September 30, 2004 4:00 AM PDT

Planning to dump IE? Think again

For many people, using a non-Microsoft browser such as Firefox is now a must for secure Web surfing--but most still keep a copy of Internet Explorer around just in case.

The problem is that many Web developers create their sites so they work best with Internet Explorer (IE), but not to work as well with browser software used by relatively tiny groups of potential visitors.

Sites subject to complaints from Firefox users include Web travel site Expedia and Microsoft's MSNBC news site. Even Shutterfly, the online photo service backed by Netscape Communications co-founder Jim Clark, warns visitors that it supports only a limited set of browsers.

These incompatibilities between browsers are as big a headache for developers as they are for Web surfers, some professionals say.

"It's definitely a problem," said Noel Briggs, a developer at Web design company NetTensity. "The time we waste on addressing browser incompatibility problems easily amounts to a significant percentage of our payroll."

The biggest reason why most people can't dump IE, however, is Microsoft itself: The software giant's Windows Update site blocks out non-IE browsers completely. That means anyone running Windows who wants to download and install the latest security updates from the Web will have to keep IE close at hand. Some consider that ironic or worse, given that authoritative groups such as Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Emergency Response Team now warn people to stay away from IE because of its myriad security problems.

While some people are downloading alternate browsers out of frustration with IE, which last had a significant upgrade three years ago, others may be swayed by grassroots Internet campaigns urging Web surfers to dump IE.

These include the Web Standards Project's Browse Happy site and the Mozilla Foundation's volunteer-based marketing site, Spread Firefox, which it launched alongside the preview release of Firefox 1.0.

Most IE alternatives support World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards, which give Web developers all the tools necessary to build fully compatible sites. Nevertheless, Microsoft has created proprietary elements within IE to support some enhanced Web page features, such as multimedia. Web developers who decide to use these features may effectively lock out surfers who use non-IE browsers.

Corporate Web developers frequently write code to work with IE rather than to Web standards, because their clients want to use Microsoft's proprietary CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) features. Since IE dominates the market so thoroughly, some companies simply balk at the cost of tests that would help ensure cross-browser compatibility.

The situation has some Web developers shaking their heads in disbelief.

"Sites as large as Expedia and MSNBC should be able to cater to just about everybody who wishes to use the site," Briggs said. "If certain TVs weren't able to reliably render the MSNBC cable news channel, I am sure that the network would take the issue seriously."

News.com writer Paul Festa contributed to this report.

59 comments

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Uninstall?
Well isn't it is just handy that the DOJ didn't make MS remove IE from their operating system(Irony), or make it removable! Otherwise we would all be hard pressed to find a copy of it on our Windows PC!
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can uninstall IE
Just use 98Lite or XPLite - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.litepc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.litepc.com/</a>

It's free, and you can completely remove IE from Windows, if you so desire.
Posted by microserf (5 comments )
Link Flag
Excellent.......
Q.E.D.

Be well..........

Mike
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I would LOVE to dump IE
However in order to provide off hours support for my company to keep production running, I have to use IE to run the applet that allows my connnection to the company mainframe.

In addition, my mortgage company only supports IE or Netscape. If I want to pay my mortgage online, I have to run IE.
Posted by jeaninej (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or install Netscape
You get the option from you mortgage company, why not use it?

Netscape/ Mozilla is for free you know.
You just download it, try to connect to your website, and if it works, be happy and surf safely.

If it doesn't work, complain till they make their website standards compliant. If they care for the online security of their customers, they should.
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Link Flag
You can run Windows update in Mozilla
Check the extensions page (<a class="jive-link-external" href="https://update.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=195&#38;vid=660" target="_newWindow">https://update.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=195&#38;vid=660</a>) - one of the most powerful tools within Mozilla Firefox is the extensions, which is an interface to extend to browser. I used to be an IE diehard. I've been using Mozilla now for about four months and it's way more stable and friendly than IE - you should try it...
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually
Actually that extension just adds a link in the tools menu of FireFox to open Windows Update in IE for you. Its nice to have an easy and readily available way to open WU but dont mistake it for FireFox suddenly supporting ActiveX (which is required for windows update and is quite possibly the biggest internet security threat currently known to man). ActiveX is Microsofts baby and is by far not a web standard, but instead a way for them to ensure you use their software. Unfortunately its also proven to be the same as most all software MS "creates", buggy and chock full of exploits. They really should stick with what theyre good at.. copying.

