Aren't people tired of arguing?

I don't get it.

You run across these discussions like "my Mac never crashes" or "IE sucks" and reading through you see mean comments, one after the next. The vast majority simply use personal experience as their measuring stick of current and future expectations but that level of experience is so small as to paint a completely inaccurate picture.

One bad apple

I used to do tech support. It was my 'career' before I got into web development (and no, I won't come over and fix your computer). So, let's be clear: stuff fails. Somebody's Maxtor drive would fail and from then on it'd be "Never buy Maxtor, they're the worst!" And yet the next person to come in with a failed Western Digital drive would say, "Never buy Western Digital, they're the worst! I love my Maxtor!" The problem is that their experience with a particular brand is so small that they really have no way of knowing whether that particular brand is reliable.

And honest-to-goodness failure of a product does happen, like Dell's recent battery incident. That doesn't mean that their other products aren't reliable. One bad apple spoils the bunch, it seems.

Righteous and deserved

The IE debate is a little different. I'm honestly a little surprised. Maybe it's just the capitalist in me but if I had a product that had 90%+ market share and was something I was giving away for free, I doubt I'd be spending my money to fix matter how much money I had. Seriously, if you don't like it don't use it.

And yet, people feel they rightfully deserve for IE be fully CSS compliant. Let's see, food, shelter, freedom of religion, and CSS compliance. Yeah, that's about right. Let me put it this way: it's not a basic human right to have full CSS compliance. Nice to have but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it and I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to spam message boards and blog comments going on about how Microsoft is the devil for not including :inherit support.

Tired yet?

So, if you build a product, I commend you for it. If it helps me, I'll use it. If it doesn't, I won't. If you'd like my feedback, I'll gladly give it in a civil and constructive fashion. That is all.

Published August 16, 2006 · Updated September 14, 2006
Categorized as Opinion
Short URL:


44 Comments · RSS feed
rich said on August 16, 2006

Is it free though?

It's an integral part of the Windows OS. As far as I know it's impossible / extremely hard to remove.

So isn't it covered by the Windows license cost? And as such shouldn't it work properly?

Emil said on August 16, 2006

Good thoughts, but I can't agree with you at the IE point. It should have been okay if it was an external application but it isn't. It's a scary integration in my OS. I could use linux though, my point failed. Damn.

Give me a good graphics program which works in linux and I'll switch tomrorrow. And no don't even think about comparing GIMP to Photoshop.

Reg Braithwaite said on August 16, 2006

"I had a product that had 90%+ market share and was something I was giving away for free, I doubt I'd be spending my money to fix it..."

I agree. However, one question is: how did IE end up with 90% market share? The answer is that MS abused their monopoly position in operating systems to crush the competition for browsers, and then promptly stopped work on IE, cutting the team from 150+ people to just two at its low point.

Does that make a difference to their responsibility? I think it does.

Jonathan Snook said on August 16, 2006

rich: I suppose if you looked at that way, there is a cost but what is working "properly"? I've used IE6 (it was my standard browser for a long time) and it seemed to work just fine. Or are you saying that because you've paid for the product, it should therefore comply with any and all third party specifications?

Frode Danielsen said on August 16, 2006

Like Emil, I agree with everything but your IE point. I think I'll take a quite opposite "extreme" POV to make my case then: the WWW is not about making money, it is not a commercial product/service. As such, I think Microsoft has at least a bit of responsibility to not "abuse" this. So capitalism should not be a completely valid "excuse".

Granted, there is no one correct way of implementing the technologies the WWW uses, but you could at least go as far as to say there exists de facto standards.

You say IE6 always seemed to work fine for you - and yes, for the end user it most likely will. But at what costs? It's the developers and creators of content on the WWW that are complaining about IE's bugs and quirks, and they will obviously try to make their information as accessible as possible. Which implies having to make sure it's possible to view it in the browser with the highest market share.

I would also like to specify that I'm talking about the bugs and quirks, not how much of the modern standards are supported.

