Web Browsers Revisited

As a designer, some days there just aren’t words for how much I hate Internet Explorer 6. It is the least standards-compliant browser still massively in use; which is a nice way of saying that it seems to goes out of its way to misinterpret even the simplest piece of html.

And yet it stubbornly remains as one of the three most popular browsers. To give you some idea, there are really three browsers being used by the vast majority of the Windows-using browsing public out there; IE6, it’s successor IE7; and Mozilla’s Firefox. As of May 2008, the breakdown goes like this: IE6 27.3%; IE7 26.5%; and Firefox 39.8%. IE7 is hot on the heels of 6, and of course will sooner of later will become the more popular of the two. Eventually even Microsoft will stop supporting 6, and that can’t come soon enough.

I realise that at this point I might sound like someone riding a bit of a personal hobbyhorse. But there are real, honest-to-god reasons why the latest browsers are better, besides just making my job easier.

Reasons to upgrade to IE7 (or better still Firefox):

Security!! IE6 has holes in its security you could drive a double decker bus through. Even Microsoft admits that : “The Internet of today is not the Internet of five years ago. There are dangers that simply didn’t exist back in 2001, when Internet Explorer 6 was released to the world. Internet Explorer 7 makes surfing the web fundamentally safer by offering greater protection against viruses, spyware, and other online risks.”

Tabbed browsing – why run multiple versions of IE6 every time you want to look at a new site (and then get confused about what’s in each window), when you can open as many pages as you like with IE7 or FF’s groovy tabbed browsing?

Inbuilt search – don’t waste time navigating to a search engine to search, simply search in your browser window, with IE7 or Firefox’s inbuilt seach toolbar.

RSS Feeds – Many news and information sites offer feeds from their content which keep you in touch with up-to-the-minute information. With IE7 or FF you can subscribe to the feeds and access the content easily within your browsing experience.

Popup Blocking – Firefox has a nifty little gizmo which stops all those irritating pop-ups from appearing. It also tells you when its doing it, so that you can choose to view the pop-up if you think its relevant.

So how do you know if you’re still using IE6? A lot of people don’t give a second thought to which browser they are using. Some will have been automatically updated by now, but to judge by the stats there are still plenty who haven’t. Either way, I’m guessing you get to your web browser by clicking on a big blue e icon, right? If it’s wearing a blue sash, that’s IE6. If it’s a yellow sash, that’s IE7. (If you click on an orange fox wrapped around a blue globe, well done: you’re using Firefox, and your browsing experience will be so much nicer).

I’m guessing a lot of the IE6 users are out there in corporate world, where the network administrator or IT department have final say and are too busy to get round to updating the whole system. But if you have any say in the matter at all, please, don’t carry on using this outdated browser – do not pass go, do not collect 200 pounds – go straight to http://www.mozilla.com and hit that download button now.

Think of it this way: if web browsers are your window on the web, do you want the one which is clean and well built with double glazed security; or the one which warps your view, is covered in unwanted advertising and wouldn’t keep out even the most unimaginative criminal? (Overstretched metaphor, anyone?)

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