As a side note I hear theres a standalone program now to run Windows Update without the need for IE?
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
You don't need IE to keep your PC safe
I am running XP, and I disabled the automatic update service completely. Don't like M$ snooping around on MY PC.
I am using Mozilla for 4 years now, in combination with a virus scanner, and a good firewall at my gateway.

When a really critical update is needed, I download it manually from the M$ website, and install it. The only ones I consider are networking vulnerablilities (blaster and stuff)
I couldn't care less for IE vulnerabilities, and all other junk. Every 6 months or so, I run a spyware scan, and the results are neglectable.

I also use common sense, when downloading things, or receiving weird emails.

Never had much security issues, data loss, crashes because of missed patches.

So, you don't need IE for anything. If a website only works with IE, I send them an email to fix their website, and I know I will never visit them again.
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Reply Link Flag
me too!
And I recommend this approach to all my customers too.
Posted by Breezy1601 (30 comments )
Link Flag
Break the monopoly
Our company does not allow IE use outside the firewall.

Everyone in our company hase been using Netscape and Opera for years. Recently we switched to FireFox because it is faster than both of the mentioned, and far more secure than IE. The only infected machines we have ever had were due to violations of the 'don't use IE on the net rule'.

In the US presidents are impeached.
In California Govenors are recalled.
All it takes is the will of the people to break the monopoly.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why all the concern?
I have been using IE on both mine and my wife's PC forever it seems without a SINGLE security problem. All it takes is a little common sense, like updated virus scanner, spyware scanner and such. Sure, I could change browsers..... but whatever becomes the next popular browser will be the next target of all of the script kiddies out there. As far as removing IE from Windows? Simple, just use a different OS like Linux or some other crap. Me? I'll stick with IE and Windows, both of which work well for me.
Posted by JFG45T10 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'll bet
Ten to one you've got spyware running and you don't even know it.
Posted by unixrules (21 comments )
Link Flag
Me too!
I recommend that tactic to all my customers too.
Posted by Breezy1601 (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You cannot remove Exploder
Internet Exploder cannot be removed from Windows 2000 or XP. The help system that every application on the computer uses needs IE to be installed (HTML Help 1.0 and later is used by every version of Windows since Windows 98 for primary help, and has been available since Windows 95). Applications such as Office require Internet Explorer, so this statistic means absolutely nothing.

Every user of any currently supported version of Windows has Internet Exploder -- it's a price of entry to run the OS, so there is no suprise here at all.
Posted by tharcod (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can remove IE from any copy of Windows
Just grab 98Lite (for 98, 98SE, ME, NT) or XPLite (for 2000, 2003, XP Home, XP Pro) from <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.litepc.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.litepc.com/</a>
Posted by microserf (5 comments )
Link Flag
Don't Use Explorer
I have helped many computer users and the leading cause of infection is always improper use of Internet Explorer. By switching to another browser (especially Firefox) these machines always become MUCH more stable. I highly recommend that you do NOT use Internet Explorer.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You should run McAffee
I agree. You really should run McAffee on those machines and clean them off. It's very likely that they are infected.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All Hype
I've been running IE on 7 computers at home for years with absolutely no problems. My company, with one of the most secure IT infrastructures in the country, is standardized on IE.

To suggest that a person has spyware just because they choose to use IE is ignorant and foolish. And assumes that the user is also ignorant and foolish.

I've never been infected with spyware or a virus, and Microsoft has done an excellent job of patching nearly every single vulnerability in IE before an exploit is ever released.

Sorry I'm not supporting the minory trend here... but the facts are that systems running IE can be just as secure and stable as systems running any other browser. Plus, you get the ability to run Microsoft's proprietary software alongside standards-based software. And, there is no installation or configuration costs on IT departments because the dang thing is already installed on every machine and works reliably with little to no configuration.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wow another expert comes to the forefront. *rolls eyes*
Hmmm. You yourself state:
"My company, with one of the most secure IT infrastructures in the country"

Which contradicts:
" there is no installation or configuration costs on IT departments because the dang thing is already installed on every machine and works reliably with little to no configuration."