Carson McComas said on August 16, 2006

Oh Snook, stop with your fair, rational and well reasoned thoughts, this is the intarweb!

Bernie Zimmermann said on August 16, 2006

IE still sucks though, right? ;)

Nate K said on August 16, 2006

I agree with all but the IE points. Unfortunately, many users think IE IS the Internet, and have no idea you can use another browser. So, out of the box, an everyday user doesn't know that they have options.

Does IE work? Yes, it will retrieve what I request - but does it work WELL and to standards? nope. This is not something that clients may see all the time, but it sure is a headache for developers.

Take your statement to the other extreme. Safari comes with the Mac, Firefox is free, Opera is free, Camino is free, Mozilla is free. So why should any of them comply to standards? Why dont they all just do their own thing and use their own standards? The point of standards is to get EVERYONE on the same page and a level playing field, without them it is chaos. I don't use IE and would never recommend it to anyone, but they are obviously a large market share (mostly beginners and 'browsers' who don't know any different).

Speaking of bad apple - I have to go fix a Mac now (I get the luxury of being the web developer/programmer...and....mac guy).

kimblim said on August 16, 2006

Reg: What monopoly are you talking about? The monopoly they "earned" by making software that was either better or easier to use than that of their competitors? It's not like all governments across the world outlawed everything but Windows. So yeah, maybe they had a monopoly, but it was a monopoly that we, the users, gave them by buying Windows.

And seriously: IE6 is a decent browser for everyday users, and the little quirks it has, most webdevelopers can avoid or hack their way through. I seriously think I would be out of a job if everything worked the same in all browsers on all platforms :|

Jonathan Snook said on August 16, 2006

I seriously don't mind IE6. In IE7, alpha png and fixed positioning were my two biggest desires. I'd still like display:table but I've been able to live without it. Take a look at the CSS for this site and there's been very few hacks needed; none of which are needed for IE7.

There are things that bug me in other browsers. Like, why haven't they been able to get soft-hyphen support into Firefox? I mean, it's been 5 years! Or the fact it doesn't line break on regular hyphens. Or how about some of the wonky JavaScript support in Safari (which is similar to IE in that it's bundled with the OS).

Firefox is still my browser of choice and likely will be for some time but I wouldn't blink an eye at switching back to IE, if it did what I needed and did it better than anybody else.

acts_as_flinn said on August 16, 2006

flame bate!

The problem with your argument seems to me that since IE is included with Windows it isn't really free. It is a part of the operating system that they claim to support.

My biggest problem is that IE costs a fortune to have to come up with fixes for awful CSS breakage, and lack of standards support (alpha PNG!).

I'm all for capitalism, but IE is ridiculous.

James Mathias said on August 16, 2006

What I find intriguing is that no one got the point of this article... lol.

WB said on August 16, 2006

I guess it is good to have opinions but bad to be opinioniated.

Emil said on August 16, 2006

James: That is all people here is telling Jonathan tha answer on his topic "Aren't people tired of arguing?". And as you may have seen, the answer is No! ... haha

Thomas Messier said on August 16, 2006

I think it would be nice for IE to comply with standards for the simple fact that I think it would make their offering better and more customers happy. The average user wouldn't see the difference (no loss) and the developers would applaud (gain). Having said that, I agree that a big fuss is made out of it all, and it's often quite easy to work your way around incompatibilities. People who come up with sites like must have a lot of hatred in their hearts...

Aaron Martone said on August 16, 2006

Does Microsoft owe us a standards compliant browser? No. (Heck, I don't think they could do it if they want) But it's not the public's responsibility for progressing the web; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of professional web developers.

Can I be upset with Microsoft for this situation? Sure. There's a right way to go about this and a wrong way. Unfortunately, Microsoft holds such stature in the web browser market merely because the audience doesn't know better (many wouldn't know how to change to a different browser and even more don't know what a "browser" is) How many times have I heard people call MSIE "The blue 'E', or 'The Internet'?

