IE Users: You’re Screwing Up The Web For All of Us

You may not know this, but if you use Internet Explorer, you’re slowing down the progress of the internet.

Most people merely visit websites. They don’t develop them. They don’t make applications for them. They don’t need to manage data flow into and out of them. They just visit them. Therefore, they don’t think much about what’s happening as they click from one place to another.

Those who design for the internet, however, will tell you that doing so is made magnitudes more difficult by the boneheads at Microsoft. Their quest to keep open standards at bay, given how much they long for the days when their monopoly was intact, have led them to infect Internet Explorer and other software with proprietary ways of doing things.

That’s fine when you’re writing a letter to mom. You don’t care how your word processor makes a paragraph a paragraph. It’s not fine online, however. Imagine designing a web interface that looks beautiful on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and — oops! — not Internet Explorer. Sounds like a rare, unfortunate occurence, right? Nope. It happens every darned time. IE is the dipstick kid in the dunce cap who never frickin’ gets it.

And you know what? That dipstick is holding the whole room back. Think how far ahead we’d be if we didn’t have to keep stopping to figure out how to make everything work with the dipstick. Simple stuff, like displaying images where you place them, the stupid kid still can’t do!

When I write stupid, I mean stupid. You wouldn’t believe the workarounds designers have to devise to make perfectly functional and standards-based websites work with the dipstick. Imagine, every browser understands 1+1=2. Fine, until you get to IE, and then you have to go through something like this: [if this user is stuck seeing the web with the dipstick] [then] [teach the dipstick how to get to 2 this way] (456+342-432-356) / 5 = 2. No wonder IE is the slowest browser made.

Such a browser should be relegated to a tiny minority of online users who, frankly, still think the world is flat. Instead, it’s the most widely used browser because it’s bundled on every PC and few people know that fresh air is only a free click and download away. On platforms that don’t include IE, such as Macs, it’s not even available. That should tell you something. Nobody, when forced to make a choice, chooses it. If we could just get a few more PC users to wake up and insist on standards-based browsers, which happen to sport better user interfaces and offer features you’ll wonder how you ever lived without, then we might be able to stop slowing everybody down for the dipstick.

So, if you’re reading this on IE, do yourself and everybody else online a huge favor and get with modern times. Download and install either Chrome or Firefox, and know that you’ve done a good deed even as you improved your own online experience.

From all of us online, thank you.

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33 Comments

  1. Nick
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    As a developer I can say that all browsers seem to fall short of the mark in one area or another. While it seems fashionable to attack Microsoft, especially from the Apple and Linux user crowds, it’s typically a very low brow bashing with very little real information or merit. I have found that if you program in a standards complient way the browsers will work in a uniform way. Sometimes one or anther browser has issues. I can not count the number of times that something worked fine in IE but didn’t in Firefox. I find very little discussion on that mark from the IE hating crowds, mostly because it goes against the point they want to make. It’s no different than skewing statistics to support your conclusions. I would say IE 8 has made great strides to resolve a lot of the issues you guys are having. It still maintains a quirks mode, but if you know how to really write a web page, like I do, you can get it into standards mode. So what about learning how to really program instead of complaining about the most popular browser on the market. I use IE all the time, mostly because that is the market. I program for the market. So instead of knee jerk reactions against the market, why not work with it an reap the benefits of a larger, happier user base.

  2. Costantino
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    Hi! As a developer I can only agree! When we have the requirement to write a web application that has as target-platforms also IE we plan always 30% more time!

  3. David Brown
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Totally agree, Microsoft not just internet explorer. I can’t tell you the number of sites I have to use an IE tab on Chrome. This is because Microsoft deviates from standard HTML.

    Great work and thanks for the effort

    Dave

  4. jeff nabors
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    yup, run into it all the time. wont open up my emails because they arent microsoft compatable.

  5. Hank Williams
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately a large majority of internet traffic is generated from business users. These users often do not have a choice of browser becuase they lack adminsitrator rights on their PCs. In the corporate world IE is significantly easier to manage and patch on a grand scale, thus it remains the standard.

  6. Vahid
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    A big thank you from a software engineer.

  7. Chas.
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Jason:

    Great article.

    The first time I saw S. Ballmer on TV I thought: Should be a football team manger.

    Chas.

  8. Aviv
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, MSFT is a big company, and like every big company – they make some things right, and some (many?) things wrong. I use IE, Firefox and Chrome in parallel. Like them all.
    Unlike a strong functional application (like a word processor or email client) – why is this religious attachment to a browser?

