Tag Archives: IE

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.

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

Improving Browser Reliability

The IEBlog recently posted about their efforts to improve reliability in Internet Explorer 8, particularly the idea of “loosely-coupled IE” (or LCIE). The short explanation is that each tab runs in its own process, so if a web page causes the browser to crash, only that tab crashes — not the whole thing. (It is a bit more complicated, but that’s the principle.) Combine that with session recovery (load with the same set of web pages, if possible with the form data you hadn’t quite finished typing in), and you massively reduce the pain of browser crashes.

I’d like to see something like this picked up by Firefox and Opera as well. They both have crash recovery already, but it still means restoring the entire session. If you have 20 tabs open, it’s great that you don’t have to hunt them down again. But it also means you have to wait for 20 pages to load simultaneously. It would be much nicer to only have to wait for one (or, if I read the IE8 article correctly, three).

Edited to add:

On a related note, I’ve run into an interesting conflict between crash recovery and WordPress’ auto-save feature. If you start a new post, WordPress will automatically save it as a draft. If the browser crashes, it will bring up the new-post page, but restore most of the form data you filled in. So the title, the text of your post, etc will all be there. But WordPress will see it as a new post, and you’ll end up with a duplicate.

This wasn’t a major problem when I encountered it — I had to reset the categories, tags, and post slug after I hit publish (since I hadn’t noticed that they’d been reset to defaults), and I just deleted the older, partial version of the post — but I can imagine if I’d uploaded an image gallery, I would have been rather annoyed, since there’s no way (that I’ve noticed) to move images from one post to another. Reuse them, sure, but not such that the gallery feature would work.