Due to the fact that IE is an insecure rotting POS out of the box. Yes if you tweak your group policy and set security to uber high (Which breaks some of the afore mentioned proprietary sites.) and install a 3rd party popup blocker, and have a solid anti-virus package then yep. You are right. IE can be secure. But the notion that there isn't any configuration involved is asinine. And the simple fact of the matter is that you may very well be an advanced enough user to know how to surf the web securely without dealing with adware. Either that or you go to mainstream sites that have a vested interest in maintaining an adware free site. (cnn, msnbc, news, zdnet, etc.)
I can honestly say of the 175 users in the office I admin prob 40%-60% have some form of adware on their systems. I can't set security to high because of the nature some sites work. (You do so and it breaks the functionality of many sites.) And I've yet to find a solid package for blocking popups. We are currently evaluating a few products from Symantec and NA. So saying that no configuration is necessary and that IE is a solid browser. Well&
I've come to the conclusion you are either full of crap or just don't know what you are talking about.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
Delusional
I really have to think your either completely delusional, in denial, or trolling. Our company is standardized on IE as well and even with firewalls, domain controllers, local policies, security set high and minimal authority user accounts I still have to clean our 200 PCs on a monthly basis and I can tell you Im lucky to find a dozen of them without several flavors of spyware and adware on each.

With a lot of effort, time, and diligence you can secure IE, sure. But why go through all that trouble when the alternatives are secure "out of the box"?

And if you dont beleive IE has security problems try this: Fresh install of Windows (pick your flavor) and IE: leave the default settings and apply all available patches. Start surfing and avoid mainstream websites. Within 24 hours your computer will bog down to a crawl from all the spyware, within 48 hours it will die.. horribly.

Ive seen it far too many times.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Install Firefox on all domain computers automatically!
Do you have access to a domain controller? If you do then why not do your company a favour and install Firefox with a Group Policy install! While you are it remove links to IE and replace with Firfox!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webheat.co.uk/firefox.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.webheat.co.uk/firefox.php</a>

If are brave enough to try this please let me know how it goes.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks but I prefer to keep my job
Hmm mass rollout without testing. Thanks but I'll pass.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
Cheers :)
Most of my hits are coming from referals from this site :)
Not that I make any money from it but I just love getting more hits :)

I'll be working on a Firefox 1.0PR version of the .msi file soon, I just want to give it a chance to stabilise a little, make sure any important bugs get squashed before I make it.

The files used to make the install are included in the zip file so if anyone else wants to use that to make their own 1.0 version go for it.
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
I did try it.....
Cause I made the .msi.

Worked wonderfully for me... not the largest test environment for my company though.

It'll kick ass if I help Firefox make it into corporatations default browser.
:)
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
Support standard-conforming browsers
Users should switch to browsers that adhere to web standards
(www.webstandards.org) such as Firefox, Opera, Safari and
others. Browser developers, such as Microsoft, and Web
developers who design sites specifically for Internet Explorer are
doing the Internet community a huge disservice.
Posted by edgedesign (290 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Browse Happy!
Find out why Internet Explorer is unsafe and explore your
browsing options here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://browsehappy.com/browsers/" target="_newWindow">http://browsehappy.com/browsers/</a>

Avoid sites that only support IE!
Posted by edgedesign (290 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Monopoly Of Freedom
The creation of the Internet many years ago by the US
Government exploded into a fredom of information access &#38;
exchange for the public. Waiting in the shadows like the snipers
they are, MS was the last major "player" in the Internet Age. But
instead of JOINING the public utility of the Information Highway,
they chose to give IE away for free, killing legitimate businesses
&#38; monopolizing the Internet with FRONTPAGE web site coding
that works on IE ONLY.

Greedy Tollgate Monopolist at their worst.

The only solution to this is to go OPEN SOURCE / back to "old
school" coding to do an end around play to gain our freedom
back.
MOZILLA / MAC OSX SAFARI / Netscape / AOL / etc. are the
answers. Using Safari with the preferences set on "IE emulation" I
have the ability to access 99% of the WEB just fine. They other 1%
I either send a report to Apple Safari team to have them do a
work around or I use IE for Mac &#38; send an email to webmaster &#38;
company that I will not travel to their site in the future nor
sponser any of their banner advertisements if they refuse to
allow any OTHER browsers of choice by the public.
CITIZEN GATES: YOU DO NOT OWN THE INTERNET, IT IS A PUBLIC
UTILITY DEVELOPED BY THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE, NOT
AN ILLEGAL MONOPOLY.
power to the people (Netizens)...
- Eyes wide open in Seattle -
Posted by (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dumb Customer Service
I understand MS' sites insisting you use Explorer, otherwise - what person not working for MS would use IE? But sites that only show up using IE are idiots - unless they're getting paid by IE, they've been duped by a lazy HTML coder. There is NOTHING in IE that cannot be replicated in any other browser so what's the point other than laziness?

