The Death of IE

June 17, 2003

I'm sure that most of you have heard the news by now: Microsoft will not be releasing any further versions of IE/Mac — it's dead. While this doesn't directly affect me as I never really used IE in Windows or Mac OS X, and it was never available for Linux, it is still a big deal. The decision from Microsoft to discontinue IE/Mac was due in part to the fact that Apple is now delivering its own browser, Safari, and also because Microsoft actually intends to get rid of the browser (or at least the idea of the web browser) from Windows as well. The ever-poignant Zeldman writes:

We know that, after spending billions of dollars to defeat all competitors and to absolutely, positively own the desktop browsing space, Microsoft as a corporation is no longer interested in web browsers.

We know that, on the Windows side, it will eventually release something that accesses web content, but that "something" will be part of an operating system - one which won't be available until 2005, and won't be widely used before 2007. We don't know if the part of the upcoming OS that formats web pages will be more or less compliant with W3C recommendations than what we have now. Neither do we know if the OS components that handle web browsing will support CSS3 and other specifications that will emerge during the long years ahead in which Microsoft offers no new browser.

Microsoft has said that there won't be a new IE for Windows until 2005 and that it won't be a standalone product — it will require their new OS, Longhorn. Given that typical Windows users take 2-3 years to migrate en masse to a new OS, we are looking at 2007 before 80-85% of the web browser market will have moved to something new. In the interim, they're left to use a crippled year-2000 browser riddled with security bugs and standards-compliancy problems. The bigger problem is that web developers will have to continue to build sites around this buggy browser rather than building toward W3C standards — at least until 2007 — and perhaps even beyond then depending on how well MS's browser conforms to the standards.

However, the end user isn't helpless, because as I've said from what seems like the beginning of time, you aren't left to use this browser. There are so many browsers that are smaller, faster, and simply more practical than IE (enter Mozilla, Opera, and Netscape). Just because your computer shipped with a little blue "e" icon on the desktop doesn't mean that that's your only choice.

I told myself that I wasn't going to comment on all the hoopla surrounding this latest MS development, but I couldn't resist. I realize that most people don't see the bigger picture and that even if they vaguely did, they wouldn't care. I understand this and it's not my intention, nor has it ever been, to lambast those that choose to turn the other cheek. But, the fact remains that the majority of web users out there are being forced to use crappy software. By forced, I mean to say that they simply know no better. Daily, people complain to me about pop-up ads, spyware, and a host of other nocuous things that tend to sprout up on their machines. To each and everyone one of these people, be them friends, family, or strangers, I tell them all the same thing: stop using IE (to be fair, I usually don't stop there and tend to go off on why Windows sucks and how Linux is better — now it's Mac OS X that I most strongly advocate — but hell, it's all Unix!). It isn't that hard to move to another browser. In fact, it's mindless if you ask me, and would be an automatic decision were I being bombarded with all of that crap. If you don't like all the junk running on your computer, then do something about it. Most of the time this advice falls on deaf ears and the same people complain to me again two months later about the same problems. To these people there isn't too much to say. They obviously enjoy being a gaping security hole. No, it must be that they like the ads for horse-sex that take over their screens. Come to think of it, they probably just like the game you get to play. You know the one: there are a lot of windows that keep popping up and you have to try to close them as quickly as possible because if you don't then even more will pop up. Hey, to each his own.

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