Anyways, what many people don't see is that arguments aren't always black and white. There are many shades of gray. Some people believe that if you're Pro-THIS then you HAVE to be Con-THAT. With the above example, I hate that MS doesn't provide a standards compliant browser, but I don't discredit the product; I just hold to the belief that their browser would be so much better (not to mention DO better) for more if they were.

joel said on August 16, 2006

A few concepts have been brought up here.

#1: IE is not "free" when it is an embedded part of the system. This is on the user side.

One should also consider the cost from a developer side to determine the "freeness" of any piece of software. This is exactly how business looks at options in the open source world, and something completely ignored in this oped.

Sure, there may not be many hacks for this site, but have you had to compromise anything in order to do so? To work around what should be a norm.

Finally, a product with next to no updates at commercial stage over around five years? Market failure is what I would call it.

Jonathan Snook said on August 16, 2006

joel: well, certainly any product has a level of 'cost' to produce anything within the environment of that product. However, there's really no accurate way to create a measurable cost that would be applicable to all people. Which is why it's so hard to use it as a point of argument (which is part of the point of this post).

Why is it a failure for a product to not be updated in five years? I'm sure there are plenty of products that weren't updated in 5 years. And to be honest, the product has been updated within the past 5 years. They just chose not to update any of the rendering engine within that time.

Ed said on August 17, 2006

If I was head of IE, I wouldn't fix it. Biggest market share, most of the web is accessible through it, it's the most forgiving browser, it's quick, it's reliable, it can be integrated seamlessly into applications, almost all websites are coded for it...

From a business point of view it's massively successful.

Improving the rendering engine will be thankless outside of the development community as the majority of people won't see or appreciate the effort. Will all you FIrefox users cast your browsers aside and set IE as default?

Aren't people tired of arguing? That depends if you're a participant or viewer. It can be wildly entertaining.

Johan said on August 17, 2006

Arguing but what is the use?

IE WIN is hopping along, and we have to ride along. It is a company, and decides itself. Though the law is not really helpful, especially for the little man!

Armin Besirovic said on August 17, 2006

I'd go along with Ed on the point of IE, though I think it halts evolution. People often tend to "argue" but none "debate" and that's where I think the problem is! The sad truth is that people best learn on mistakes and until the day comes that because of a bug in your browser you cannot boot your system, you probably won't think about change.

Luckily, Firefox is gaining popularity fast, guess why?
And yes, I agree that arguing can be wonderfully entertaining (wildly too :))

Peter said on August 17, 2006

Well, you're obviously right that MS doesn't *have* to make IE fully-CSS complaint, but what bothers me is it seems this is well within their grasp - it doesn't seem to be a problem with lack of skill or resources.

If companies like Mozilla, or Opera, can make browers that have better CSS support, there's no way a company like MS can't.

My main problem is that IE6's problems with CSS *do* make things harder for web-design, especially if one is learning. Usually, when you're learning a topic like CSS you'll want to use the reference; however, you'll quickly learn that it can't be fully applied to IE6, and this is frustrating. IE7 is reported not to have full CSS compliance either. Once you do a few designs, you start to get the hang of what IE's capable of and things become easier.

I'm not going to say "IE sucks, use FF or Opera" because I don't think "IE sucks" (what does "sucks" constitute?), and I also don't think it's real to expect normal, everyday people to download and install another browser when they couldn't care otherwise - it's unrealistic to expect mainstream users to have the same skill/concern as tech-saavy users.

Robert said on August 17, 2006

It's a sad state of affairs. The web could be so much more if MS made IE standards compliant as it would allow developers to produce websites much more quickly and without hacks in order to make them cross-browser compatible.

Basically what I'm saying is, with MS refusing to develop their software to a standard level they're slowing the evolution of the WWW.

Johan said on August 17, 2006

It is like nitpicking in a a haystack.

Ed said on August 17, 2006

Do remember that IE is an integrated part of the operating system ~ shdocvw.dll ~ and not a standalone rendering component. This makes it MUCH harder to amend as an awful lot of legacy applications rely on it the way it is.

