20 July 2011

Microsoft Internet Explorer - a "special needs" browser

When developing a website I usually consider how long it will take to code the site, template it, and test it.  Then I add a whole lot of extra time to make it work in Internet Explorer.

A Microsoft User - ready to use the interweb
In a way Microsoft's refusal to believe that there is a world of computing outside of Redmond is a good thing - it means that I get more billable hours per project.  Of course those billable hours are spent in frustrating searches through Google to try and work out all of the various quirks and bugs in Internet Explorer.

I tend to think of Microsoft Internet Explorer users as "special needs" kids who are being set loose in the playground that is the Internet.  Barely able to prevent themselves from drooling on their keyboards and eating their mouses they demand that websites conform to their special needs.  Standards such as Javascript DOM level 2, HTML5, CSS, CSS3 are pretty much ignored because their parent doesn't believe in modern technology.  Microsoft and the Amish are pretty much similar in that respect.  They're both American, highly insulated, and refuse to believe in an outside world that is advancing without them.

BUT Microsoft insists on installing its browser into its Windows operating system.  And not only does it ship as a default browser, but it's so deeply entrenched into the OS that you can't uninstall it.  I'm not sure why Microsoft thinks that a web browser should be integrated into an operating system, but I'm sure there is a reason for this (like preventing users from choosing other browsers).

So the average Internet Explorer user is a Windows user (typically less savvy than Mac/Linux users) who is unaware that there are better ways to explore the Internet (less savvy than Firefox or Chrome users).  Who would choose a browser that is slower and less featured than a competing browser (like Chrome)?

So, if your target market consists of special needs people who "choose" inferior products then by all means target the gullible Internet Explorer users.  It's like taking candy from special needs kids.

Is there hope for the future?

An Internet Explorer is pulled over on the Internet Highway
Of course Microsoft is promising to change in IE9.  They are promising "native" support for HTML5.  Apart from the fact that HTML5 is an external standard and doesn't belong to Microsoft why would they want to  build this into their operating system?

Ah well, that's Microsoft for you.  But Microsoft also promised that IE8 would be standards compliant and would solve problems like world hunger.  I'm still hungry and margin:auto doesn't work, and neither do phase down events in Javascript, neither does HTML5 and CSS3 is also ignored.  So when Microsoft aims to be standards compliant they actually mean "Microsoft standards compliant" and not the standards that the rest of us use.

IE7 promised to offer a cure for cancer and be an improvement on IE6.  That's pretty much the only promise that Microsoft actually managed to keep, but having Satan poke my eyes out while Steve Ballmer (crazy monkey man) sodomizes me would be better than IE6.  So by aiming for the low hanging fruit Microsoft actually delivered on a promise.  Sodomy from the world's sweatiest billionaire would only be made worse by his screams "DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS" which I imagine would be  his replacement for "oh God I'm coming".  I'm not suggesting Mr Ballmer enjoys anal sex (I know he's married with tadpoles) but he does appear to have a somewhat sadistic approach to web developers so the analogy is used.  I'm actually quite fond of the monkey man - he gives me about 5 hours extra on every project I do.
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