Internet Explorer 5 developer describes frustrations of working with Steve Jobs

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2020
On the 20th anniversary of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, one of its key developers reveals how Apple's Steve Jobs ignored agreements, and made Microsoft pull features from its browser.

Composite reconstruction of Internet Explorer 5's splash screen on a typical browser window of the time.
Composite reconstruction of Internet Explorer 5's splash screen on a typical browser window of the time.


Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 Macintosh Edition was announced on January 5, 2000 at Macworld Expo, where Steve Jobs demonstrated it alongside OS X. Now on the 20th anniversary of that demo, developer Jimmy Grewal has been describing both how the influential app was created -- and how he and his team would come to regret giving in to Jobs's demands.

"MacIE 5 was built by a team of [around] 40 talented & dedicated people in Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU) based in San Jose, CA.," says Grewal in a Twitter thread. "I joined that team fresh out of university in June '99 and helped design some of the features of MacIE 5, and also managed the Mac OS X version."

1/ Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 for Mac. This was both the most important release of Internet Explorer for the Mac, and the last release. Here are some anecdotes and thoughts from an insider's perspective. [thread] pic.twitter.com/TLiloQX0DU

-- Jimmy Grewal (@jimmyg)


Internet Explorer 5 for Mac featured a design highly reminiscent of the early OS X desktop, though Grewal says this was coincidence -- at least on Microsoft's part.

"This 'new look' had an uncanny resemblance to Apple's later Aqua interface for Mac OS X," continues Grewal. "However it was developed in complete secrecy within Microsoft. When we previewed MacIE 5... to Apple in the Summer of 1999, Jobs was not pleased."

In an accompanying blog on the same topic, Grewal quotes a colleague, Maf Vosburgh, saying that their "new look" started with an idea to match hardware with software. Vosburgh says the idea was that if you had a Bondi blue iMac, then IE 5 would use that same color.

"So did Steve see our Summer 1999 New Look demo and tell his team to create Aqua?" says Vosburgh. "Who knows. Our stuff was in any case inspired by Apple's hardware designs, so I can't feel too bad about it."

While Vosburgh says that Jobs was enthusiastic about Microsoft's design, Grewal tells a slightly different story about what may have been a later demonstration.

"Since no one outside Apple was supposed to know about Aqua at the time, [Jobs] couldn't say anything to us about the resemblance," he says. "[And instead] he directed his ire at another new feature in MacIE 5 called Media Toolbar. This feature provided support for playing back MP3's on websites."

Media Toolbar was significant because it leveraged SoundJamp MP, the same software that Apple was in the process of acquiring to create iTunes.

"Jobs insisted we cut this feature claiming it undermined QuickTime," continues Grewal. "Some time after the launch of MacIE 5, Apple acquired SoundJam and its development team. It was released by Apple under the name iTunes. We cut the feature and deeply regretted it."

For that January 5, 2000 announcement, Internet Explorer 5 for Mac would be included in Steve Jobs's keynote instead of getting a regular demo from a Microsoft executive.

"It was quite an unusual request. Talking points were agreed, but much to our dismay Jobs didn't mention a single one," says Grewal.






Instead, Jobs "implied" that the overall look of the browser was a result of it using Apple's standards.

"But other than the scroll bars and window controls, the rest was generated by the UI code in the app and looked identical in the Mac OS 9 version," says Grewal. "From the horizontal pin-stripped background of the toolbars, to the 24-bit semi translucent buttons and Gaussian-blurred menu backgrounds, none of it was part of Apple's Aqua UI elements in the Carbon toolbox... yet to the casual observer they were almost indistinguishable."

Despite Jobs ignoring the agreed points, and despite later regrets about cutting the Media Toolbar, Grewel says that he and the team were proud of the app.

"The response to MacIE 5 at Macworld and by the press was better than we had hoped, probably helped by the fact that it looked great and very similar to some of Apple's own apps running under the yet-to-be-released Mac OS X," he says. "We were all proud of the work we had done, the critical acclaim, and the enthusiasm of Mac users who had traditionally frowned upon Microsoft's past efforts to build Mac software."

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 for Macintosh was released on March 27, 2000. Its final version was released in 2003.

Shortly afterwards, Jimmy Grewal left Microsoft. Writing in 2005 about his experiences with Internet Explorer he said Apple "was a pain in the ass sometimes."

"For a company with such great PR, they really were very unprofessional and treated developers poorly. I know that the OS X transition was tough, but there are so many stories I could tell of stupidity at Apple and policies which made no sense," he wrote.

