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Internet Explorer’s Main Problems December 8, 2007

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There are countless bugs in Internet Explorer, but here are the main reasons to choose a free alternative.

  • Prone to viruses and worms
  • Renders pages incorrectly. Web designers then need to spend extra time working so that pages work in Internet Explorer. This puts costs up, and slows the web down.
  • Doesn’t let people resize certain text sizes. This means those with poor sight cannot read small text on many sites.
  • Far slower program than other web browsers
  • Far larger program than other web browsers
  • Isn’t as user-centric as other web browsers. It lacks many handy features such as tabbed browsing and integrated search
  • Doesn’t support PNG images properly. Security is great, however.

Firefox—A Fast, Safe Alternative to Internet Explorer December 8, 2007

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by Kevin Christy

I’m not a Microsoft-basher; I use their products productively virtually every day of my life. Excel is my workhorse, Word my constant companion for nearly a decade, PowerPoint my standard for presentations, Visio Professional a powerful tool in my arsenal, and I rely on Outlook to keep track of notes, emails, contacts, tasks, and my calendar.

I have also been using Internet Explorer since about 1996, when it came pre-loaded on a computer I bought. I found it to be adequate, and certainly seemed to be on the cutting edge (anybody remember “push technology”?). But increasingly over time it came to be an annoyance, and may represent the worst of what Microsoft is accused of: arrogance (openly flaunting internet standards and creating new ones on its own), monopolistic aggression (folding IE into Windows, virtually destroying the independent browser market overnight), and outright carelessness (creating a browser with a seemingly endless number of security holes). IE is relatively slow and clunky, has a sub-par user interface, and seems to be an ideal breeding ground for adware, malware, spyware, worms, you name it.

Malicious Geeks Want You to Use Internet Explorer

In fairness to Microsoft, a significant portion of their woes with IE are probably unavoidable; IE, with its whopping share of the browser market, is simply a big, obvious target. While there are plenty of script kiddies and crackers who revel in sabotaging all things Microsoft, people who are after you for your private information and who want to push ads on you could care less whether Microsoft wrote your browser’s code or some idealistic troupe of open-source pioneers. If some other browser gained significant market share, I’m sure they would be after that browser’s vulnerabilities too, and every browser is vulnerable to one degree or another. None of this should excuse the degree to which IE is susceptible to these problems.

Despite my careful online behavior and regular downloading of security updates from Microsoft, I found that my system was absolutely besodden with adware, spyware, and malware; an Ad-aware scan revealed over 150 different intrusive objects. My browser had been hijacked, God only knows who was spying on me, and pop-up ads were no longer getting defeated by my Google toolbar. Nasty stuff, and all of it courtesy of a worldwide army (including the Russian mob) of malevolent geeks and profiteers eagerly exploiting IE’s security holes. Fortunately, Ad-aware was very effective at getting rid of that loathsome junkware.

Until, that is, I ran IE again. And then they came back. Again. And again. Each time I would run Ad-aware, and they would be gone, and then they would come back. Finally, my copy of IE simply started freezing. Damn!

Lest you think I’m making this up, or that I’m just a Microsoft basher, consider this: the United States Government’s Department of Homeland Security considers Internet Explorer enough of a threat to security to recommend you find another browser. Also, some companies, fed up with constant security hassles, are migrating their workstations to alternative browsers.

Alternatives to IE

Aside from jumping the Windows ship altogether and going to Mac or Linux—most of us have too much invested in hardware, software, and compatibility to hazard that—alternatives do exist in the commercial and open source realms.

In the commercial realm, the Opera browser is a longstanding alternative that first arose years ago as a fleet, trimmed-down response to increasingly bloated competitors Netscape and IE. Opera is available for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, OS/2, QNX, and even cellphones (which I will be reviewing for my Roam Office column in Techtrax). You can download an ad-supported free version of Opera or pay $39 for an ad-free version product. Opera also includes a mail client, a chat client, and an address book (that does not import directly from Outlook, but will from Outlook Express).

In the open source realm, the release of the Netscape Navigator code into the open source domain in 1998 spawned the Mozilla open source browser initiative, a collaborative project that has resulted in an award-winning browser, mail client, web page development environment, and news reader. I have tried Mozilla a couple of times over the years (once as recently as a year ago), but since I read my mail in Outlook, I don’t develop websites, and I don’t read newsgroups, a large portion of the program was unnecessary to me. What I needed was a lightweight browser that was extensible but was not loaded down with extras that I didn’t want.

