WARNING: Do Not Use Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is lurking around the corner ready to ruin your web experience. This post will thoroughly and hopefully elegantly state the case against IE for the non-nerd.

Imagine you are in the process of buying a new home. One of the first priorities you would consider is that the house would be safe for you and your family. I know you wouldn’t want to live in a place where the roof is in constant threat of caving in. Also, you might consider changing your locks; just in case a few of the old keys have been ‘lost’. And you would also send in an inspector to make sure that the house is in livable shape, built using quality materials, and that you are warned of any potential hazards that may exist.

Statistics from February 2010 are showing that 21.9% of internet users are accessing the web through condemned browsers. Another 14.7% are taking not taking full advantage of the features that the modern web has to offer. That is a stunning 36.6% of all internet users. And its because the user is running a version of Internet Explorer (IE).

If you are running Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, or 8 you should seriously consider upgrading to a modern internet browser. I will break this case into two sections: Age: Speed and Security; Standards Compliance affects User Experience.

Age: Speed and Security

IE6 is now over ten years old and IE7 is now four. Think about how you were browsing the web in the year 2000 or even 2006. The internet has come a long way since then. Even the way you connect to it. As our connection speed increases we need browsers that can keep up. If you think IE is fast just load a page side by side against Google Chrome. Let me know how it turns out.

Also think of all the viruses, spy-ware, and hacks you have heard about in this time. That should be reason enough to stop using this browser. New browsers have security features, like Private Browsing Mode, that allow you to keep your credit card information safe from hackers. Just always remember, the internet is in a state of constant change, and I recommend keeping your browser up to date to take best advantage of this change.

Modern browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) have increased security features that will better protect your computer and your information against threats. These browsers also force you to upgrade when new versions are available so they are always up to date.

Granted, Microsoft continues to support these two browsers with monthly updates, but they do have a newer version of their browser on the market. Meaning, why would you still use something that even Microsoft says is out of date.

Standards Compliance affects User Experience

I must admit that I am a web developer that fully believes in the abidance of web standards. Basically, web standards are a set of regulations and guidelines that are set by governing body of industry experts, called the W3C, that determine how the web should be built. The following is an expert from their site:

“W3C publishes documents that define Web technologies. These documents follow a process designed to promote consensus, fairness, public accountability, and quality. At the end of this process, W3C publishes Recommendations, which are considered Web standards.”

For better or worse, it’s a lot like the United Nations. The UN consists of member nations looking out for the good of the world. From time to time, a nation may ignore a UN resolution. The UN may place sanctions, but generally the country in offense continues on in their own way, despite the will of the world’s people. Some may call this arrogant. Conservatives will call them communists and/or fascists; Liberals will call them George W. Bush.

In a real example, the UN has put sanction upon sanction against Iran for their nuclear program and human rights abuses. However, reports indicate, Iran continues to develop nuclear technology and continues to throw dissenters in jail. However the UN doesn’t have the backing of the nations states to do much more about it. So Iran continues to do what they want.

In web development terms, Microsoft continues to build browsers that do not meet W3C standards when the technology is there to do so. They are in violation of the will of those that build for the internet. As a web developer their actions are fully and entirely frustrating.

There are estimates that have stated that in a typical web project getting features and applications to work or look properly in Internet Explorer can account for up to 20% of the total project. Basically it causes the developer to do the same thing twice. To a company or business seeking a website or application, this unnecessary cost is passed to them.

If you don’t want to pass (or eat) the cost, then the other alternative is to disable the features that are not in available in IE. This equals a loss for a third of the sites potential users.

The Acid3 Test is a series of test pages that checks to see if your browser properly supports all of the W3C supported standards. 100 is the maximum score. I ran this test at the time of posting, what I found is listed below. If you don’t want to take my word for it please feel free to try this for yourself here.

Acid3 Test Results

  • Firefox 3.6.2: 94/100
  • Safari 4.0.4: 100/100 (first browser to do so)
  • Chrome 5.0.342.7 beta : 100/100
  • IE 8.0.6 : 20/100
  • IE 7 : 13/100 (in compatibility mode)
  • IE6 : 12/100
  • Preview of IE9 : 55/100

As you can see above, the results are staggering. Internet Explorer is clearly flunking this class. While the plans for the new IE9 browser show a marked improvement, they still lag way behind the others. Ultimately, this means there will be features or styles on the web you will not be able to do or see because the code isn’t supported.

Once again we are posed with the following question: Do I pass the cost to the client or alienate a third of the site’s users? Clearly, this is not the ideal situation and it shows that all versions of IE are holding back the rest of the class.

Recommendations

I hope the case has been made clear. You shouldn’t be using Internet Explorer. If you are currently running it, here is a list of links to a few browsers I would recommend upgrading to.

NOTE: If you are running IE6 or IE from a work machine, I would strongly urge you to contact your IT department first to make sure the programs you run everyday would still work if you upgrade your Internet Explorer version. You can always download a different browser to surf the web when not using your IE based application. Basically, this means you would be running two browsers. IE for your work application and the other for everything else, especially shopping online.

My personal recommendation is that you give Google Chrome a try. It opens and loads pages faster than Firefox and comes with a nice array of plugins and themes for customization. If you are looking into become a web designer, developer, or programmer, Firefox is the way to go with their web extensions. On that note, I highly recommend Firebug for FF. It’s an ace at debugging HTML, CSS, and Javascript and a huge timesaver in general.

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