"There were times during the last two years of working at Microsoft that I really hated Apple's management," he continued, "which was very difficult for me being such a loyal fan of their products and having so many friends who worked there."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,961member
    I really miss Jobs' presentation style and energy. 
    jeffharrismac_dogwatto_cobra2stepbaysvanstromGeorgeBMaccornchipjony0
  • Reply 2 of 35
    M68000M68000 Posts: 530member
    IE 5 for Mac was just so cool, it really was awesome at the time.  I was not much of a Microsoft fan at that time but they really did a great job with this browser.   I think I had it running on the Mac G4 cube.   The G4 cube was cool - today I have a Mac mini sitting on top of clear plastic stand, not exact same look but that's where the idea came from.
    ramanpfaffwatto_cobracornchip
  • Reply 3 of 35
    I believe that IE for Mac was actually the Windows code running under some slow Microsoft emulation libraries for the Mac.  It was horrible.
    The Safari derived Chrome browser runs better on Windows than IE today.  IE Javascript performance is the worst.
    baconstangjeffharrisElCapitanmac_doglkruppwatto_cobracornchipjony0
  • Reply 4 of 35
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,265member
    Yeah, if it's PITA under Jobs then it must means it's better to the user!

    But Tim?  Pfffff...
    watto_cobra2stepbay
  • Reply 5 of 35
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    I believe that IE for Mac was actually the Windows code running under some slow Microsoft emulation libraries for the Mac.  It was horrible.
    The Safari derived Chrome browser runs better on Windows than IE today.  IE Javascript performance is the worst.
    1) Your comment lost me. I don't recall IE for Mac being emulated. It didn't even use the same layout engine as IE for Windows. It is, however, MS code running on the Mac, as noted by the article that it was created in secret by MS in San Jose for the Mac.

    2) I don't recall Chrome ever being derived from Safari. They certainly used the WebKit engine in Safari to create their own browser, which they eventually forked.

    PS: Remember when Apple obtained WebKit and the iPhone launched without websites being idealize for either the engine or the device? How things changed in quickly.
    watto_cobraJWSCcornchip
  • Reply 6 of 35
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,334member
    Back then there was a big concern that IE would be axed on the Mac. IE did not follow web standards, it intentionally avoided them to strengthen its monopoly, so if you built a site that followed web standards and did not work on IE, your site would have a terrible experience for 99% of your visitors. That is why Apple had to build their own browser.

    I remember commenting that Apple should build their own browser, the forum lit up with haters and how that would be such a stupid idea. Safari was introduced a year later :smile: 

    IE on the Mac sucked more than its Windows counterpart. 
    caladanianbaconstangjeffharrislkruppmwhitepscooter63neo-techwozwozwatto_cobraentropys
  • Reply 7 of 35
    I used IE on my first Mac... for about 3 months.
    Then Safari came out and I never went back.
    jeffharriswatto_cobracornchipjony0
  • Reply 8 of 35
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,278member
    It's amusing that they claim that IE5's interface design was "almost indistinguishable". 

    No. 

    It was nice that it had coloured highlights that almost entirely mismatched the colours and design of the Macs at the time, but the thing looked like a skinned OS 9 app, not like an Aqua app at all. 

    And yes, it was obvious at the time, especially if you'd been using OS X at all, where Omniweb was the browser of choice — a posterchild for adherence to Apple's development and design rules. 
    bloggerblogStrangeDaysmobirdpscooter63neo-techwatto_cobracornchiptaugust04_aijony0
  • Reply 9 of 35
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,334member
    spheric said:
    It's amusing that they claim that IE5's interface design was "almost indistinguishable". 

    No. 
    Exactly! It looked like a badly aped OSX design. 

    The IE icon. “... and for the final touch I’ll add a generic photoshop emboss filter, aaaaand there you go! That’ll be fifty bucks thank you very much.”
    sphericElCapitanwatto_cobraGabycornchiptaugust04_aijony0
  • Reply 10 of 35
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,408member
    One thing is sure: Jobs was a dick. He wasn’t a “people person’’. Thanks, Steve. Always looking out for yourself and Apple.
    ElCapitanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 35
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,961member
    Soli said:
    I believe that IE for Mac was actually the Windows code running under some slow Microsoft emulation libraries for the Mac.  It was horrible.
    The Safari derived Chrome browser runs better on Windows than IE today.  IE Javascript performance is the worst.
    1) Your comment lost me. I don't recall IE for Mac being emulated. It didn't even use the same layout engine as IE for Windows. It is, however, MS code running on the Mac, as noted by the article that it was created in secret by MS in San Jose for the Mac.

    2) I don't recall Chrome ever being derived from Safari. They certainly used the WebKit engine in Safari to create their own browser, which they eventually forked.

    PS: Remember when Apple obtained WebKit and the iPhone launched without websites being idealize for either the engine or the device? How things changed in quickly.

    Apple didn't "obtain" WebKit... they created WebKit... it was a fork from the KDE's HTML and JavaScript engines.
    The WebKit project was started within Apple by Don Melton on June 25, 2001,[13] as a fork of KHTML and KJS.

