Unofficial Vista Blog Tour, Day 2: Does IE7 suck?

Stuart Mudie and Derek Torres are co-authors of The Unofficial Guide to Windows Vista, a warts-and-all look at the new Microsoft operating system, that is due to be published by Wiley early next year.

I’ve worked with Stuart in the past, we’ve known each other through our blogs for quite some time, and we’ve met up in Paris. So when he announced that the two of them were planning a “virtual blog tour” to promote their book, I was happy to volunteer as a host.

Over to Stuart…

I did a Google search the other day for “IE7 sucks” and received around 14,000 results – not bad for a product that’s little more than a month old. (By way of comparison, “Firefox 2.0 sucks” returned just over a hundred results.)

But is IE7 really that bad?

While there are certainly things to complain about, when you look at the bigger picture, I think Microsoft is to be applauded for the important improvements it has made to the latest version of its browser. We have a right to demand perfection, but we shouldn’t really be surprised when we don’t get it. You recently put it quite well yourself, Neville, when you asked: “Are all browsers just betas?

So, what is there to like about IE7?

  • Tabbed browsing may well be a sign that Microsoft is playing catch-up with Firefox (just like much in the new version of Windows Media Player is playing catch-up with iTunes), but that doesn’t make it any less welcome.
  • Tight integration of RSS is a step towards mainstream use of content syndication formats, which is a good thing.
  • Like in Windows Vista as a whole, security is much more to the fore in IE7. Protected Mode (Vista only), the Phishing filter and numerous HTTPS enhancements are all examples of how the Microsoft philosophy now seems to be “secure by default”, rather than putting the onus on the user to make the “right” security decision.
  • IE7’s improved CSS, DOM and HTML support, while it may not be the full standards compliance many have been demanding, does at least sort out some of the biggest bugs. In the short term, this may create problems with sites that make extensive use of hacks to get around shortcomings in previous versions of Internet Explorer, but that’s something for the developers of those sites to sort out, not a problem with IE7 itself. Don’t criticise Microsoft for starting to do things right.

In summary, IE7 is far from perfect, but it is the first decent browser from Microsoft in a long time and we should recognise it as such. They’re on the right track at last.

– Stuart Mudie, co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Windows Vista

(You can pre-order Stuart’s and Derek’s book now from Amazon.)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Net

    You should get Maxthon a go. Based on IE technology but with far better performance leaving iE7 far behind. BTW, have you tried the new blog editor in Maxthon (BlogEX-plugin)? Works really great – and fast.

    See you at Le Web 3 ;)

  2. Stuart Mudie

    Coenraad, I agree – partly. I may have written here that Microsoft is on the right track at last, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be changing from Firefox any time soon. But what percentage of “real people” go to the trouble of replacing the browser that ships by default with their operating system? It’s because of users like my Dad that what Microsoft does with its browser is still important.

  3. tedzzz

    with all the resources and money they have
    it looks like it was done on a shoestring

    The GUI is out of a 101 design class
    did you see the tab configuration option screen?
    have you watch people try to figure out how to clear cookies in IE7

    did you notice how flexible products like word are for customizing menus
    and how inflexible IE is?

    the web is now for the masses – IE aint
    Firefox, granted is for power users and that is a good place to be, so ….let IE focus on the masses

    IE should aim for the masses, who just want something that is transparent to their work on the web.

  4. Coenraad de Beer

    Stuart and tedzzz you are right when you say that most of your novice users stick to the browser their OS shipped with, simply because they don’t know better. IE is for the masses, rightfully said, but I have seen total newbies feeling more comfortable with Firefox, many people don’t mind what browser they use, as long as it delivers. I think that even Firefox 2 annoys many people these days because of the constant crashing. But it is sad to say that many people put up with these annoyances from browsers because they don’t even know where to start looking for alternative browsers, let alone the fact of even knowing that alternative browsers exist.

    Tedzzz, the user interface changes is the main reason why people will switch to Firefox 2 without any hesitation. I personally think that IE7 would have had a greater impact if they did not fiddle that much with the user interface. Yes a revamped look is always nice, but don’t tumble it upside down. The interface is even confusing for power users, now imagine how hard it must be for novice users to browse the web with IE7. Take for instance the menu bar, why hide something as important as this if you know that the majority of your users are inexperienced and computer illiterate, these users hate buttons and toolbars (they are blind for them), they love menu bars. It is frustrating for me to see how users take several steps to do something they could have done with the use of a button on the toolbar, but this is a cold reality, novice users prefer menus, for one simple reason, menus spells it out for them, buttons with pictures don’t. I have seen so many users on social community sites asking: “What happened to my menu bar in Internet Explorer? :-( Please help!”

  5. ye

    That comparison is flawed, since the inclusion of “2.0” in the firefox query reduces the amount of search results. A better comparison would be to search for:

    “ie sucks”
    Returns 1,360,000 results


    “firefox sucks”
    Returns 1,410,000 results

    Given that IE existed for much longer than Firefox and has been through much more revisions (plus a huge list of users 87% of Internet browsers); we can safely say that a larger proportional of Firefox users (or ex-users) find that Firefox – sucks.

  6. Coenraad de Beer

    Which search engine did you use? Check the big 3 of search and “ie sucks” will in all 3 cases return the most results. Interesting enough the gap between the two searches is the largest on MSN Live Search.

  7. Stuart Mudie

    While I disagree that “IE7 sucks” and “Firefox 2.0 sucks” is an unfair comparison, since both queries contain the version number, it wasn’t really the point of my post to say which of the two I prefer (for the record, I still use Firefox as my main browser). Rather, I simply wanted to suggest that we should perhaps recognise the fact that Microsoft did get some things right with its new browser instead of focusing only on the negative.

  8. Coenraad de Beer

    Stuart, you do have a point there. I am a huge supporter of Firefox, but I also recognise the need of improved online security for the mainstream user and that is what we should be aiming at, whether we are referring to IE or Firefox. It is at the moment more important to have IE5/6 users switch to Firefox for improved security, or they must at least upgrade their browser to IE7 (which is always a better bet than IE5/6 when it comes to security). I must admit that, although Microsoft’s approach to security is still not what it should be, they seemed to do more things right with IE7 than they did with previous versions of IE.

Comments are closed.