Then Came Firefox

To address just this need, the kind people behind the Mozilla project crafted Firefox, designed from the start to be a lightweight, fast, secure, multiple platform stand-alone browser. Built on the mature Mozilla code base (built itself on the timeless—as in, all of about ten years old—Netscape Navigator code), Firefox is Mozilla stripped to its essentials.

Load it, and what you find is a fast-loading, clean, uncluttered interface, and all your bookmarks, settings, and even your site logins have been imported. The standard browser navigations icons (Back, Forward, Reload, Stop, and Home) are all there, along with an address bar and a nice Google search bar next to it, handy for quick searches.

The interface is highly customizable. For instance, here are a few of the themes that can be easily added to Firefox via the built-in Theme Manager:

Bookmark management is critical for heavy internet users such as me, and I must say that Firefox’s bookmark services are the most intuitive, easiest to use and maintain that I’ve found among the browsers. The standard bookmark toolbar can be activated via the View menu, and appears underneath the navigation toolbar:

As you can see, the bookmark menu has both folders, which group bookmarks by category, and individual bookmarks for those that either don’t fit into categories that you create or that you commonly access.

Let me introduce one very handy feature, Open in Tabs, to showcase another great feature, tabbed browsing. As a news junkie, I visit a number of sites throughout the day to keep abreast of what’s going on. With Firefox and tabbed browsing, I can load all of the sites that I like to visit into one window with just a click of my mouse:

Now, each page in the folder is loaded simultaneously as tabs in the current window:

I can now easily tab back and forth between the pages to quickly browse my favorite news and commentary sites (admittedly conservative, but you can substitute The Nation, Salon, the Washington Post, Michaelmoore.com, or whatever your heart desires).

I mentioned that Firefox is extensible, and what I mean by that is that there are a variety of free tools that you can easily add to Firefox via the Extensions Manager:

From here, Firefox can find, install, update, or uninstall from, at the time of this writing in July 2004, over 80 different extensions enabling Firefox to:

  • Easily search Bible verses
  • Block anything on web sites: ads, images, Flash content, scripts, etc.
  • Manage cookies
  • Post to LiveJournal directly from Firefox
  • Look up words in an online dictionary
  • Go directly to, or “stumble upon” websites that have been highly rated by others
  • Auto reload pages at set intervals

…and much more. I have only begun to seriously evaluate some of these features, and the Bible verse lookup tool is a prize in itself.

One “feature” that always bugged me was that if I mistyped a URL in IE (such as http://www.yahoo.cmo), IE would send me to a proprietary Microsoft search page, which would lose my original URL and make me either follow one of IE’s guesses about where I wanted to go, or I would have to type the URL all over again. Firefox’s navigation tool uses Google’s “I Feel Lucky” service, where you type in a search term and Google takes you to the most likely results page. For instance, if I want to go to Yahoo!, I just type “yahoo” in the navigation bar, and Firefox takes me to Yahoo!. This works for all the obvious websites: “drudge” gets you to the Drudge Report, “nyt” gets you to the New York Times, “amazon” gets you Amazon.com, etc. What becomes interesting about this feature is that if Google/Firefox does not have an obvious web page reference to take you to, it will provide a definition of the word for you from Dictionary.com. For instance, I typed in “fungible” and got:

Ha! Handy tool. Here’s an example of what Firefox provided when I keyed in a variety of terms:

“find a good book” Hennepin County Library search page, where books can be searched for by author, genre, etc.
“weird history” The Weird History 101 website
“psycho” The website for DVD sales of Psycho
“evolution” The website for the PBS special on evolution
“draft” The Final Draft website for scriptwriting software
“ridiculous” The Ridiculous Infomercial Review website

So far, Firefox’s rendering of pages has been predictable, but the fact remains that there are some pages out there that can only be properly viewed with Internet Explorer, along with some that I have found render properly with IE and Opera, but not with Firefox (which I would classify as a likely rendering bug in Firefox, rather than a reliance by the site on proprietary IE calls). Coding websites that run exclusively on IE is a travesty of web design and yet one more indictment against Microsoft; offering tools for web development that preclude using another browser goes directly against the design intent of the Internet. However, Firefox’s IEView extension easily allows you to view a page in IE if you want to see how IE would render it, simply by right-clicking on the page and selecting “View This Page in IE”:

But, what about security, since that’s the primary reason I’ve provided for why I left IE. Quite simply, Firefox avoids several fundamental design flaws of IE, in that:

  • Firefox is not integrated into Windows, and thus closes holes allowing access to the OS.
  • Firefox does not support ActiveX JavaVM or VBScript, three Microsoft proprietary technologies that are responsible for many security holes.
  • Firefox does not allow for the invasion of your system by adware and spyware just by visiting a website (exactly what happened to me with IE).

Since I’ve had Firefox, as long as I don’t open IE I remain blissfully free of popup ads and all the varieties of junkware. That in and of itself is a powerful reason for switching browsers; the bonus is that Firefox just also happens to be a better browser in most other ways as well. For security, stability, speed, and pure enjoyability, Firefox wins hands-down over IE.

Those interested in Firefox should note that while quite stable, the current release (as of early July 2004) is still considered a beta “preview” and is pre-1.0 software.

So, which browser to use? December 8, 2007

Posted by scriptmarket in stop internet explorer.
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Which browser to choose?

We compiled a list of modern browsers, all of them being actively maintained and improved. Before you go there, though, please read this section.

Our choice is Mozilla. We do not want to enforce our choice. We do not want to advertize on this and promote Mozilla, nor do we want to promote any other browser.

But we do advocate Web standards. Of all current browsers, Mozilla is–literally–the best one in terms of standards compliance. Coincidentally, Mozilla also does an excellent job at rendering dumb pages (what we were talking previously). So, to have a painless transition to a standards compliant browser, but only for this reason, we do recommend Mozilla. Other browsers will improve too, because they are still developed, unlike Internet Explorer, so they also are a better choice than IE.

» Pick a friendly browser.

“Get Rid” of IE December 8, 2007

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How to get rid of IE?

Removing Internet Explorer is not really possible (or if it is, you’ll have a really hard time doing it). By “drop” we mean “don’t use it”. You can completely remove Internet Explorer if you completely remove Windows and switch to another operating system. Although this is out of the scope of this website, we have to point out that quitting using Windows is not as hard as it seems. The guys at The Microsoft Eradication Society have done a good job linking to hundreds of other operating systems.

Installing a new browser is very easy. All browsers come with appropriate installation programs designed to be used by anyone who has at least a tangential touch with computers.

There is a single but major difficulty which you may encounter using a new browser. We discuss about it below.

IE is the worst… December 8, 2007

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You might rightfully ask on which basis can we dare to ask people to dump Internet Explorer. This page details our reasons, hopefully in a manner which will prove that the only way to keep Web free and make it better is to have it unrelated to Microsoft-only technologies.

Designed to assure Microsoft makes money: (1) it only works on Windows; (2) only one version can be installed per Windows instance.

1.   It only works on Windows

Internet Explorer only works on a Microsoft Windows “operating system”. This makes it a commercial product which you are required to pay for, because you need to buy Windows in order to be able to use Internet Explorer. This is how Microsoft makes money from developers that don’t use Windows.

I am a web developer. I use GNU/Linux as both server and workstation, not because Linux is free but because I like it and I simply feel much more confortable with it than I would with a Windows desktop. I make my applications conform to web standards and even though I only test them on my favorite browser, they work with any other standards compliant browser. But Internet Explorer in particular (and we’re talking about version 6, the latest) has certain compliance bugs that have been reported over and over but Microsoft does not fix them. This puts me in the situation of paying for a Windows license only to be able to run Internet Explorer, which makes it about $300–the most expensive Web browser.

2.   Only one version of IE can be installed at a time

As Microsoft makes you think, Internet Explorer is “a part of the operating system”, therefore you can’t uninstall it and you can’t have 2 different versions of it at the same time.

In consequence, if my client requires that my application works with IE 5.0, IE 5.5 and IE 6, then in order to test it I have to buy and install 3 (three!) different instances of the same Windows “operating system”, and most probably 3 different computers. This definitely makes it the most expensive browser in existence, given the fact that I don’t even use Windows.