Same with Flash or Shockwave - unless Macromedia is paying your company - why are you giving them FREE ad space on your website?

Sites that MSNBC, UPS or Tommy Bahanana's obviously don't want my business or YOURS - just stop going and tell them why.
Posted by jbelkin (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this article is absolute rubbish
This article is absolute rubbish. I've just been on <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.shutterfly.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.shutterfly.com</a> in Mozilla FireFox and it works absolutely fine. There are absolutely no error messages whatsoever. And I am doing this on the very day your article has been posted on here.

If you're going to write an article, at least include facts. To say that your shutterfly.com website doesn't work in Firefox is absolute rubbish, simply because it works perfectly out of the box, no additional settings/modifications required.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Perhaps
The front end of the site and tour work fine yes but perhaps its farther into the site and the process of trying to use it for prints that is the problem. If at any point they use activex or any of several other non-standard coding protocols or functions then Mozilla wont try to decipher the MS gibberish and the site wont be fully functional.

Either the hang up is farther into the site or they probably fixed it once they caught wind of the problem. I dont think CNet would indulge in slander theres no benefit to it.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft blows
I admit that I have Microsoft but i have been looking into Linux and Unix. Just recentally i downloaded firefox 5.0 its works gret fro everything but microsfts windows update. I think that its ubserd to only have it to IE Microsoft is rich enough to make it compadible with others! oh well i guess I'll have to use the crappy and insecure IE for windows update or have it do them automatically.
Stupid microsoft so greedy
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Me Too!
Been using MS windows for 6 years now, BUT after all the info I have been reading on (not just from this site) and talking to many people about their OS's, designers, developers, ect., I think I am gonna try linux. I have seen the desktops and they are very nice. Most developers, programmers, designers, ect. that I have talked to, prefer the Firefox because of its stability, ease of use, and they can build their browser the way that they want it. This is why I really like it. Those extensions. Those poor guys that like all the open source but have to use the IE at work are not able to work to their full potential because of the restraint their companies use, but oh well. A couple of the guys I talked to have employers though that really understand the standards and take a whole hearted intrest in computing really have all the benefits. I am going to linux I think. Have read and heard many good things about it, plus it gives me the opportunity to learn another computing system. I will get another hd for it. I will keep the windows, untill I am comfortable with the linux, and then I will decide whether to keep it or trash it. Most likely I will stick with the linux. I still have the IE browser, but now have not used it in over a month. Don't need it. I also really like the Firefox. Linux reads windows. Windows does not read Linux.
So we'll see, and once I know both systems I will let you know which one I decided to stick with.

Esk
Posted by Eskiegirl302 (82 comments )
Link Flag
Two Fatal Flaws...
Ok, first off, I develop CRM and ERP software for a large business (25,000+ employees) and it is developed across multiple database and operating system platforms. It is usable by ANY browser an employee wishes to use on their desktop. AND it is developed using Microsoft's own .NET. How is this possible? Oh, we all adhere to international development standards...you know like the type Microsoft repeatedly has been known to withdraw from, because they refuse to adhere to standards.

Also, this article fails to mention that IE is an integral part of the O/S, which means that if there is a security flaw in IE your entire system is MUCH more likely to be at risk of being breached. As opposed to a browser that is self contained and has security flaws (what decent size program doesn't?), it is more likely to only jeopardize it's own integrity, and not so much your financial information from last year's Quicken report, for example.

Let's see reinstall Mozilla...or use IE and be at risk of losing my private information, be used as a spamming station, and then have to reinstall the entire O/S...your choice.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can state your opinion, but you can't deny the problem
I have to chuckle when I read that an "administrator" has over 100 computers running IE with NO adware or spyware. This has to be the result of one of two scenarios:

A) Those are the best 100+ end users I've ever heard of.
B) The administrator doesn't know what kind of problems he really has.

It's virtually unheard of, and while IE has plenty of security flaws, it's no mystery that the majority of infections (of any type) are the result of users shortcomings as much as the software. The big problems are just beginning to plague us. The recent JPEG exploit comes to mind.

