client would be difficult at best)
The road would not be an easy one. First of all, Microsoft would have to find a way to either import its plug-in architecture (the ActiveX one) into Mozilla or abandon it and consider Mozilla’s approach instead. This would be a major development as many of the security issues in IE have been relating to this.
The other thing would be an audit of the Mozilla code base to plug any holes that may exist and ensure close connectivity between the Windows Operating System and the browser. At the current time, I would venture to say that Mozilla products have benefited from the lack of notice by script kiddies. Becoming the largest player in the market would make Mozilla an instant target.
While I am dreaming about this, the realist in me says that it will not happen. But then again, one can always dream….