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Mozilla Screaming Monkey offers freedom from IE 'millstone'

Fans counter Microsoft promise with promises

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Google I/O Mozilla's Screaming Monkey offers hope to developers who are frustrated by Internet Explorer's slow speed and skeptical of Microsoft's commitment to internet standards.

So say representatives from Google and the Ajaxian community, in a joint presentation at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

According to the pitch, Mozilla's yet-to-finish Screaming Monkey will juice AJAX applications and guarantee that developers can use web standards for rich internet applications with Microsoft's browser. The Screaming Monkey project began almost a year ago to have the ECMAScript-4-compliant Tamarin virtual machine plug-in to IE.

Ajaxian co-founder Ben Galbraith, called IE a millstone around the necks of developers. He noted that Microsoft has a vested interest in tailoring IE to Windows. That could see optimization and tweaks to favor the IE and Windows combo, and that continue to inhibit the way other browsers work on Windows.

"Microsoft is an operating system vendor," Galbraith said. "As nice as the IE team might be, you can't avoid the fact the company is heavily invested in driving people towards the stack."

Microsoft has committed to improve support for internet standards on HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in the next version of IE, version 8. However, websites must run some meta code to ensure that IE 8 displays sites tuned to the current IE 7 without breaking.

Screaming Monkey, once complete, will enable developers take advantage of latest internet standards, Galbraith said.

Galbraith's co-presenter Don Almaer, who works at Google on Gears, said Google Gears will be pushed into internet standards as an added help to developers if IE fails to live up to Microsoft's promises on standards. Google Gears is now known simply as "Gears" after Google de-coupled its name from the browser-to-desktop architecture.

"If IE doesn't support the standards... developers know there's something out there that does," Almaer said.

According to Galbraith and Almaer, AJAX has come a long way in three years, from when it was seen as an interesting hack. Now it's a "fantastic platform". There's still a long way to go.

"As much as we love AJAX development, we understand there's lot of pain out there - cross browser, the standards thing, CSS," Almaer said. ®

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