It’s standards-compliance problems are intentionally left out so that more and more websites will wear the “IE required” stigma.

3.   It is not standards compliant

Remember our little discussion about Web standards, right? Well, here’s the interesting part: Internet Explorer does, to some extent, comply to Web standards. However, certain parts were intentionally left out and others were intentionally left buggy. This allows Microsoft to both claim that Internet Explorer is a standards-compliant browser and to make money for nothing given the first 2 points presented in this page.

What do we mean by intentionally?

There are important Web standards that were developed years ago but Microsoft Internet Explorer does not support them. Examples are:

  • PNG support. PNG is a highly efficient graphics format; here’s a petition, addressed to Microsoft about 4 years back, and signed by more than 11,000 people, that asks Microsoft to implement proper PNG support in their browser; expectedly, Microsoft did nothing about it.

    Q: “When will IE get transparent PNG support?“
    A: “Ian, I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question for you.“

    The above lines make a small fragment from a discussion about Internet Explorer, from Microsoft’s website. If I would have access to the source code of Internet Explorer, I, Mihai Bazon, would implement proper PNG support in at most 2 hours, with no previous knowledge of IE internals. I simply can’t conceive that a corporation the size and power of Microsoft can’t even answer that question, so the only answer I can figure out is that it has been left out intentionally. Any other Web browser on the market today provides proper support for PNG, including (!) Internet Explorer for Macintosh (whose development was discontinued by Microsoft).

    However, one can still include a PNG and get it displayed in IE the way it should be, using a IE-specific “feature” which does not work on any other browser.

  • DOM event model. The DOM event model is a W3C specification that enables developers to create interactive Web pages. Internet Explorer does not support any part of it.

    IE has event programming facilities which provide the same functionality as one can get with Web standards. But using these facilities will result in pages that only work with IE.

    This is actually the problem that makes an enormous number of websites unaccessible to any other browser: the designers used the IE event model as if no other browser would exist!

  • Since forever, IE has a bug that does not allow one to layout a normal element on top of a system control like a select box or scroll bar. We have to be honest about this and say that other browsers had this problem too, but for instance in Mozilla it was recently fixed.

    IE has, though, a feature called a “popup” window which–surprise–can be shown above any element; it can even get out of the browser window. But using this feature results in pages that only work with IE. Should you think that this feature is a good one, then we invite you to see our little demo about it (only if you’re running IE).

So where’s the intention? Well, as you can see, IE has solutions for all its problems; any developer can use the MSDN and find out about these solutions. Which is what most developers do. Because developing a Web application requires pretty much work, most developers only care to implement the IE part–meaning, they use the IE style, instead of W3C style–which leads to a lot of websites that require Internet Explorer for Windows, which leads to a lot of money for Microsoft, which is why Microsoft does not want to fix the problems in their browser and prefers to say that “this is so by design” (without even lying) as you can see in most technical notes at Microsoft website.

Microsoft.com website is an example of web application designed to work properly only with Internet Explorer.

“Microsoft committed to Web standards”?

Don’t buy this crap!

The Microsoft.com website itself looks terrible in any other browser than Internet Explorer! The fonts are small to the point that they are unreadable! It dumps JavaScript syntax errors!! The MSDN tree on the left doesn’t work! The menubar doesn’t work! And finally, the code has absolutely nothing in common with actual Web standards. If you don’t believe it, take a look at the source.

Microsoft would probably claim that other browsers aren’t capable enough for all the technology used at their website, but this would be a huge lie. The truth is that it’s difficult to develop for both IE and other browsers, so they chosen to only develop for IE.

A never-ending nightmare?

Only apparently. There are good news. In the last 2 years, many developers understood that it’s much better to develop their applications conforming to Web standards. Some of the benefits include easier development, maintenance, accessibility and portability. For instance a site carefully written with XHTML and CSS, which uses DIV and not TABLE-s for layout, may run very fine on a browser embedded in a cellular phone, though it was not especially designed for that environment. Even Yahoo–admittedly, a huge application–has gone through a major redesign whose purpose was to make it available to modern browsers and to take advantage of DOM and CSS features. And wow, suddenly you can access Yahoo over WAP or Palm too!

