Mozilla takes on Internet Explorer with Firefox 3.6

Mozilla’s recently introduced Firefox 3.6 release candidate (RC) has scored 94 out of 100 on the popular Acid 3 test.

The cross-platform RC marks a milestone in the company’s development of the popular browser, which has been steadily gaining market share over Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8.

Clearly, the new Firefox 3.6 RC further widens the gap with Internet Explorer, which raises the interesting question of whether or not Microsoft can finally catch up to other leading browsers with its upcoming IE9.

The good news is that, according to the IE9 developer blog, Microsoft has finally acknowledged the need to support web standards like HTML5 and CSS3.

However, the question of exactly how much IE9 will improve the browser’s Javascript and CSS benchmarks remains unanswered. 

Still, IE9 is expected to include graphics hardware acceleration, which has been touted as a major innovation. 

But what’s the point of innovating if web developers still can’t use basic standard technology, as defined by the W3C to develop websites if they want to build their sites for IE8 and 9?

Microsoft also forgot to mention that Mozilla has been working on hardware acceleration in Firefox developer builds for some time; besides, the idea of using the GPU as additional processing power for non-graphics applications is hardly a new concept.

So, will Microsoft’s browser team give up and close shop?

Unlikely, and while analysts have repeatedly suggested that MS should adopt an open-source rendering engine like Webkit (used by Safari and Chrome) or Gecko (Mozilla), either move would be admitting defeat.

But one also has to wonder how a company with $58 billion in revenue (2009) can fall so far behind in developing such a vital product?

All is not lost, however, and Redmond may well surprise us all by releasing IE9 this summer with HTML5, CSS3 and SVG compatibility on par with upcoming versions of Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

Let’s not forget that Windows 7 and MS Office 2010 (currently in technical preview) are both great products.

So, in the interest of over 93,000 Microsoft employees worldwide, we’ll cross our fingers and hope for the best.