It is not unforeseeable to me that the day will come where businesses that are NOT running certain MS technologies will gain a competitive advantage by the way of reduced administrative costs. This is not to say that all MS software is bad. To the contrary, I really like most of the MS software I use. There are just certain tasks that are too risky to depend upon IE.
Posted by bradleyland (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another reason to require IE
Another reason to require IE is to steal information from users or install viruses. In effect, sites that require the use if IE are enabling the spread of malicious code. Any site that requires IE should be listed as a potential securtity threat.
Posted by zeekec (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Moving to Linux is not as scary as it used to be.
Have you had more than your fair share of Microsoft induced headaches? I decided just this morning that I had, and that it was time to retire my efforts to remain a loyal windows user for good. You've had headaches, heartaches, hassles and downright harrassment to endure if you've tried to stick to windows over the last 10 years; and it's just going to get worse in the future. You have adware, malware, spyware, virii, hijackers, spam, updates that cause more problems than they solve, and if all that's not bad enough Microsoft themselves now appear to be quite clearly bent on destroying their own user base. 300 to 1200 Bucks on what's SUPPOSED to be a PROFESSIONAL operating system and yet one may still find it easier to fdisk it all away than to fix it. How many other people here have been fdisking and flushing since the days of Windows 95 and STILL find themselves doing it? LEMME SEE THEM HANDS!! Well not me, not anymore. I picked up my 3 disc set of Linux I'd set back since acquiring them about a month ago and watched it install and accept and embrace all my hardware (with the exception of the soundcard I'm still working on that one) heck it even made use of the usb port and the webcam attached to it. I was stunned with the ease I found in setting up my broadband connection (sittin' here hidin' behind my router/switch - have to keep a 98 box in the house to keep control of it still). I was up and running around on the web LINUX POWERED by 9 a.m. WHAM! HEY BILL! Ya know one of those clients that went poof and didn't come back this morning that was me and HA it felt GOOD to slam the axe down. After just a few hours with the new Mandrake Linux 10 community I can see why others made the switch to Linux already. If you want TRUE POWER over your operating system, power that a blind (ex)windows user like myself didn't even know one could attain (with such obscene simplicity); forget windows. Put Microsoft and all the problem and fix runaround mook games behind you forever. They're all in bed together you know. And they're all having one tremendous laugh at your expense. I've been cruising around with Mozilla all day now and haven't had even so much as a single pop up slide or skip or sneak past it's onboard pop up stomper. I didn't have to check for any updates or install any updates (or worry about what disatrous effects they may have once installed) or get nagged by anything in any way shape or form ever since the install was complete. ANd you know what else is funny? All the s***T, excuse me; added "stuff" I had to have to maximize my online or offline experience pleasure or enjoyment with windows? I'm finding almost all of it comes with or is easily attainable in Linux for NOTHING. I was kicking myself for a little bit this morning for not having dumped windows a long time ago. I've been a loyal windows customer for 10 years now but trust me you won't regret dumping windows for Linux. I find myself laughing because it all makes me think of the blue pill red pill thing in the matrix. Take the red pill. Oh haha and yeah then there's wine for any games you might not be ready to let go of just yet, yeah the lil microsoft club members are a lil worried about that one too. They better be because all these factors combined WILL be THE DEATH OF MICROSOFT. Haha yeah I've crossed over my skills and strengths are part of the Linux community now and they'll NEVER belong to windows again. WAH, microsoft, wah, wah, wah,...you brought it on yourselves. Oh yeah one more thing then I'm done. Bill, you're a ......punk.
Posted by phoobar (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IE Detection Quiz Suggestion
I would like to suggest using this method to deal with IE users
who come to your site:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://web.nickshanks.com/ie/" target="_newWindow">http://web.nickshanks.com/ie/</a>
Posted by nickshanks (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Non-standards MS
I remember how Microsoft tried to embed the web into the operating system with Win95 and got into trouble for doing so.
One thing that constantly annoys me is MS's reluctance to use standards, rather prefering surfers to embrace a Microsoft only vision of the web. I am worried that they'll try to get rid of xhtml, css etc. which is the only way I program for the web now. They clearly don't want to share the web with anyone else.
And lastly, I don't want every computer I own to connect to the web anyway. I use a standalone computer for the web to avoid viruses getting onto important files - and a web connection can cause performance issues e.g. video editing.
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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