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On why geeks dislike IE

You hear this everytime. Everyone who is uses the internet often has his own favourite browser. And geeks have all kinds of favourites, text editors, OS, desktop environment, et cetera. But more about that later.

I am narrating a story of arch-enemies that started around 1998. Microsoft bundled its crappy web browser with its relatively good OS. That meant that everyone who used the OS because it was good now used the crappy browser as well. This skewed all stats about browser usage. Suddenly, IE was the most used browser of them all.

One of the prerequisites of being a geek is that you need to be prepared to kill the person who criticizes your favourite (that you are not able to do the same is another story!). So, naturally, the enmity began.

Well, was IE all that bad? I don't think so. It was good to have a browser built into the OS. Moreover, IE innovated and is responsible for so many of the things that make up today's web, and which we take for granted. It was the first browser to implement Cascaded Style Sheets(CSS) that is such an important part of most websites today. It brought in dynamic HTML, Java applets, and AJAX. In short, all the expertise of the people who came up with the most used OS in the world was put in web browser development. In contrast, Netscape, which was the only competitor, would crash the moment it encountered CSS. But what went wrong?

I think the answer would be MS's complacency. When they bundled IE with Windows, they got close to 95% of the market share. Then they stopped innovating. For five years between IE6 and IE7, they did nothing! Then came Firefox, and people started switching left, right and centre.

The advent of Firefox meant another problem. Spurred on by their monopoly, MS had incorporated in IE, many specific features which did not conform with standards. Then suddenly, Firefox was there, following the standards exactly, and web developers were in a lot of trouble.

And many of the security and other bugs were left unattended, which meant that a simple script would crash the browser
<script> for(x in document.write){document.write(x);}</script>

IE7, which came out in 2006, it was way behind competition. Indeed, it barely had support for tabbed browsing, something which Firefox and Opera had from ages. And I have IE8, and still do not use it. Why? Because it fails in acid test 1 itself. In acid test 2, it passes, and in acid test 3, scores a mere 20/100, a massive fail. But these are geek stats. Let me put it in a more layman-ish manner. If I make a website, IE8 will not be able to display the website correctly, even if the website conforms to W3C rules. Take the example of my website. I spent days making it, tweaking the CSS till it looked perfect, cross checking with the W3C validator, to make sure that my website complied with standards, and even made the HTML5 version. Then I tried previewing it on various browsers. Firefox and Safari could not render the HTML5 version properly, but displayed the XHTML version correctly. Google Chrome could render both the HTML5 version and the XHTML version properly. Then I go into IE8. Surprise! My picture vanished, and I was left with the horrible looking "my pic" alternate text. Needless to say, my website looked woefully incomplete, and I had the feeling that I was viewing a page in lynx. Not only that, the browser was way too slow, and frankly, was pathetic. That was it! I would not touch IE with a twenty-foot pole now.

People are saying that IE9 is a good browser, and would give Chrome and Firefox a run for their money, and for the sake of a better web, I hope it is true. Microsoft claims that this browser shall change the world, I hope it does. It shall be a better web indeed, when MS too shall follow standards, and not hold the web back with their sickly nonconforming browsers.


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