Should Microsoft ditch IE?


James A has written a great article on Firefox and Microsofts attitude to open source.


I cant help but respond 🙂


I agree with James that Firefox has added a bunch of features that IE didn’t have at the time (tabbed browsing for one), and yes IE 7 is coming, but you can get tabbed browsing now with the MSN Desktop Search. 


Do I agree that “MS should have dropped all further development for IE, lost their fear of Open Source, and made a massive contribution to the Firefox project by implementing stuff like ActiveX and extending the browser features so that it can interoperate with IIS and Windows like IE does”?


Well to answer that – I want to point out a few things.



  1. Microsoft does not fear open source.  I dont know the official standpoint, but I suspect we have a neutral stance.  We have in fact encouraged OS projects in the past while I’m sure we’ve discouraged others.  An example of encourangement would be DotNetNuke – a project that has had strong adoption/fostering inside the ASP.Net and IIS teams – in fact unlike any other external project ever has (check this edition of DotNetRocks for some more details).  BTW – you could argue that DNN actual competes in some respects with Microsoft Content Management Server too.
  2. James – you say Firefox has leap frogged Internet Explorer…. but yet the market share is still easily in IE’s favour.  Some pages will have higher FF hits than IE – thats to be expected.  However, it looks to me like Firefox has been harder on IE competitors than IE.  But – perhaps you mean leap-frogged in terms of features.  Leap-frogged is a strong word for this. 
  3. How bad is FF for Microsofts revenue?  How much does Internet Explorer contribute to Microsoft’s bottom line?  How badly is Microsoft really affected by the uptake of Firefox?  Given that IE is free, there is no real revenue risk here.  The IE market share is more about mind share than money.
  4. Microsoft has made vast improvements in security across the board and Internet Explorer security is no exception..While IE does not historically have a great track record, this has changed this year.  Compare the number of vulnerabilities this year between IE and FF.  IE has had 8 security advisories this year where FF has had 15.  Compare the month by month charts for IE and FF at http://secunia.com/

What would probably be really useful would be an itemised list of features that you’d like to see IE also have so it can be submitted to the IE team.  When I did this (last year) I struggled to come up with more than tabbed browsing.  Sure you could ask for RSS (which will be in IE7) – but frankly I didn’t like the RSS implementation in FF when I was using it anyway.  You could also ask for the extensible plugin support that FF has… which might be nice.  Some might argue that FF is faster, but I didnt really notice much difference.


Beyond these what is there thats so great about FF? Why should Microsoft ditch IE and take on FF?  I really dont see any good reason.


I know you better than that James – what do you have up your sleeve that will kill my argument? 😉   


Comments (14)

  1. Rosyna says:

    My lord, some of you at MS really do drink the kool-aid. If you read pretty much any of the comments on any IE story posted *any where* you’ll see a huge list of features people want. RSS support wasn’t on any list I have ever seen.

    The number ones were always full PNG specification support and modern CSS support. As it stands now, IE is what’s holding the web back. It’s the LCD that web developers have to design to. And what a least it is.

    Web developers cannot use many of the advanced CSS features as IE has the largest market share and people with IE will visit their site. If it doesn’t look correct, the web site owners lose potential revenue and/or visitors.

    For Pete’s sake, IE’s rendering capabilities haven’t been updated in 4 years. The *only* reason IE has a market share is because of the MS monopoly. Windows Update requires IE, Active X requires IE. If developers want money, they have to code for IE. It’s a vicious cycle.

  2. Matt says:

    Microsoft shouldn’t ditch IE.

    IE has a vast share of the market because it was the best browser by a mile for 8 of the last nine years. Only in the last 6 months has there been a free competitor that’s arguably on par with it. Drop the conspiracy theories about abuse of monopoly commenter 1.

    IE7 will add the few significant extra features that Firefox currently has. Once IE matches those features, Firefox will become an insignificant geek browser.

  3. bg22 says:

    Not that I don’t like IE, I still think there

    are certain peculiarities (read "weirdness")

    with IE 6. One of which I’d like to point out

    is, sometimes when I try to save some pages

    with IE, it categorically says "This page can

    not be saved at this location" (or something

    to that effect) without any apparent reasons

    (e.g. I have correct permissions, disk space

    is not full)..which *DOES NOT* happen with FF.

    Could you please even try to explain why does

    that happen?

  4. X.Static says:

    IE is not "free"; you need a Windows license to run it…so saying it doesn’t affect MS’s bottom line is false. As stated in the comments, we have to code for IE as it’s the dominant platform; each and every hit from IE is from a (hopefully) paid for copy of Windows…this is especially prevalant in the corporate world.

  5. Bruce Morgan [MSFT] says:

    Darryl, there are several existing ways to give feedback to the IE team. People can send a comment from the IEBlog (http://blogs.msdn.com/ie) or they can go edit the Wiki at http://channel9.msdn.com/wiki/default.aspx/Channel9.InternetExplorerFeedback

    As for “How much does Internet Explorer contribute to Microsoft’s bottom line?” that’s the wrong question to ask. Instead, ask “What value does IE bring to Windows?” Developing IE7 is all about increasing the value of Windows to end users, and ultimately selling more Windows licenses.

