Why Internet Explorer 8 still sucks

I already ranted extensively about Internet Explorer 8’s shortcomings when the first beta release came out in March. At the risk of being labeled an anti-Microsoft pundit (which would be a gross mischaracterization), I’ll now share my thoughts on the beta 2 release that came out yesterday.

Microsoft has made great strides over these past few months. I won’t argue otherwise. However, I believe the people in Redmond took many of those strides in the wrong direction. While the new browser sparkles with new features, the underlying “standards compliant” rendering engine remains buggy to a point where it almost feels like an old, pre-1.0 Mozilla milestone release.

Some claim the problem lies with sites that use IE6- and IE7-specific hacks, as those allegedly choke IE8’s flawless and innocent renderer with incorrect code. That may be true in some instances, but it’s just not the case with TR. I use only a handful of IE-specific workarounds, and those in no way explain why Internet Explorer 8 randomly decides to conceal parts of the left column on our front page. The bits that do and don’t show up seem to change whenever I refresh the page and scroll, too. On top of that, the browser inexplicably fails to render a background color on highlighted navigation bar items. Similar problems occur on Apple.com and CNN.com, respectively, so I doubt my competence as a web designer has anything to do with it.

I can already hear keyboards clatter as some of you type up responses saying IE8 beta 2 is still just that—a beta. What ticks me off here isn’t the inherent lack of polish, though, but where I’m finding it. I’ll be the first to admit that the rendering engine has come a long way since the beta 1 release, since sites like Google Maps that didn’t even work before now behave reasonably well. However, Microsoft has left the engine buggy enough to still mis-render many major sites, and it’s apparently devoted plenty of resources to supplemental features—features like graphical RSS feeds, an instant-search bar with pictures, and a menu that suggests sites similar to what you’re viewing (in case you’re autistic and don’t know what sites you like).

Rather than make a great rendering engine first and slowly add new browser features on top of that, the IE team seems to have spent a disproportionate amount of time and effort on new functionality. What’s worse, those features add a kind of visual noise that makes IE8 feel like an incoherent mashup of buttons, menu items, and icons. If it had an automotive equivalent, it’d probably be “The Homer” from the Simpsons:

Look at Safari and Firefox, the two most popular browsers after IE. What do they have in common? Both deliver reliable browsing experiences with great rendering accuracy, great standards compliance, and a minimal amount of fluff. Apple chose to make Safari as bare-bones and straightforward as possible, while the Mozilla team left it up to third-party add-on developers to outfit Firefox with extra functionality. That means Mozilla devs can focus on the core stuff—what really matters to 99% of people—while letting third parties build onto that, and letting users pick and choose what extras they want.

If Microsoft really wants to make a good browser again, it needs to stop trying to outshine the competition with glitter and fluff, and it needs to focus all its efforts on making a browser that’s faster, more reliable, and with better standards support than the rest. Once it’s done that, then it can think about “changing the user’s web browsing experience” or whatever PR-friendly phrase defines contextual menus filled with links to Windows Live services. Better yet, it can follow in Firefox’s footsteps and stick to the essentials while making it easy for third-party developers to add things.

Internet Explorer 6 was an abomination from a security and standards-compliance point of view. Internet Explorer 7 was better, but it clearly fell short of what the competition achieved, and it continues to give web developers like me headaches. With IE8, I almost feel like the IE team is taking one step forward and two steps back. I really, sincerely hope they manage to iron out all the rendering bugs before release, because if they don’t, they’ll force web designers across the globe to work around flaws in not one, not two, but three buggy browsers simultaneously.

Comments closed
    • MTP
    • 9 years ago

    “In case you’re autistic and don’t know what sites you like.” Autistic people aren’t retarded– none of them are. Please do some research before you make a reference like that. I’m autistic. I know a lot more about me (and sometimes a lot more about “normal” people!) than any “normal” person knows about themselves. Not trying to brag, troll, or be rude; just trying to make a point.

    Good article, by the way. I wish more people would ditch IE. And also, I’m taking your advice to IE with the development of my website. The site looks great, but I gotta finish the base functions before I continue with the add-ons and appearance.

    • crash
    • 11 years ago

    Wow! Fantastic write up. I feel your pain!

    And you’re right about writing work-arounds for [bold]3[/bold] buggy browsers!

    I can’t believe how screwed up IE is STILL! I think you’re ABSOLUTELY right. They need to build from the ground up, and that means starting with a GOOD rendering engine. FF is compliant in the 90% range… If IE could even get to around 85% I’d be happier. I’m glad I only program backends with PHP now. We hired someone to do CSS for me which helped to get rid of most of my head-aches, but Javascript is still a pain sometimes.

    • axeman
    • 11 years ago

    So let me get this right…. Neither IE6 hacks, or IE7 hacks, or standards compliant code will work as expected on IE8? Given the large number of people still using IE6 because the IE6 hacks break on IE7, adding another bastard stepchild to the family is going to make this even worse. Microsoft, you suck at the internet.

    • jsncable
    • 11 years ago

    This article is reminiscent of my ex, all ways whining and complaining about projects that aren’t even done yet. So I’ll just say it again… be patient sweet heart, the mud is still wet on the drywall… Once it’s dry and painted then it will look pretty.

    • funkymunky
    • 11 years ago

    I work at a IT support company. Sometimes I install FireFox randomly on a clients PC, but don’t set it as default browser. I just hope that the user notices an orange icon on the desktop and click on it, mess around inside and be converted. It also helps with tech support calls later to test why the “internet is broken”.

    IE is crappy, but it doesn’t suck a tenth as much as AOL…

      • albundy
      • 11 years ago

      AOL? you mean LOL.