I bet this thread turns into the very thing this Snook character is getting tired of ;)

ticks email notification

Hakan Bilgin said on August 17, 2006

Well has been a long time since I was inpired by others but I like what your writings...thanx.

PS: I tried to make comments with IE6/Windows but it didn't work so good. Perhaps you are aware of it?

Scott said on August 17, 2006

> Nice to have but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it

You've never stayed up late into the night to make sure something was working properly in IE the day before its deadline? I thought everyone had lost some sleep because of IE's CSS rendering. :)

On the whole, however, I agree with you. I mean, other than a couple of missing features and a few well documented bugs, it's not difficult to get IE to display pretty darn close to other browsers.

Chet said on August 18, 2006

I once had a teacher mention to me in art school that some of the most skilled craftsmen around, are aware of and excel at working inside the limitations of there choosen medium.

Just a thought.

J R Mortland III (Bob) said on August 18, 2006

I am never tired of arguing

adam said on August 18, 2006

Arguing is what makes the world spin! Nothing like a good argument to brighten up a day.

Macs are great, windows suck, firefox is the best, internet explorer is crap


Ismael said on August 18, 2006

I'm shocked!
Sure, IE is alright for everyday CSS / Javascript tasks, but I just spent two weeks working in a complex RIA-style interface (Javascript, fixed-positioning, Ajax, you name it). The first week it worked fine for all modern browsers except IE, and it was pretty staright fordward too, as I just followed standards for CSS and JS.
I had to spend an entire extra week just to make it work for IE, and finally I had to deploy a degraded version for that browser.
Now, that's reason enough for me to keep arguing!

Jonathan Snook said on August 18, 2006

Ismael: but you only paint part of the picture. Does it work in Safari and Opera? Did you test and fix issues in all browsers but IE during development and only try to fix IE at the end?

Part of avoiding problems is understanding the limitations of your environment.

Ismael said on August 18, 2006

Yes, I had to apply minor fixes to different browsers (Ok, Safari's javascript leaves much to desire), but all fixes where pretty much related, had a clear cause and obey to documented interpretations of the standards.

Apart from insufficient support for things like position:fixed, IE has lots of rendering quirks that a). do not follow any standard and b). only happen upon certain combination of events (bugs).

Generally, I have understood the limitations of IE's CSS and Javascript support and have managed to live with that, but then you find these things that are not only limitations but real software design mistakes and your life turns sour. True, many of these bugs are documented (somewhere, somehow) but you still have to take the extra time to find and fix those problems. That costs money and patience.

But the bottom line is: if a product is giving me headaches as a developer, it is perfectly reasonable that I complain until things get better. I'm sure MS devs wouldn't have been so motivated to fix CSS for IE7 if the developer comunity hadn't complained so much (did I get my english right?).

Sure, users don't care as long as the browser works for them, and they don't have to. We do.

Bernhard Welzel said on August 20, 2006

I will never understand why microsoft fails to "fix" the ie (even with 7.x). there is no reason why they can´t make ie all this w3c-css-standard-loving piece of software opera or firefox ist today.
as for the costs: does anybody think there can´t do it with a tiny piece of the adverts budget?
but still: i need to get angry with them, and spend my time on convincing everybody i know to use firefox. not because its bug-free, userfriendly oss. no, i make people switch because ie is broken and firefox is not - even if the can never tell the difference.
this is my way of meaning as a programmer.

joel said on August 20, 2006

The legacy problem is why MS can never (imho) actually produce a good browser. Period.

Legacy systems are a developers worse nightmare, and I will have to say, due to the lack of updates to IE over the past 5 years (while the rest of the web has gone beyond IE's capabilities) Microsoft is stuck in a position where if they update many corporate intranet sites will have to be redeveloped due to their abuse of proprietary components. If they don't, they risk losing further market share. I assume that they are scared of that because if people start looking at alternate browsers and become *informed consumers* they might be tempted to switch to other non-MS products at home, at uni, and more importantly, at the office.

