October 18, 2017 6:02 am

Documenting the Web together

By / Dev Writer, Microsoft Edge

Today, we’re excited to share some big news for developers around the world wide web: We’re committing our resources towards making MDN Web Docs the best place to go for web API reference. To kick things off, today we started redirecting over 7,700 MSDN pages to corresponding topics in the MDN web docs library powered by Mozilla.

In conjunction with similar commitments from Mozilla, Google, the W3C, and Samsung, we’re teaming up to make MDN Web Docs the best place for web developers to learn and share information about building for the open web.

Illustrations showing the Microsoft and MDN Web Docs logos surrounding a handshake icon

MDN is a core part of Mozilla’s overarching mission: to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. We believe providing web developers the best possible information will enable them to deliver great web experiences that adhere to established standards and work across platforms and devices. We are excited to have Microsoft, Google, The W3C, and Samsung on board as we continue on our journey to make MDN the premiere resource for developers.

— Ali Spivak, Head of Developer Ecosystem at Mozilla

Representatives from each of these organizations will also be serving on the MDN Product Advisory Board, a committee dedicated to making MDN your definitive place for useful, unbiased, browser-agnostic documentation for current and emerging standards-based web technologies. The MDN Product Advisory Board is also looking for active individuals from the web community to serve on the board. If you’re interested, find more details on MDN web docs.

Web docs should just work for everyone

Redirecting our API reference library to MDN is the next step towards consolidating our compatibility info in the same place you probably already frequent for general web documentation. Earlier this year, we began the effort to backfill the MDN browser Compatibility tables with a column representing the Microsoft Edge browser.

Over 5000 MDN edits later, the entire web API surface of Microsoft Edge (as of the 10/2017 Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Build 16299) is now documented on MDN, and will continue to be kept up-to-date with each new release of Windows and our EdgeHTML browser engine.

One of our guiding principles in developing Microsoft Edge is that end users should never have to worry about which sites work in which browsers. This philosophy—”the Web should just work for everyone“—led to our choice to target the “interoperable intersection” of web APIs in our browser engineering.

Just like with end users, we think it’s well overdue for developers to have a simpler view of web standards documentation. Developers shouldn’t have to chase down API documentation across standards bodies, browser vendors, and third parties—there should be a single, canonical source which is community-maintained and supported by all major vendors.

For these reasons we’re all-in on making MDN the home of web standards documentation. Not only is MDN a veritable encyclopedia and thriving community of all things web development, it’s also an institution in itself–a living monument to our collective history—as web developers and enthusiasts, web standards advocates, and browser engineers–of developing the web forward.

Documenting the web forward

MDN was founded over 10 years ago in 2005 as the Mozilla Developer Center and later become known as the Mozilla Developer Network. Just as the Mozilla Organization was founded out of Netscape, the Mozilla Developer Center grew from the original Netscape Navigator browser docs.

Similarly, the Internet Explorer Developer Center was first published online from the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) several years before that in the late 90s to help introduce and showcase Dynamic HTML (“DHTML”), Microsoft’s precursor to the modern DOM and CSS object model.

Screen capture of Microsoft Internet Explorer Developer Center on MSDN Online, circa 2000. Courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Microsoft Internet Explorer Developer Center on MSDN Online, circa 2000. Courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Fast forward to the modern web platform of today. The competing Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers from the bygone era of the early web are now subjects of tech archaeology, not site compatibility testing. From the final releases of IE culminating with the birth of Microsoft Edge, we replaced earlier Microsoft technologies with emerging industry standards–the modern DOM and ECMAScript standards for DHTML and VBScript, HTML5 for ActiveX, a common browser extension model for Browser Helper Objects (“BHOs”).

Through all this change, MDN has grown up alongside the web, and today has over 34,500 documents, 6 million monthly users and 20,500 contributors. From its initial Netscape product docs, the breadth and depth of MDN’s content has radically expanded to encompass the state of the art of modern web development—so much so that recently the site was restructured and rebranded to reflect MDN’s commitment to being a browser-neutral community resource. We are excited to join Mozilla, Google, The W3C, and Samsung in making MDN our home for web standards documentation and dedicated to helping it grow even further to meet your needs.

We will continue to maintain Microsoft- and Windows-focused documentation on Microsoft Docs (docs.microsoft.com/microsoft-edge), including Windows-specific test guidance, information on the Edge DevTools, and upcoming details about Progressive Web Apps in the Windows Store. And you’ll still find the latest Microsoft Edge status, changelogs, and news at our Microsoft Edge Developer site (dev.microsoftedge.com).

Please join us in supporting and contributing to MDN web docs! We’re all building this Web together; let’s document our hard work!

— Erika Doyle Navara, Senior Dev Writer

Updated June 28, 2018 8:00 am

Join the conversation

  1. This is a great move. The MDN docs are the best source for web info.

    I am concerned that some information is being lost. Old IE API’s like Element.removeNode(bool) are missing completely from MDN and window.showModalDialog() is missing a few pages of IE specific remarks. This documentation is very important for developers who are maintaining or upgrading legacy web apps. IE with compatibility mode is still out there and running for a good reason.

    In these cases it is a little like burning books and pretending the past did not exist.

    • We are in the process of selectively porting over information from our MSDN sources that arn’t accounted for on MDN. IE (and Edge) specific remarks will be added to the “Browser compatibility” sections of MDN reference pages. If you have specific APIs or areas you’d like to see frontloaded, please file an issue on our Github repo: https://github.com/MicrosoftDocs/edge-developer


    • I think most of it’s probably still on web.archive.org, and some stuff is still live on MSDN anyway. Though I admit it might be hard to find the URLs now :-(.

  2. Moving the docs is the first step closing the development on Edge. After all, to quote your CEO: who needs a 3rd browser?
    Joke aside, good to have one stop to go for docs. Google always only showed the MDN links anyway and MSDN docs always have been a huge MESS.

  3. Not duplicating one another is fine, but how the hell am I supposed to look up Edge specific quirks? For example right now I’m getting “SCRIPT1168 Element not found” when I try to use e.dataTransfer.setData in a dragstart handler. Reading the MDN page does me no good whatsoever, that’s where I started and my code works find in FF and Chrome. It’s only Edge that throws the error. I need EDGE documentation.

  4. I was excited about this when Charles announced this at the Dev Summit last month! I have already signed up on MDN and look forward to maybe making the web a better place 🙂

  5. Hmm, I had started to notice that MS IE/Edge documentation had started linking, or flat-out redirecting, to MDN recently. Nice to see an official statement about it, too!

    However, I’m a little confused by this bit: “In conjunction with similar commitments from Mozilla, Google, the W3C, and Samsung”.

    #1, why would Mozilla need to state their commitment now? It’s *their* wiki, and while there’s generally been a bit more detail about what Mozilla implements, it was fairly clear that this was because most of the contributors were more familiar with Mozilla, not because they didn’t *want* to have the same level of detail about other browsers.

    #2, did the W3C make a real browser recently?