  6. Kevin Daly says:

    Why exactly would a de facto Firefox/Mozilla monopoly be better than an IE monopoly?

    I personally think that having multiple strong players benefits everybody: Firefox has given IE a much needed boot up the behind, and IE7 has the potential to do the same for Firefox and Opera if required. This benefits everybody.

    If Microsoft made a "massive contribution to Firefox" they would without any doubt be accused of trying to take it over and sabotage it (as the loonies are accusing them of doing with RSS).

    Lastly, forget ActiveX: IE is a valuable platform for delivering Windows applications (soon via ClickOnce and ultimately whatever integration is ultimately supported for Avalon or WinFX).

  7. Kevom Daly says:

    PS. I really didn’t mean to use "ultimately" twice in the same sentence.

  8. Short list of things that are completely and utterly broken in IE that have to be fixed, preferrably with some of these pushed back into IE 6:

    1. postion:absolute + left + right = screwed. If you specify left and right, the block should automatically set the width to whatever is necessary to set the edges at left and right’s values. This one single problem in IE since 4.0 has resulted in the huge stagnation of websites and the death of the scaled site. The only way to build a scaled site right now is to use frames, and everyone hates frames for some reason. (search engines) Stay tuned, I’ve written a javascript that fixes this one for anyone that wants it. (Yes you can use tables for some of this, but try doing it with 100% scaled height and you’re toast in other browsers)

    2. Alpha PNG. Yes there is a work around, but it doesn’t work all that well, and backgrounds just dont’ work at all if you want it centered, thus you can’t create really pretty backgrounds overlayed etc.

    3. Javascript memory leaks. I can completely kill IE and have it leak memory like crazy, just itterating through elements in the DOM. That’s nuts. I would call that a security hole because I can crash anyone’s computer or make it completely unusable simply by writting a javascript on a page that loops through elements a lot thus eating up all available memory on the machine in no time. These are all well documented.

    4. Tabbed browsing. Yes, Firefox’s default implimention isn’t great. Maxthon’s is great though. Capture everything AND keep sized windows correctly sized.

    5. CSS incorrectly implimented all over the place more than just #1 which is the most serious of the bunch. Get someone to actually read the specs and impliment them the way they actually say, instead of whomever read it, was dyslexic and didn’t understand what it really meant (text-align anyone??) It’s horrible! (i.e. CSS Background Image positions anyone?)

    6. CSS not implimented at all. Some of CSS 2.0, some of CSS 1.0 some of CSS 2.1, but none of them are actually complete. Finish it already! If you’re not going to give us 2.1 then at least finish 2.0. Specifically the < relation tag would be VERY nice. Specifically Element.style.left = OtherElement.right with the < flag would be wonderful. Right now to do anything like this you have to use javascript. (which crashes the browser as noted above)

    7. Impliment all of the ECMA script standards instead of some of the wacko IE specific things (other than your mouse button flags which are done right). It would be really nice to write a script once and only once for all browsers.

    1-3 need to be fixed for IE6 so that we can have some innovation on web sites.

    There are lots more of these. IE is far from right, and because if its incorrect implimentation of some of the most basic of functionality in CSS, sites are crippled with horrible layouts.

    As someone else said "stop drinking the kool aid at MS". IE is single handedly responsible for the death of innovation in websites because of it’s horrible implimentation of the standards. (yes I know all about CSS Zen garden etc.)

    And no XAML is not an option and won’t be for at least another 5 years, especially if you block others from creating XAML rendering engines like you appear to be doing.

  9. Tim Haughton says:

    I use Avant at the moment. I moved to that from Firefox. The thing I liked the most about Firefox is that it’s on your side. Whereas IE is firmly on the side of advertisers. Blocking ad servers is an important ability. FF has this, so does Avant. Popup blocking is very important, IE and Avant have this, but it doesn’t work reliably. FF has this and works flawlessly.

  10. Leanne Owen-Keenan says:

    Hi

    First can I say I’m not a developer or anything so knowledgeable but I will tell you why I don’t use IE unless I’m forced to by a particular page. It’s for the simple reason that when I use FF all day I never get any tracking cookies, data miners etc etc. If I use IE for even 5 minutes my anti-spyware software throws up at least one "something" that has snuck onto my system. For the record, I’m actually a pretty happy Microsoft Product user but, like everything, there are some bits that I could do without, as it were.

  11. Some things other than tabbed browsing that I would like to see would be:

    1) Ability to have a priorised list of proxies.

    2) Gesture support. For example right-drag left for "Back". Should be able to define your own. I use this feature in Maxthon and it rocks.

    One other situation where IE is the better option is in an intranet context if the organisation is using Active X.