    For a while, Apple continued to contribute their changes back to the open-source KHTML project, but eventually that stopped because the two projects diverged too much. WebKit lives on as an open-source project heavily invested into by Apple. Chrome initially used it, but eventually forked their own "Blink" project.

    KHTML/KJS   >   WebKit/WebCore/JavaScriptCore   >   Blink


    edited January 2020 StrangeDaysmacxpresswatto_cobrabaconstangmdriftmeyersvanstromtaugust04_ai
  • Reply 12 of 35
    What?! Who cares about this devs/students opinion?!
    watto_cobrabaconstangGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 13 of 35
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    BennyNo said:
    What?! Who cares about this devs/students opinion?!
    Grow up.
    spheric
  • Reply 14 of 35
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,016member
    What I remembered back then is a bit faded.  Why did Microsoft even care what Steve Jobs wanted or not?  It's not like Jobs could have prevented IE5 from being downloaded and used in whatever version the original devs wanted right?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 35
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,313member
    "So did Steve see our Summer 1999 New Look demo and tell his team to create Aqua?"

    I’m thinking no. 
    watto_cobrabaconstangGeorgeBMaccornchip
  • Reply 16 of 35
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,313member
    eriamjh said:
    One thing is sure: Jobs was a dick. He wasn’t a “people person’’. Thanks, Steve. Always looking out for yourself and Apple.
    So you knew him well then? Yeah no. He certainly was looking out for Apple, that is sure. That it ruffled some feathers from people at Microsoft means nothing. As for being a people person in general, it depends who you ask. If you read Andy Hertzfeld’s book you’ll hear about his charisma and ability to win friends and influence people. But also his wrath. The two are not mutually exclusive. Being considered a dick is not rare; I’ve met countless dicks, but none of them made a dent in the universe by cresting the most successfully public company in history with an eye for excellent design. Shrug. 
    edited January 2020 lkruppmwhiteRayz2016pscooter63watto_cobrabaconstang2stepbayGeorgeBMaccornchip
  • Reply 17 of 35
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,265member
    dysamoria said:
    BennyNo said:
    What?! Who cares about this devs/students opinion?!
    Grow up.
    You both need to grow up.
    Rayz2016pscooter63watto_cobrabaconstangGeorgeBMacfastasleep
  • Reply 18 of 35
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 196member
    I really miss Jobs' presentation style and energy. 

    Even better, those keynotes could be attended by the unwashed masses, and not just the select few invited to Cupertino, as it is now.

    In general, the internet has caused trade shows to suffer along with a lot of other things, but the Macworld Expos were great events.

    It was easy to time when new Apple stuff would appear, and after the keynote, one could hit to the show floor to check out the new goods, and directly harass Apple employees from a specific team about that particular bug they hadn't fixed.  Then grab a few posters or pins, and other swag.

    Was even easier to do with the smaller companies where you could be speaking to the programmer themselves.

    But times change, and sadly, the later events ended up as little more than iDevice accessory showcases.

    IE5 was arguably the best Mac browser at the time, and was an important bridge to Safari.  More importantly, the beginning of the Jobs II Era brought hope to those who had stuck out the bad times, though Power Computing's "Fight Back for Mac" campaign was brilliant.
    watto_cobra2stepbaytobiancornchip
  • Reply 19 of 35
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,816member
    I had a booth at Macworld Tokyo in Feb 2000.  Apple was still doing their OS X roadshow and the atmosphere at the show was very electric.  I don’t remember much about IE on OS X in the early days except it was what we used and it sort of “matched” the look that OS X was coming out with.  Not in an Apple-native way but in a 3rd party best effort way, which back then was appreciated and a good effort.  OS X was new and exciting — especially for those of us who had been using OpenStep and the Rhapsody. The Mac under OS X was not yet the refined slick product it later became as people got OS X experience under their belts.  The Omni Group had the best set of apps (in terms of look and feel) as they had come from OpenStep and were made with the API of the future — Cocoa.    Mac IE was made with Carbon and was the attempt at using the modern UI on the older Mac Toolbox API. 
    watto_cobraGeorgeBMacrandominternetpersontobian
  • Reply 20 of 35
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,628member
    Interesting read and historical perspective of a collaborative effort between Microsoft and Apple. Other than the big names involved at the macro level and the obvious public visibility I didn’t see anything extraordinary from any number of cutting-edge software development projects. Software developers operating in the trenches don’t always see all of the moving parts that are spinning at the strategic level, so decisions and changes imposed on the tactical team from up above can seem heavy handed and even callous. That’s just the reality of business and authentic leaders like Steve Jobs take their responsibility for preserving the long term success of the business very seriously and do what they need to do to deliver on the big picture. 
    pscooter63hcrefugeewatto_cobrarazorpitrandominternetpersonStrangeDays
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