Last week, on their YouTube IE8 channel, Microsoft released a video in an attempt to push the poor souls who are still using IE6 to move to IE8. If this campaign looks familiar, it should. Well, at least in the States it should look familiar. Microsoft used kids in it’s campaign to inform the masses that Windows 7 was coming.
A brief history from my POV…
Internet Explorer has been a pain for web developers everywhere for years now. Back in the days, Microsoft had the intention to remake the web the way they wanted. Microsoft had an advantage with the fact that Internet Explorer was bundled with Windows. While regular users were unaware, those who cared knew the effects of Internet Explorer on the internet. These effects can be listed as effects on security and effects on standardizing the development of web pages and the programs that are written for these web sites.
A group called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) drafts “standards” which define how web pages can be developed. They also define programming methods for web programming languages. While Internet Explorer has adhered to a good deal of these standards, Microsoft has developed Internet Explorer in a way that goes against these standards by making it’s own rules for web sites.
In the early days of commercial web development, most developers would either make web sites that would either work correctly in Internet Explorer or Netscape – the major competitor to IE, or both. This was a challenge for two reasons: 1. Back then there just was not enough information widely available where developers could easily find the information needed to make web sites correctly. 2. As stated above, Internet Explorer came bundled with Windows making it more appealing to developers to just make web sites that worked in Internet Explorer without checking if the site worked in another browser. After all, everyone has Windows!
Along comes a Firefox…
Some years later, Firefox came along. Netscape was dying a quick death. It had been beaten hands down by Internet Explorer which was enjoying well over 90% of the browser market and was eventually sold off to AOL. Firefox appealed to people because it was more secure than Internet Explorer, which was integrated into Windows. It was faster than Internet Explorer. And for web developers, it was nearly standards compliant.
Meanwhile, Internet Explorer continued to lag far behind. Internet Explorer 6, which is most at issue here, was released with better security (Ironic, considering IE6 and it’s integration into Windows was one of the big security problems pre Windows XP SP1) but little change in it’s support of web standards. IE6 still enjoyed widespread use and Microsoft saw no reason to change the way it approached the internet. However, because of the massive security problems that plagued Windows and IE, IE began to lose it’s lead in the browser market to the alternative browsers. IE7 was released with better (read: it’s ok but nothing big) CSS support and tabbed browsing – just like the alternative browsers. IE7 marked the time when an Internet Explorer browser was not part of the Windows shell – meaning it became a standalone program.
Final thoughts and the video
It might be hard for someone who does not do commercial web development to understand the problems that I have run into over the years with web developer and Internet Explorer. Multi-browser testing is now a required part of web development. Web sites must be tested in all “major” browsers such as: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Opera. Throughout the time of commercial internet use, smart people have developed “hacks” in order to ensure that what a web site is supposed to look like, looks exactly the same way in Internet Explorer. This is not how it should be. All competing web browsers should display web pages the same way while developing ways for the browsers to render these pages faster and add additional features which will enhance your web surfing experience.
Getting all browser makers on board the standards train is imperative now. Microsoft, having been nearly defeated in the browser wars, is finally starting to realize that it needs to stand in line with everyone else. This is why it’s beginning this campaign. While this is a good thing, I don’t understand how this campaign will convince corporations and smaller businesses to move to IE8. I say this because there are, unfortunately, companies who use software that is specifically made for IE6 and lower. Upgrading this software for these companies will be expensive. The second reason is because IE6 will continue to enjoy some support from Microsoft for some years to come because Windows XP will have extended support until at least 2014. This is unfortunate and regardless what Ars has to say about it in that article, Microsoft does have some responsibility in killing support for IE6. After all, it was Microsoft’s fault in the first place.