Even if workaround-ing IE problems takes more time when Web standards are targeted, the effort pays in the long term. However, the cost of developing Web applications is still high, because most Web surfers still use IE and as we demonstrated, Microsoft will never fix it’s problems, because it’s these problems the engine that keeps IE alive. So the only real hope is to convince people to quit using it.

Of all modern browsers, IE has the most pathetic feature set. You can’t even select what cookie to delete.

4.   Internet Explorer is very limited

So far we only talked about developers and the benefits that they gain if IE loses popularity. But what are your benefits?

Well, for one thing–and the most obvious–if you could only try another browser, no matter which one, you would realize that IE is very old and limited. Concerning user interface and functionality, many browser vendors have invented features which are extremely useful and IE does not provide. Such as tabbed browsing or mouse gestures. Or popup blocking. Or an useful JavaScript console. Or cookie management. These are just few of them.

If you get used to another browser, you will like these features so much that you won’t want to go back to Internet Explorer.

See Internet Explorer Reviews on Newspaper :] December 8, 2007

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See what people are saying about Internet Explorer, in the wake of its most recent security issues:

New York Times, In Search of a Browser That Banishes Clutter:

Ms. Sandlin is so devoted to [Firefox] that she has taped a note to her monitor warning guests not to click on the desktop shortcut to Internet Explorer. Do not touch the blue ‘E!’ the note says.

USA Today, Security risks swell for Microsoft’s Explorer:

Using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser to surf the Internet has become a marked risk — even with the latest security patches installed.

The Inquirer, US Government warns against Internet Explorer:

The US Government has sent out a warning out to internet users through its Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), pleading users to stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

eWeek, Bugs, Exploits Dog XP SP2:

Meanwhile, security researchers are reporting a new vulnerability in SP2 that could allow a malicious Web site to deposit an attack program on a user’s system.

The attack utilizes Internet Explorer’s drag-and-drop features and the Windows “shell folders” to copy an executable from a malicious Web site to a user’s startup folder, from which it would execute the next time the user logged on.

Slate, Are the Browser Wars Back?:

[A]ll-conquering Internet Explorer has been stuck in the mud for the past year, as Microsoft stopped delivering new versions. The company now rolls out only an occasional fix as part of its Windows updates. Gates and company won the browser war, so why keep fighting it?

The problem is that hackers continue to find and exploit security holes in Explorer.



Try other Browsers

Drop Internet Explorer December 8, 2007

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by: Wit 9JM

You should quit using this thing called “Internet Explorer”. If you don’t know what is Internet Explorer then you are probably using it. If you don’t know what is a web browser then you are probably using Internet Explorer.

If you don’t care about what is a web browser, that’s okay, we support you. End-users shouldn’t care about what is the browser nor should they care about what happens inside their computers–they use computers to do their job, just like a taxi driver is using the car to transport his passengers and shouldn’t need to care about what’s inside his car or how is it working.

But no matter who you are, there’s one thing you should care about: the future. The future of Web is doomed as long as Internet Explorer is being used by 95% of the web surfers. There are provable, technical and administrative reasons for this affirmation and we will present them in this website in a manner that can be easily understood by anyone.

Our mission is to convince you to use any other browser but not Internet Explorer. We care about this because we’re developers, concerned with technical problems that Internet Explorer has and other browsers don’t. While we do support Internet Explorer, we found ourselves many times constrained by its less-than-mediocre support for actual Web technologies. We want this to change but Microsoft does nothing about it because they don’t have a reason to put efforts into it. You could give them that reason. Switch your browser to something better, and you won’t regret, and you won’t want to come back.

US Government warns against Internet Explorer December 8, 2007

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Internet Exploder will harm your machine

TRY USING FIREFOX, http://www.mozilla.org

By Tamlin Magee: Wednesday, 30 June 2004, 1:54 PM


THE US GOVERNMENT has sent out a warning out to internet users through its Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), pleading users to stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.Following a malware attack last week which targeted a known flaw in IE, like so many other attacks, the US-CERT recommended using alternative browsers thanks to their increased security. Microsoft is hurriedly trying to increase IE’s security with the Windows XP Service Pack 2, but it’s not fast enough for many.

In a vulnerability note released by US-CERT, it says “there are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain” and that “it is possible to reduce exposure to these vulnerabilities by using a different web browser.” Well, they’re right.

The latest “extremely critical” IE bug has still not been patched by Microsoft.