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The year that was

Looking back on the year standards broke…2003

During the year of its tenth birthday, the humble Web browser was spun on its head. Unlike the browser wars of the past, it wasn’t competition that inspired progress, but attacks from outsiders and insiders.

Internet Explorer and Netscape: R.I.P.

Midway through the year, Microsoft quietly mentioned its Internet Explorer browser was effectively frozen at version 6. Any further development will happen only as part of the next version of Windows, dubbed “Longhorn” and due in 2006.

A month or so later, AOL released Netscape 7.1 and then nailed the browser’s coffin shut. In its wake, the Mozilla Foundation was created, and after a few false starts, it found a temporary new name for its new standalone browser: Mozilla Firebird.

The combined wallop of the two announcements drove users to the trinity of standards-compliant browsers: Mozilla, Opera, and Safari.

Patents

This year also saw two patents lawsuits threaten the integrity of two major collaborative projects: Linux and the Web.

True, the Web will survive the Eolas’ successful US$521-million against Microsoft over use of plug-ins, but it shook the medium to its very core. Not only would Microsoft have to change its browser, millions of Web pages would need to be altered, too.

The Eolas suit did catch the community off-guard, but it also inspired a developer to declaw a long-standing bugbear. While playing with Microsoft’s modified browser, Joe Maddalone discovered how to run multiple versions of Internet Explorer on the same computer at the same time.

Zen and the art of Web design

Thanks in part both to the exodus from the big two browsers and a increasingly knowledgeable Web design community, CSS-based design blossomed from table knock-offs to full fledged gardens.

Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden has become a milestone in the Web design world. By showcasing how Web standards can be used to create unique, and stunning designs Shea’s site converted the skeptics and enlightened the ignorant.

Do you like to download music?

Apple was thinking different when it launched an online music store selling singles for a buck to both Macintosh and Windows users.

The success of iTunes resurrected Napster, and convinced Wal-Mart to join in the fun. Selling individual singles online was a compromise both the record companies (who were suing children and grandmothers) and the music loving “pirates” could agree, too.

And within a few months Canada finally got its own online music store, the Copyright Board declared it legal for Canadians to download music, no matter the source. The catch? Uploading is still a no-no.

If music sales continue to grow, look for others to start charging for online content in 2004.

Spam spam s.pam sp@m 5P@M!!

Not content with flooding our inboxes, spammers took to blogs this year, using comment forms to boost their page rank. And like the junk email, deterring comment spam is tricky and restricts the way we communicate online.

The recent laws designed to crackdown on spammers act only as a flashlight scattering the cockroaches into darkened holes and hiding places. And like roaches, spam has become an unavoidable fact of life.

That is, until people realize size doesn’t matter and millions will not be made by transferring “top secret” funds from Nigeria…