    Nonetheless, I am a developer, and I was there in 94-95 when the “web thing” just started … and while MSFT was LATE LATE LATE to the game – IE 3 (!) and then IE 4 were a fresh wave of sanity with the stupid STUPID things Netscape was doing at the time – a new release every 6-8 weeks, and introducing new HTML tags as whims of every last developer on the team “let me show them how creative I am” ( anyone?). IE / MSFT came with STANDARD ways to extend browser behavior, XML parser as part of the environment, XML islands – and even the mother of all AJAX – XMLHTTP, and first great example of AJAX use with Outlook Web Access, YEARS before Gmail. Microsoft was later one of the first leading forces and adopters of Web Services, helping making it what it is today, while working with the industry; yes, they do it once in a while 😉

    So, let us all – including you Jason – be a bit humble.
    IE is NOT killing the industry. Microsoft is forced by the market to come up with new releases – IE 8.0 and IE 9.0 later this year, and this is great for everybody. At the end of the day, this is all about users’ choice, and I am happy we all have more choice.
    This is like saying Apple is killing the industry by not supporting Flash (when will you bash Apple a little after “getting rid of it” at ~$150/share?!) … oh, come on.

    Respectfully, Aviv.

  9. Todd in Taiwan
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m not much of a MS basher either. I try not to be “anti” anything rather “pro” something. Like I am definitely pro-Chrome. I haven’t used IE for years. But without MS we might still be sending our letters with stamps, well maybe not but we wouldn’t be where we are. I think capitalism will take it’s course and the best will eventually prevail, maybe not as fast as we’d like. Of course if the US government takes over the internet and turns it into a commodity, we maybe using the Obamafox® browser (don’t bother I already own the trademark)

    Go Buffs

  10. Josh Coen
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Jason,

    I think you are off with some of this. While I agree that IE may be slower than other browsers and may be difficult to design for, no one is forcing me, or anyone else to use it.

    Yes, IE comes installed on every windows box, but that isn’t stopping anyone from using another browser. Just because it’s hard to design for doesn’t mean me, as a user, should switch to something else for the designers benefit. The designer is getting paid (in some form) to design a website for the user. If I choose to use IE out of familiarity, loyalty, or ignorance should be of no consequence.

    IE utilized in windows enterprise environments (which is a large portion of all enterprise environments) makes sense because policies integrate much easier and cause less overhead, which is considerable if you have 20,000+ users. Should corporations change a portion of their infrastructure (application and security) so that developers don’t have to code websites for a browser that currently owns 60% of the web browser space?

    I personally use firefox at home and like it much more than IE, but when I use any current, up-to-date browser I expect websites to render equally, or close to it.

    -Josh

  11. Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely true! My businesses have had to do exactly what you describe- custom design archaic scripts for our websites to accommodate the differences between IE and all the rest. And there is no reason, except MS wanting to maintain domination. They know that programmers must configure for the most highly used browser (IE) and by making that a maze, they hope to exclude configurations for the others. Forced marketing (limiting choices) instead of marketing based on quality and performance, wasting programming money, slowing development and slowing the entire net. We use Firefox exclusively, except when we can’t. I still run into a few sites that just won’t run on anything but IE, even a couple that wouldn’t run using Firefox’s IE tab plug-in.

    In the end, taking this course this will come back to haunt Microsoft. The sooner the better.

  12. Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Ok, so I’m a developer but not on the web. I didn’t know about IE’s lack of compliance but not surprised. However, it doesn’t gist with my experience so far.

    I tried switching to Firefox at work. Too many web sites told me I need IE to run properly. I had to keep switching back to IE so much I just gave up on Firefox. And it was any faster either. Had particular trouble with the enterprise applications at my company, but other stuff too. I think maybe there are more dunce programmers out there who just program for IE and don’t bother with using open standards. Maybe we need a rebellion to get started.

    Then I tried to use Chrome on my Mac at home. I immediately hated the UI. I like to see my favorites list on one drop down but Chrome forced me to drop down two levels to see them. I don’t remember the other stuff but I found it unintuitive. They say its faster but it looked to me like a gimmick – putting off the image loads until last so you see the content faster and then graphics fill it later. That’s how Netscape did it. No big deal if that’s the extent.

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Finally, a Chrome non-lover for a little balance! The interface preference is subjective so we can forgive any one browser for not appealing to everybody, but its IE’s non-standard interpretation of pages that is an objective fact and reason enough to hate the thing. The reason sites say you need IE to show them properly is that the owners had to follow all the silly rules of IE to make the sites work on it, and then those sites no longer work elsewhere. However, there are standards to which all browsers are supposed to comply so we don’t run into the issue of sites not working on some browsers. All browsers do that except one, IE.

      So, what they’re really saying is, “Our site is made the wrong way so it would work with IE, therefore it won’t work on browsers that show sites the right way. Sorry.”

