Web Devout tidings

Archive for the 'Browsers' Category

Microsoft continues their self-destructive campaigns

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Microsoft finally removed the more insulting lines from their Australian $10,000 campaign, but they also released a “Get The Facts” campaign apparently comparing a future version of IE 8 with some phantom versions of Firefox and Chrome invented by Microsoft for this campaign.


Yes for IE 8, no for Firefox and Chrome. Why? Because IE 8’s phishing and malware protection is supposedly “better” than the one that Firefox and Chrome inherit from Google. Microsoft calls this a “fact”.

Now, I’m sure Microsoft could come up with some studies to support their claim (although they didn’t), just as Mozilla or Google could come up with studies to show that they’re better. That isn’t the point. The point is that all three browsers feature rather similar anti-phishing and anti-malware protection, and yet Microsoft used those features as the sole justification for giving IE 8 the only check mark in this category.


Yes for IE 8, no for Firefox and Chrome. This time, it’s because of IE 8’s unique Incognito mode.

Er, sorry, I meant InPrivate mode. Incognito is the name of Chrome’s equivalent. But yeah, Microsoft decided that Chrome doesn’t deserve a check mark. Also, despite Firefox’s wealth of privacy features, it doesn’t earn a check mark because the InPrivate equivalent is only available in Firefox 3.5.

Ease of Use

Yes for IE 8, no for Firefox and Chrome. Because everyone knows that a bunch of confusing features that trigger at unexpected times makes the product more usable, and that Chrome’s streamlined experience makes it a hard-to-use piece of trash, right?

I forget, is this called “Get The Facts” or “Get Microsoft’s Opinions”?

Web Standards

Yes for all three. Considering we’re talking about a simple yes-or-no rating system here, I’d say that’s fair. They also accurately point out that Firefox and Chrome have better support for the upcoming HTML 5 and CSS 3 specifications, and they avoided claiming that IE 8 has perfect standards compliance.

Developer Tools

Yes for IE 8 and Firefox, no for Chrome.

Um… what? Chrome actually comes with more developer tools than Firefox out of the box. Of course, Firefox beats both once you add extensions like Firebug and Web Developer, but I don’t understand the basis on which Microsoft decided that Chrome is the one without a check mark.


Yes for IE 8, no for Firefox and Chrome. The sole basis for this was the combination of both tab isolation and crash recovery. In my experience, though, IE 8 and Chrome crash much more often than Firefox, so it boils down to whether you’d rather have fewer crashes with worse crash isolation or more crashes with better isolation. I prefer the former, especially when the browser also has good crash recovery (restoring the tabs as they were before the crash), so I’d pick Firefox as the winner in this category. But again, this is a subjective issue, and Microsoft is just expressing their opinion… in a campaign about “facts”.


Yes for all three, with a nod to Firefox’s large extension collection. Good so far.

But wait, Microsoft goes further: “many of the customizations you’d want to download for Firefox are already a part of Internet Explorer 8 – right out of the box.” Okay, they said “many” and not “most”, so technically this is accurate, but it’s misleading. According to Mozilla’s add-ons site, the most popular extensions are FlashGot, AdBlock Plus, NoScript, Video DownloadHelper, and DownThemAll. Out of the box, IE 8 doesn’t support the main functionality of any of those extensions. I mean, sure, you could disable JavaScript support in IE 8, but that isn’t close to the same thing as using NoScript. MS Paint technically supports the same editing functionality as Photoshop, but it would be a joke to honestly compare the two.

And yes, I’m aware that IE also has its own type of add-on system, but I’m addressing Microsoft’s “right out of the box” claim.

I’d also like to point out that the level of customizability that IE 8 and Chrome currently support doesn’t come close to Firefox’s capabilities. From the massive amount of settings in about:config, to the unchallenged wealth and diversity of extensions and themes, to lesser-known features like userChrome and userContent, there’s just no contest here. Considering the tiny feature differences that Microsoft used in other areas to deny check marks to other browsers, if Microsoft were being consistent they’d give Firefox the sole check mark in this area.


Yes for IE 8, no for Firefox and Chrome. “Internet Explorer 8 is more compatible with more sites on the Internet than any other browser.” Yeah, when you illegally use anticompetitive practices to shut out other browsers (practices for which you have been convicted in a court of law), and thus hold over 90% of the market for multiple years, effectively forcing web developers to cater to the most nonstandard implementation of web technology in significant use, you tend to end up with the most compatible browser. It’s a bit like a politician bragging about the number of votes he has accumulated in rigged elections.


Yes for IE 8, no for Firefox and Chrome. I don’t have experience in the area of enterprise-wide deployment, so I can’t really comment on this aspect.


Yes for all three. In fact, Microsoft calls it a tie. You know how every single speed test you’ve seen in the last few years has shown Internet Explorer to be the slowest by far (with IE 8 being only a minor improvement over IE 7, and IE 7 being only a minor improvement over IE 6)? Microsoft calls that a tie.

