Microsoft does not want us to use IE

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Writing Learning JavaScript and now Adding Ajax, as well as creating web page applications such as my photo popup has led me to an epiphany: Microsoft really doesn’t want us to use IE. No, I’m not being facetious–the company would probably prefer that people move to another browser.

Let’s look at the facts.

First, web developers must add additional tweaks in scripting code and CSS in order for web applications to work with IE7; yet no specialized code or CSS is required for other web browsers. Now, why release a new version of a browser that’s guaranteed to be incompatible with all other browsers? It’s not as if any of the technologies are new: most have been out for five or more years.

Backwards compatibility doesn’t explain this deliberate nonalignment. One can continue to support something like attachEvent while adding support for addEventListener using application wrappers. Developers have been providing backwards compatible wrappers in code for years. I can’t believe that the Microsoft developers aren’t familiar with this technique. It shouldn’t be a burden within the code, yet keeping something like a proprietary event system just continues to add developer aggravation, as well as adding to the number of sites that break.

IE7 is also a nag. So much so that I’ve finding I can’t load applications, visit pages, do much of anything without some warning or another popping up. It nags constantly, and much of this can’t seem to be turned off. It’s wearying to use IE7–it is not an unobtrusive element of the web browsing experience.

Then there’s the new, ‘helpful’ way to test in both IE 6 and IE7–Microsoft is providing a Virtual PC image preloaded with XP and 6 just so you can test your pages with IE 6, while having IE 7 loaded on your regular installation.

No need to buy a license for XP within the VPC image. How sweet. But you do have to load an application that loads another version of the operating system in memory, just so you can test a web browser. A web browser! I don’t know about all the people who are tossing flowers at Microsoft’s feet for this ‘kind’ gesture, but this ‘workaround’ is an insult to web developers, and a mockery of the concept of a browser–you know that simple yet powerful application that opens the world but leaves a small footprint? Yeah, that browser.

According to the IE weblog, this VPC image will only function until April 1st, 2007, but I think the April Fool’s joke is getting people to reserve both memory and disc space–as well as having to go through Microsoft’s validation process–just to test against a browser. What happens after April, then? Are all the Windows 2000 installations going away? There will be no need to test for IE6?

Add it all up, and I think the facts equal Microsoft making a strategic decision to phase out Internet Explorer.

Microsoft was challenged back in 1994/1995 by an upstart company that said the web and its browser would eventually replace the need for an operating system like Microsoft’s Windows. Microsoft couldn’t let that slide, came out with IE, and proceeded to blow the doors off of Netscape’s Navigator.

Once the house of Netscape began to crumble and fail, and more importantly, once the browser space began to develop an open source following with the Mozilla effort, Microsoft lost interest in the browser space. The company’s bread and butter is based on operating system, Office and entertainment applications, and developer tools–not browsers.

IE has also been plagued for years with security flaws; flaws costing the company time and effort, true, but more importantly, costing the company credibility. The security flaws associated with Windows do not get the media play that security flaws with IE get. As such the issues of security associated with IE potentially could impact on the perception of the company’s new golden goose, Vista. There is no such thing as a 100% secure browser–so why take the chance? Drop the browser, and push the burden off on other browsers, while the company touts the security of it’s new and improved operating system.

You can see the seeds of IE’s growing lack of fit with Microsoft global strategy in the choice of Ray Ozzie as lead tech architect for the company. Ozzie is not a web man. His background is in distributed computing, not web services; his focus is going to be on applications built on Windows OS, based on Windows development architecture, and locking customers in to Windows OS–not the free for all that is the web.

Microsoft doesn’t need to prove a dominance in the browser space anymore. If it needed to do that, it would have released a more complete browser–and it would have issued new releases more regularly. It definitely wouldn’t have released the application so encumbered that one has to load a VPC image just to test new browser releases.

IE is an anchor now. It brings in no accolades to the company, and gets little respect. It costs money, though, and associates security problems with the Microsoft name. Solution: get people off of IE, and for those that stubbornly persist in using IE, put so many security roadblocks in the way that there is absolutely no chance the company can be held accountable for any security violation through IE.

Why else would the company release a new version of the browser with so many glaring and obvious incompatibilities with other browsers? Why else make it virtually impossible to visit any web site, without running against multiple warnings and blocks? Why else make it so difficult to test existing and new versions of the browser, that you have to run a completely new OS image?

Microsoft management must want people off of IE.

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