      • nstuff
      • 11 years ago

      I have to admit that I once set firefox as default on a person’s computer going so far as to change the skin and desktop shortcut icon to all look like IE. 3 times coming in for adware/spyware issues and not having a clue that they are doing it to themselves. Each time telling them they should keep their norton software up to date and to start using Firefox or Opera. No go.

      Saw them again afterward, but for an actual hardware issue. Amazing.

      Guess i could have left things alone and then wait a month to see them again.

    • IntelMole
    • 11 years ago

    Where does Internet Explorer make money for MS? Outside of mozilla-style deals with google (which defeats Live Search), there’s no revenue stream there.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to spin off IE into a separate company or non-profit foundation, have it compete with FF on those grounds? Nothing about that would require MS to open up the source code of IE as far as i can see.

    Of course, this all depends on how tightly integrated IE is to Windows.

      • Meadows
      • 11 years ago

      IE is integrated to the bone. In fact, explorer.exe and iexplore.exe are virtually the same, interchangeable. Go ahead and type a web address in the address bar the next time you open “Computer”.

        • rohith10
        • 11 years ago

        But I thought that was supposed to change from IE7.

        Apparently, Microsoft woke up one day and decided that there are far too many virii (or viruses, whichever way you like :P) that can easily attack Windows through IE6, and so they toned down the level of integration from 7 and upwards.

          • IntelMole
          • 11 years ago

          That was my impression too.

            • Meadows
            • 11 years ago

            It won’t be enough unless they separate the browser like they should, which would then work similarly to third-party ones.

            • IntelMole
            • 11 years ago

            I just wonder what incentive they have to improve it. Falling market share for your product doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make you any money.

            If that’s the case, get the code out of your OS, spin it off, and never worry about having to support it again. In the meantime, the browser can go off and evolve as it should do (hopefully in a more standards-compliant way).

            Win freakin’ win.

    • just brew it!
    • 11 years ago

    Bill Gates is on record as saying that new features are more important than bug fixes. I guess MS still follows that philosophy, even though Gates isn’t involved in day-to-day operations any more…

    • Pachyuromys
    • 11 years ago

    The headline seems incomplete without “, despite all that is said around.” 😛

      • Kraft75
      • 11 years ago

      Bing! Good one! Is it me, is microsoft the butt of all jokes where Apple used to be?

        • ScythedBlade
        • 11 years ago

        Yea they are … except Apple still sucks when people are praising it …

    • ScythedBlade
    • 11 years ago

    … Dude … IE8 already has pr0n-mode … Ultra-win~

      • kcarlile
      • 11 years ago

      Safari had pr0n mode for the last 3 years, at least.

        • ScythedBlade
        • 11 years ago

        Wait … no it doesn’t …

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 11 years ago

          Um, my Safari does.

        • Meadows
        • 11 years ago

        Too bad Safari is baaad.

    • FubbHead
    • 11 years ago

    /[

    • leor
    • 11 years ago

    IE has been such a thorn in my side as a web designer, i can’t even begin to describe it. All the workarounds that are necessary to get certain functionality to work has in many cases forced me to leave out cool features because i would break my budget having to code a site twice.

    MSFT, please just drop the BS and put out a simple standards compliant browser . . . I’ll be your best friend!

    • Corrado
    • 11 years ago

    MS won’t let 3rd parties run rampant or have an open system like FF does. Thats just another way for spyware and virus writers to infiltrate the system.

    “Click here to install the smiley add-on!”

      • thanatos355
      • 11 years ago

      I can only sincerely hope that you’re being facetious…

    • PRIME1
    • 11 years ago

    With FF3 working so well, I don’t really feel I’m missing anything as far a browsers go.

    IE bloated up long ago and they refuse to put it on a diet.

    • steelcity_ballin
    • 11 years ago

    Beta or not, it blows hard. Don’t bother unless you’re a sadist.

      • bthylafh
      • 11 years ago

      Masochist, shirley?

        • Krogoth
        • 11 years ago

        If you are an admin and forcing your clients to use it. That is when you are a sadist. XD

    • Kulith
    • 11 years ago

    so what browser should I use… Opera or firefox

      • ScythedBlade
      • 11 years ago

      Firefox … Opera too bloated and laggy loading animated gifs lols …

    • indeego
    • 11 years ago

    Long since stopped caring what websites look like. FF lets me render the web as **[I]** want it to be rendered. Good enough for me. But yeah I sympathize with developers. My brother hates coding for IE as wellg{<.<}g

    • Meadows
    • 11 years ago

    The browser _[

    • ludi
    • 11 years ago

    Is that a render, or can you actually buy a die-cast model of that thing?

    • Pax-UX
    • 11 years ago

    The only time I use Internet Explore is when downloading Firefox

    • Madman
    • 11 years ago

    Microsoft is the reason why I’m glad that I don’t have to do web programming anymore for now 🙂

    • larchy
    • 11 years ago

    Agree 100 % Cyril

    I’ve spent most of today messing around with layouts that render fine in EVERY browser I can find EXCEPT IE variants, which further compound their crimes by having each different version mess up the pages in new and exciting ways.

    IE8 manages to improve on this by providing three different levels of abject failure.

    It is getting to the point where I am *dreading* IE8s release and the masses of problems it is going to cause across multiple sites because neither the IE6 mode, IE7 mode nor ‘standards’ mode will render correctly pages that work in every other browser + have IE6/IE7 workarounds.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 11 years ago

    The analogy of IE8 to the Homer had me laughing pretty hard. This had to be the last thing I expected on the front page of TR.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 11 years ago

    Love The Homer. 🙂

    • SecretMaster
    • 11 years ago

    Errr, shouldn’t this be a blog post and not a news post?

      • Cyril
      • 11 years ago

      Indeed, somehow this was up in the wrong area for a minute there. My apologies.

Pin It on Pinterest