After reading the recent posts on Microsoft’s Developer’s Network pertaining to Internet Explorer I am more discouraged than ever. IE9 finally does support rounded corners but what’s disappointing is how long it has taken them to get there. The IE9 acid 3 test is 32/100 and it’s not even out yet. Firefox is 94/100, Safari and Webkit are 100/100. I would really like to hear from Microsoft on how they explain how far behind they are on innovating. The sad part is, unless there is a radical change in how things are perceived, Microsoft will get away with it. Complaints about a website lacking in functionality or having problems go to the webmaster, not to IE6 or 7. Our statistics still show that we are getting more hits with IE6 than Firefox, Safari, and Chrome combined. Every web developer has complained about the lack of standard support. By the time that Microsoft releases IE9 with its lackluster feature set, web development as a whole will of leapfrogged by them. It seems the only bright spot in this mess is the Google Chrome Frame project. Google, showing their frustration with this problem, wrote an application that sits inside IE and renders with all the open web standards that we know and love (faster than IE I might add). So now what is the problem? Do IT managers that still force IE6 with no admin privileges down the throats of their users get blamed? No, us web developers will continue to take the heat if the user can’t install the plug-in and our sites don’t work for IE6 users.
IE8 was officially released on March 19th, 2009. Marking a great day for people begging for the deprecation of IE6. As of the 5th of April, IE8 was up to 3+% and based on IE8’s speed, standard support, and security, I’m hoping this trend continues upward, displacing IE6 which is showing ~22%. (Source: gs.statcounter.com)
IE8 has added numerous new security features. Some of which are more functional than others. IE8 has instituted two new filters; the cross-site scripting filter, and the smart screen filter (successor to the anti-phishing filter). The cross-site scripting (XSS) filter, sure to cause developer pains, blocks XSS requests from executing and pops up a notification that an attack has been blocked. I’m still waiting to see how this plays out for people using CDN’s like Akamai to host their static content. I haven’t noticed any problems on my sites as of yet. The Smart Screen filter warns you if there is one website impersonating another. This has become a popular attack method of sites for capturing private data or getting on to your machine so its nice to see Microsoft addressing this. Included in this is domain name highlighting, a feature sure to be missed by the average consumer. In terms of Security, IE8 also offers the InPrivate browsing feature (Porn Mode), that doesn’t log your history or cache anything.
In terms of Speed from personal experience the IE8 rendering has been quite good. Microsoft posted some speed comparisons (http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/03/microsofts-own-speed-tests-show-ie-beating-chrome-firefox.ars) that show some excellent times. If anyone has seen speed comparisons to IE6 I would love to see them.
IE8 now passes the Acid 2 test completely. The Acid 2 test is a test page written to help browser manufacturers ensure support for proper web standards in their products. This makes me and many other web developers very happy, especially if they can get a better than 3.4% market penetration with IE8. Sadly IE8 doesn’t pass the next level of standards; the Acid 3 test, which tests for numerous items including DOM Traversal, DOM Events, CSS 3 Selectors, SVG, and ECMA Script. To Microsoft’s credit though, FF3 is only scoring a 71/100. Opera 10 and Safari 4 are the only ones showing promise of passing that currently.
So what we are left with is a highly secure, fast browser, which is out of Beta (unlike Gmail). So here is where I plead: Please, Please, Please if you are an IT person reading this, get your people off of IE6, the browser is now 8 years old, susceptible to all types of attacks and incredibly slow at rendering pages. Any costs associated with making an upgrade to the newest version of IE are trumped by the costs of trying to deal with and support the nightmarish flood of junk that IE6 brings with it. And if you are still concerned, don’t forget, IE8 has a compatibility mode. There are no excuses anymore to keep your people on IE6. I have a dream that IE6 will be below 3% by the end of the year.