I’ll tell you what, Firefox and Chrome are a lot closer to each other than Internet Explorer is to either of them, and I can definitely notice that Chrome is faster than Firefox at most drawing operations. You don’t need slow-motion video to tell the difference, you just need to look at some of the next-generation web applications that haven’t reached the mainstream yet due to browser performance limitations!


The Internet Explorer development team earned a lot of credit with me on the standards support quality of IE 8. The recent series of misleading and sometimes insulting marketing campaigns has almost completely used up that credit. I assume that other web developers have felt similarly, and if so, Microsoft is doing a lot of damage to themselves by refusing to engage in the kind of honest dialog that Mozilla has particularly excelled at.

WTF Microsoft?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Seeing this makes me really glad I didn’t take that job with Microsoft.


Seriously, I don’t know if you’re trying to be funny, but it comes across as really dickish, especially to those of us who’d rather not use Windows.

Update 2009-06-17: It looks like Microsoft took it down. Here’s TechCrunch’s article on it, along with a screenshot.

For reference, the “dickish” parts were the “But you’ll never find it using that browser. (So get rid of it, or get lost.)” part and the “Ditch the web browser you’re using. If you try to find the $10,000 with your current browser, you’ll get nowhere.” part.

The “[Internet Explorer 8 is] the only browser capable of cracking all the clues.” is also pretty misleading. A more accurate claim would be “You need Internet Explorer 8 to play, because we are blocking all other browsers.”

Update 2009-06-17: It’s up again.

Standards support progress

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

I just wanted to give a little update about where I am on the standards support testing for IE 8. I just got the final version installed this morning, and I’m committed to getting the CSS results out by the end of the weekend.

I’m currently about a third of the way through the CSS section, and so far IE 8 is looking very good. It isn’t all “Y”s, but it’s been pretty close so far. I’m not making any final judgments until I’m done testing, but I suspect that IE 8 is now what I’d consider a “modern” browser in CSS support.

I also made a slight change to the Webpage test page to help with testing: When visiting it in IE 8, there is now a checkbox that says “IE 7 mode”. When you check it and hit the “Display” button, the output will be the IE 7 rendering. This is accomplished via the X-UA-Compatible HTTP header.

Stay tuned.

IE 8 is platform complete

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I know I’ve gotten behind on browser testing, but I’ll definitely be reserving some time in the next couple of weeks to run the newly released IE 8 release candidate through the gauntlet, as well as bringing the Firefox and Opera information up to date. Safari might even get some love, if I can find enough time to get it all done.

IE 8 and vendor prefixes

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

I haven’t been posting much lately, since I’ve been focusing on actually getting things done, but I wanted to point out what I think is a very good decision from Microsoft that seems to show they’re really serious about standards.

Historically, CSS property vendor prefixes (-moz-, -o-, -khtml-, -ms-, …) have generally been used for properties that either aren’t part of a current CSS standard or are part of a current standard but only have experimental support by the browser. But most browsers have made exceptions to these rules depending on how common the non-prefixed versions are on the Web.

Microsoft has announced that they are taking a clear-cut approach to this topic and will always follow these convention rules. In Internet Explorer 8, webpages invoking the best standards mode (default) will be required to add an -ms- prefix to vendor-specific properties like filter, scrollbar-base-color, and zoom, as well as non-finalized CSS 3 features like background-position-x, overflow-x, and word-wrap.

Microsoft claims that every CSS 2.1 property will be considered supported, so no CSS 2.1 property will require a vendor prefix.

Now, here’s why I think this decision is so significant: Asking a browser to always follow the vendor prefix conventions is a picky request. An unreasonable request, some might say. I’ve argued about this subject a number of times in the past, and I’m usually dismissed as a silly idealist for wanting browsers to deliberately break support for current websites just to follow a convention with fairly hard-to-see benefits.

Most people don’t know or care that breaking the convention introduces possible complications for the development of future standards. They just want to see the “Passed Validation!” message in CSS 3 mode. They’re more concerned with the short term issues of getting all the lights to turn green than the long term issues of the growth and stability of sound web standards.

Microsoft’s decision makes some short-term sacrifices for the interest of the long term health of the Web, and it’s on an issue that even many standards advocates would consider picky. Well, I for one am thrilled to see Microsoft getting “picky” about the quality of their standards support.

Update 2008-09-09: I should clarify that the non-prefixed properties that were supported in IE 7 will continue to be supported in IE 8, with or without the prefix. But Microsoft considers the non-prefixed versions deprecated, and they may be removed in a future version.

The exception is the filter property, which will not work in IE 8 standards mode without the prefix. This is because the original filter syntax didn’t comply with CSS’s grammar rules and will thus be ignored in IE 8’s improved CSS parser. If you have to continue using the filter property, you need to include the prefix and put quotes around the property value. For compatibility with older versions of IE, you’ll need to write the filter both ways.