Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Open letter to Internet Explorer users, time to get a real browser

It is time for users to move on to much greener pastures. The Internet is evolving rapidly and Internet Explorer is incapable of delivering a complete Internet experience. It is directly responsible for holding back Internet technology and advanced features for years, but times are changing.

Strike 1: Least common denominator

The point of web development is ultimately to reach users. In order to broaden the audience as much as possible, all major browsers are to be supported. The good news is that FireFox, Safari, and Chrome are all very easy to support with their compliance to the standards. In fact they take almost no effort at all to support if the web sites are designed by the standards. Sounds simple right, not so fast!

The bad news is that Internet Explorer, not only does not support the standards, it goes out of its way to corrupt them. Often the choice is to make a web site for IE or for everyone else. It could be that this was an intentional strategy as for many years it kept people using Explorer because some web sites added non-standard content excluding all the competition. Luckily, these sites have been forced by their customers to drop that policy.

In the end, most sites have to reduce their features and slow acceptance of new technologies because Internet Explorer cannot handle it. This is a punishment handed down by Microsoft to all Internet users regardless of what browser they use.

Strike 2: Too expensive to support

Internet Explorer is not even compatible with itself making every release, often even minor ones, a costly effort to support. The changes between versions are so extreme that one really has to question if Microsoft's intent is to destroy the Internet. In all seriousness, a typical web site ends up having to have a separate style sheet for each version of IE and a JavaScript page to fix its quarks. On top of that, normal web pages are riddled with custom Explorer tags (a.k.a. hacks) to work around the endless of bugs it has.

It is very often the case that more time is spent creating Explorer workarounds than creating the content and supporting all the other browsers combined. This is ridiculous. Microsoft should have to pay everyone to support its products, then they might improve its quality.

Strike 3: Performance is a joke

Just look at the benchmarks not provided by Microsoft or better yet try to do something in Explorer side by side with the competition. The difference in speed is astounding. This is not just page load time either. Explorer is 10 to 20 times slower than the competition at JavaScript execution which is a primary part of web technology. This detail makes IE so slow that it cannot even run many web applications.

Strike 4: Poor technology support

Internet Explorer puts all its focus into Microsoft-only technologies. When it comes to standard technologies that all browsers need on the Internet like HTML, JavaScript and CSS Explorer seems to have gone out of its way to get it wrong effectively corrupting the standards. If users are interested in using the Internet, they are much better served using just about any other browser.

Strike 5: Using a monopoly to cause harm to everyone

Since Microsoft has enjoyed a monopoly with its windows operating system, it used that power to force users to use its browser. This fact has been proven in a court of law during its anti-trust case. Still today, most web sites feel they are forced to support Explorer because this user base of victims is very large.

The good news is that Explorer no longer holds the majority of users and its influence is declining every day. This change has forced web sites to build to the standards to support other browsers instead of using Microsoft-only technologies. This trend is moving like an avalanche right now so much so that sites are starting to refuse to support Internet Explorer.

Strike 6: A company with no business interest in improvement

This is the final nail in the coffin. Microsoft has no reason to change its strategy. They have a long standing reputation as a company that only supports its own interests. Having advanced open web technology weakens the position of all its products from Windows to its profitable office suite. It is in their interest to prevent a solid Internet experience, especially one that does not run on Windows like the vast majority of the Internet is today.

The new world order

Everyone deserves a full and rich Internet experience. There is really no excuse for anyone to suffer with Internet Explorer anymore. There are many great choices in Web Browsers available for Windows users that can provide a quality Internet experience like FireFox, Chrome and Safari. All of them are free and all of them have worked around Microsoft's past attempts to make it hard for users to download and install them.

Web sites no longer need to support Internet Explorer. They can now take the money saved, add new features and still have plenty for the bank. It is the end of era, but the beginning of something much better.

Still resistant to change?

At the very least, users should upgrade to IE8 as that is one step closer to standards compliance. However, as it fixes some of the more annoying compatibility issues, users are likely to experience a lot of poorly formated web sites since many sites had previously been hacked up for the older Explorer versions. Also, be warned, that browser is still buggy so some things may not work. Even a loyalist will have to admit users might be better off just using a different browser because most sites do not include Explorer hacks in pages served to non-explorer browsers.

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