Category Archives: Web Browsers

Don’t Block Internet Explorer

Apparently there are websites out there that are redirecting Internet Explorer users to the Alternative Browser Alliance. This is, IMHO, both counter-productive and counter to the open spirit of the web.

For all the same reasons that you shouldn’t block visitors using Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Opera, or anything else unless there’s an actual, genuine technical reason (and unless you’re doing serious multimedia that has no fallback option, there is rarely a genuine technical reason), you shouldn’t be blocking visitors using Internet Explorer…

Because you’re not going to change them. You’re just going to make them angry.

They arrived at your site looking for something. Slapping them in the face and sending them off to another site is not going to get them to change their behavior and come back. It’s just going to make them look somewhere else for someone offering the same thing who won’t make them jump through hoops.

Case Study

Last week I received a message through the Alternative Browser Alliance’s contact form asking, “What does this have to do with cpanel?” I wanted to reply, “Nothing, why do you ask?”…but the person who asked the question hadn’t left an email address, just the name “King Kong.”

(Tip: If you want an answer to a question, give people a way to contact you!)

So I checked the server logs and saw that he(?) had arrived on the Why Alternative Browsers? page and had left no referrer. Great, another dead end.

I was ready to write it off as spam, but then I decided to search the logs for cpanel, and found several hits referred by a cpanel tutorial. I visited the page and didn’t see any links to my site, but when I looked at the source, I spotted this script:

if(navigator.userAgent.indexOf("MSIE")!= -1)
{
   window.location = "http://www.alternativebrowseralliance.com/why.html";
}

Wow. They just redirected all IE users with no explanation — not even pointing out that they were being shunted off to another website! Imagine opening the front door of a computer repair shop and walking inside to find a political activist’s office instead!

Presumably “King Kong” had searched for cpanel, followed a link to this tutorial, and found himself looking at a page about alternative web browsers. No wonder he didn’t leave a contact address. He didn’t want an answer. He was angry and blowing off steam — at me, for something that someone else did.

And did badly, I might add: Three of the five visits I could actually identify in the logs claimed to be Opera Mini, not Internet Explorer. I don’t recall whether Opera Mini can masquerade as another browser (the current Android version doesn’t offer the option, but this claimed to be an older Java version), but the desktop version certainly can. Older versions of Opera used to deliberately identify themselves as IE (with a tag adding that, no, actually it’s Opera), and would have been caught by this script!

The User-Agent isn’t a reliable indicator. It was never intended to be. If you must single out Internet Explorer for some reason, use conditional comments. That’s what they’re designed for.

If what you want to do is block IE visitors, though, think about what you’re really accomplishing. And please, don’t just silently shove the “problem” visitors onto someone else.

Check Your Plugins!

It’s a safe bet that your web browser uses at least one plugin, and probably several. Maybe it’s just Flash for viewing animations and video (think YouTube and Hulu). Maybe it’s Silverlight for watching Netflix, or Shockwave for playing games. You’ve probably got Java installed.

Just like your web browser, these plugins must be kept up to date or you’ll run into problems: missing features, instability, or (worst case) security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, most plugins don’t update themselves.

Several months ago, Mozilla introduced a service called Plugin Check that will identify the plugins you have installed and tell you whether they need to be updated — and how to do it. At first it only worked on Firefox, but now it’s been expanded to all major browsers: Chrome, Safari, Opera, and even Internet Explorer.

It’s worth taking a few moments to check. Think of it as a pit stop for your computer’s web browser.

Browse-o-Smart

After a week of playing with Chrome as my main browser, I’m back to Firefox. Chrome’s fast, but sometimes too much like Breathe-o-Smart.

Me: Why won’t you show me the full (relatively long) URL of this link?

Chrome: You won’t want to look at the full URL with Chrome!

Me: But what if I do?

Chrome: Trust me, you won’t. You’ll never need a URL again.

Me: But what if I need to look at it just this once?

Chrome: Well, I suppose you could actually follow the link. Or copy it and paste it into a text editor. If you really must have the URL. Not that you’d want to, of course.

Me: Why should I have to do that just to look at a URL? *headdesk*

Hazards of Keyless Ignition and Office Chairs.

  • Today I learned that keyless ignition makes it easy to accidentally leave your car running. Good thing it was only 5 minutes. # The fact that it idles silently (no need to run the motor unless it’s charging the battery) was probably a necessary factor too. #
  • Amusing: Apple has released Safari 4.0.4. Seems appropriate for a web browser. #
  • By Fox “The Cancelator” standards, waiting 4 episodes to cancel Dollhouse Season 2 is generous. #
  • WTF? I just tweaked my *other* shoulder doing nothing more exciting than reaching for my mouse. Nowhere near as badly, at least! #
  • Right shoulder seems OK. Left shoulder still recovering from whatever the heck I did to it yesterday. The dangers of…office chairs? #

Upgrading the Web: IE8 Released

IE7Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 yesterday, for Windows XP and Vista. So if you’re still running IE6, or someone you know is, it’s once again time to think about upgrading — or switching. (Assuming, of course, that you’re not locked in by corporate policy or another piece of software.)

  • IE6 is now two versions behind the current release.
  • IE6 is almost 8 years old (it was released in 2001).
  • IE6 is lacking in many capabilities that all other modern web browsers have, in web technology, in security, and in features you can use.

You can read a review at Wired, a write-up from the IE team, or a summary of technical changes from WaSP.

Of course, Internet Explorer isn’t the only option out there. There’s Opera, Firefox, Chrome and a host of other alternative browsers that are worth checking out.

If you’re still running Windows 2000 or some other old version of Windows that can’t run IE7 or IE8, I’d absolutely recommend Firefox or Opera. Either will be much better than IE6, both will run on Windows 2000, and Opera will even run on Windows Me and Windows 98 (but you really ought to move to something more current than Windows Me.)

Opera Chrome Firefox