  13. Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    As a developer/webmaster of several sites – I can empathize with the frustration with IE.
    I can’t count the number of times that a new page ready for publishing looked exactly as I wanted it to look in Chrome (my browser of choice) and Firefox…only to find out later…often from a friend checking out the site…that something was not displaying correctly in IE.
    Jason, this is my first peek at your new site. Looks great! Are you using WordPress? Just switched from a hosted SquareSpace.com blog to a self-hosted WordPress site for my Tripfinder.com blog and am very pleased with the look and functionality. – Lyn

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Lyn! Yes, we made the move from a raw HTML base with Blogger embedded, to a fully self-hosted WordPress site. The non-blog areas are still managed inside WordPress via its pages feature. WordPress is really a content management system (CMS), not just a blogging system, and offered all the features we needed for our new business plan goals.

      WordPress is fantastic. I recommend it. Even it, however, has to deal with IE’s goofiness with so many features that work everywhere except IE. What a joke! Thank goodness Microsoft doesn’t make cars. Those who bought them wouldn’t be able to fill up at the best gas stations in town.

  14. Steve
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Great article!! You hit the nail on the head. Open standards are the way progress is made. Monopolies and software patents are not. I am a web developer and am forced to support IE, but if I had a choice, I would not. Microsoft doesn’t even have standards across the different versions of IE which makes supporting IE6, IE7, and IE8 even more of a pain as you have to specifically test against each different version, and what works in one, generally does not work in the other.

    Also, we never use IE at home. This is for security reasons. The majority of those who write computer viruses and malware target IE. So you are much better off using an alternate browser as there is less chance of getting attacked.

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Right, IE can’t even agree among its different versions as to how to interpret web code. We’re considering putting an alert at our sites that says, “This site not compatible with IE, and we don’t care anymore. Click here to get a real browser and then come back.” The “here” would go to Chrome’s download site. If all site owners would finally throw up their hands that way, Microsoft would be forced to get with the times.

  15. Zack
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I use Safari on my Macbook and switch to Chrome when on my wife’s PC. My wife sticks with IE on her PC. She doesn’t use the internet as much as I do. She uses IE because she doesn’t like to learn anything new, and I think that represents most people. She doesn’t know about or use 99% of the features on web browsers. She doesn’t notice the differences because she spends a minimal amount of time online. Most people just check their email, check the weather/news, do minimal shopping, and go to youtube. IE works sufficiently for people who just do those basic things… but does not hold a candle to Chrome/Safari in speed/simplicity, nor to Firefox for features/security.

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Good point. My mother and friends’ mothers, for example, aren’t even aware that they’re using software when they browse the internet, any more than they think about what’s happening inside the TV when they turn it on. However, the same way somebody going from the ol’ big box family TV to a sleek new flat screen would notice the difference, so would somebody going from IE to just about any other browser, certainly Chrome.

  16. Anon Coward
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Ugh. The browser war rages beyond 1993? Okay, they all don’t agree. This story is old.

    You would be better to focus on the lock down that Apple imposes on web tech and media distribution. That walled garden threatens open standards more so than the now irrelevant Internet Explorer.

    …back to picking stocks…

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Thing is, we have to keep complaining about Internet Explorer because the dog persists and even after all these years of being the worst choice, remains the most widely used. One has to wonder, don’t Microsoft engineers read any reviews of their software? Could they really think their interface, features, performance, and non-standard interpretation of web coding are good? I wonder if any of them actually use IE at home?

      • Andrew Yeh
        Posted June 17, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        I think that Microsoft knows its products are bad, but they don’t care. Its just the lack of competition. I noticed that ever since Google and Apple and everyone else started completely crushing their products, Microsoft has toned up the quality a bit: Windows 7 is a good operating system (OS X & Chrome OS); Bing is a competitive search engine (Google); the new hotmail (Gmail) is actually quite good.

  17. Gaby
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    As bad as IE 7 was, the new IE8 is like the dunce kid’s even slower brother. I flip between FireFox and Chrome now. I only used to keep IE for Windows updates but nor necessary anymore with Windows 7. IE 8 has a thoroughly useless compatibility view mode.

  18. geoffrey
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Why all the MS bashing? 🙂 Truth told, I haven’t used IE in years. When Firefox introduced tabbed browsing some years back, I was sold and other than applying Windows updates, haven’t really used IE since.

    I’m not really a Chrome supporter (or anything Google for that matter, beyond search). Google’s privacy policies concern me. I do, however, occasionally dawdle with Chromium (Chrome’s open source equivalent). On a side note, I’ve noticed that Safari 5 is very similar to Chrome. Turns out that Safari and Chrome use the same Webkit engine, so they are functionally very similar at their core. For now, I still stick with Firefox. Although Firefox seems to be slower in recent releases, rumor has it that performance will improve quite a bit in v4 (11/2010), so we shall see.