Zach Blume said on August 21, 2006

Rich has a point

ChadL said on August 22, 2006

@joel: doctypes can aide in legacy support

Ever used a faucet where hot was on the right and cold was on the left? Damn frustrating experience isn't it?

Much like developing a rich internet application for the web. Ok now everyone, let's say it together: STANDARDS.

Sure, there may be little or no direct monetary benefit for MS to push money into developing improvements to IE. But what's the cost of pissing off a community of web developers?

Olly said on August 22, 2006

"are you saying that because you've paid for the product, it should therefore comply with any and all third party specifications?"

Yes, if said product claims to support a standard, then it should comply with it.

The arguing gets tiring from time to time, aye, but then it's just our competitive nature and one-up-manship isn't it?

Jeremy said on August 22, 2006

All I know is that with this IE problem (which I think IE is stupid, but not because of CSS) it gives me more job security. If everyone knew how to get around it, then I wouldn't get paid what I do.

Yuval Raz said on August 24, 2006

this is particulary a problem where i work - Israel.
since IE was the first browser to support right to left coding and visual hebrew, it has taken, and still occupies up to 97% of the market share in this state.
needless to say, most of the people i meet in the web design industry don't even know what cross-browser means as they aren't aware that there ARE other browsers.
talk about headaches...
another problem is that there is a very big problem with unlisanced versions of windows, and thus when IE7 will come out we will have to bang our heads against a large amount of browsers turning towards web-standards, and a very big amount of browsers remaining in the quirks mode because IE7 will not be installed on non-lisanced versions of windows...
time to cry HAVOC?

kiji said on August 24, 2006

Does being the marketleader give you the right or panache to ignore set standards?
What if the Toyota or Nissan, who, for explaining our point, we'll say are the undisputed marketleaders, decide to produce cars with the steering wheel on the left side only , even if some countries the standard is to have it on the right side? Toyota/Nissan can say; we're marketleaders; follow our "standards" or shove it up yours..

Steve Stringer said on August 31, 2008

You make some very good points. But I'm surprised and your position. Not for not being in the hate-Microsoft camp, but for seeming to accept without complaint how unbelievably--and unnecessarily--painful it is to get our sites to work with the various versions of IE.

The bottom line is that a disproportionate amount of the time, energy, and, hence, money is wasted in web development because Microsoft inexplicably refuses to retire older versions of IE and offer stand-alone installations. Seems that an entire development community, and its client base are paying the price because a few large corporations don't want to migrate their web sites. That's worthy of complaint, in my opinion.

I could call Microsoft hegemonic and self-interested. (I guess I just did). But I'm not a zealot that way. I am just a slightly OCD web developer who craves efficiency and for things to make sense. I just want one target to shoot, and for it to be easy to pull the trigger.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Jonathan Snook said on August 31, 2008

@Steve Stringer: For me, my laissez faire attitude comes from the context of history. The industry already had efficiency when it only had to deal with one browser that had 95% of the industry. And IE6 was a good browser when it came out. Certainly, 7 years on and we're still dealing with it is a little disappointing but it's my job. I understand the browser and its limitations and can work around them quite readily. I also understand that us web developers aren't the center of the universe. There are large corporations and government agencies that spend millions of dollars on Microsoft for things like XP, Vista, Office, and Sharepoint. Should these people be abandoned all for the likes of us? Microsoft is listening to their customers.

Anyways, I also understand the frustration that people have with IE and while we may want to look for devious plans, I believe that we have a choice and that we can exact change (which, to some degree we have). We choose the browser we use and we work to convince others, too. I think we have about another year with IE6, if that. Once IE8 comes out, it'll be hard not to upgrade.

Chris said on September 17, 2008

You're absolutely right when you imagine that you'd invest as little in IE as Microsoft seems to. That's why they get so much criticism. Microsoft is supposed to be in the business of making people's lives easier through technology. That includes the developers who have to write web pages for IE. I've wasted untold hours working around obscure IE "features", which would be non-issues if MS would fix bugs and adopt standards.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.