    I’m a Windows user for 98% of my work, and I think MS gets some unfair scrutiny. I really don’t have too many OS-related problems, and when I do it’s usually my fault. Win7 is pretty solid and I have a machine that cost me $1300 that would have easily been north of $2500 if it had a cute little Apple logo on it, with comparative specs. I am interested in the new Mac Mini, though. I’m thinking about picking one of those up as a toybox. Maybe I’ll be enamored by Mac and will make the switch.

  19. Matt
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Any of us who have even tinkered with web development know exactly what you’re talking about here. As a case in point, the Web Standards Project has created several “Acid” tests that determine how well a browser meets standards.

    The test can be found here: http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid3/

    The images in the test look rudimentary, but actually thoroughly test a wide set of standards. When I tested Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and IE, I received the following results:

    Chrome 5.0.375.70: Pass with 100 out of 100
    Safari 4.0.5: Pass with 100 out of 100
    FireFox 3.6.3: Fail, but close with 94 of 100
    IE 8.0.6: Fail (big time) with 20 of 100

    Disclosure: No holdings in Microsoft. I don’t have any active involvement in the Web Standards Project (though I probably should).

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Pathetic. What does it say about humanity that the most widely used browser is the one that fails 80% of the time? No wonder we can’t solve any big problems on this planet.

  20. Andrew Yeh
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I completely agree. I would like to add that installing a new browser only takes a couple of minutes and doesn’t require administrative privileges.

  21. CHRIS - DENVER, CO
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I switched to Chrome from Firefox a few months back and have never looked back. Chrome is the fastest browser I’ve used. Chrome is 10x better than Firefox, which was 100x better than Internet Explorer.

    Chrome was designed w/ intelligence and purpose. It makes excellent use of the screen area. For example, the tabs are on the top bar to free up 1/2″ instead of underneath everything else, the address bar also functions as a Google search, the icons, links, and options take up far less space on Chrome than other browsers. There isn’t even a ring around the screen to take up space.

    On top of all that, did I mention it’s amazingly fast and simple? I’ve already switched my home, work, girlfriends computers. My brother tried out Chrome and also wondered why we didn’t switch sooner.

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      I couldn’t agree more, and am not sure how I got work done prior to Chrome. It’s that good. To your list of cool features, I would add the amazing bookmark management, historical search capability, and the tear-off tabs that can create another browser session right next to your multi-tabbed original window, making things like transferring data from one website to another a snap. The more I watch this Google company, the more I think they ought to do internet work for a living!

  22. Matt
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering why your front page does not move older posts to another screen. Everyday, the scroll bar gets smaller and smaller. I like to go down and see other comments, tags, and pages. It slows me down

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      The page is set to show the 10 most recent posts. Are you seeing more than 10? The scroll bar shouldn’t be getting much longer because one article is removed from the bottom each time I add a new one to the top. Unless the new one is much longer than the old one, the length of the page should stay roughly the same over time. If your page shows more than 10 posts, you must be using IE. Aha! There’s the problem.

  23. rick forno
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Amen, Jason!

    IE is a horrible browser for a variety of reasons, both in terms of content display and security. But since MSFt was able to get it onto all its machines (and deeply integrated into Windows OS) it’s become the ‘standard’ for the great unwashed masses of Netizens who think IE is the only choice. (As a securitygeek and technologist, I’m really biting my tongue here — but my opinion of IE is not a positive one.) But for years, MSFT wanted its standards to be THE standards for the Net, and we’re continuing to deal with the fallout of that effort in the late 90s. I use Firefox and am quite happy with it.

    For that matter, Outlook for e-mail isn’t much better in terms of product design (monolithic PST file for everything = dangerous and slow) or security. In fact, when I send email to someone who reads it in Outlook, my messages are setup to pop up a warning flag in the recipient’s email message window that reads “Warning! Are you sure you want to use Outlook for your e-mail?” … it’s my own way of doing public service, educate others, and help clean up the Internet. *grin*

    • Posted June 17, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Keep the education going, because the sooner we can get products up to the quality of Chrome, Firefox, and other industry-leading apps like Mac Mail, the sooner we can double productivity. I’ve found the simplest and best way to get the word out is to just set up my MacBook Pro beside a colleague’s PC and work beside them on a project for a day. On his or her own, the user of lower-quality computing tools notices how much more quickly and easily I can do the same tasks, and asks, “How’d you do that?” and says, “Cool, I want to do that.” A convert is born.

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