Assume the Position

Monday, December 20, 2004
 
Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Tabs and Bloggers

Colby Cosh looks at his and InstaPundit's site stats, sees an outsized share for Firefox and says, "It seems like Firefox users are overrepresented amongst people who read weblogs, who may be relatively savvy and Internet-immersed."

Udolpho responds:

I have nothing against people who want to use alternative browsers, but I am getting pretty tired of the Apple-like hype surrounding Mozilla Firebird Firefox, which is perfectly summed up in one glib paragraph at ColbyCosh.com:

It seems like Firefox users are overrepresented amongst people who read weblogs, who may be relatively savvy and Internet-immersed. Internet Explorer, of course, can last a long time as the Browser for People Who Don't Know Any Better.

This sort of marketing-speak may work on people so insecure they actually value the approval of geeks, but it's probably a bit of a turn-off to anyone who doesn't measure his penis in browser micro-features. And condescension is always nice when you're trying to sound like a fanatic who's lost all perspective. Sob, I'm not relatively savvy and Internet-immersed!

Udolpho, apparently long disgusted by Apple's Mac hype, lays into the similar hype coming from the Firefox camp. He points to a typical example.

Typical of the endorsements for Firefox is this sad blurb:

When compared to browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox is light years ahead. Microsoft will need to do some serious footwork to catch up to the usability and functionality of this browser.

I think I've brought this up before, but there's nothing "light years ahead" about Firefox. It's just Mozilla with a precious logo and some browbeating marketing behind it. …

Oh, and here's the serious footwork Microsoft would have to do to "catch up":

  1. Put the Explorer control in a tabbed shell.
The end. Well by god I don't know if the boys in Redmond are capable. Personally tabbed browsing is not my idea of an improvement, it's the return of the multiple-document interface and all that that entails. I don't know who is nostalgic for the MDI but apparently we're in a bit of a retro-computing phase.

Colby gets cheesed [PI] and responds with an update:

The very mention of a datum I'd have thought demanded some sort of explanation (I like Microsoft too much to think it's merely a matter of free-form hostility towards it) has enraged one web developer into a fit of magnificent snottiness. The accusation of glibness might be a fair charge--in fact, I'll plead permanently and incorrigibly guilty--but one can't sit still for it from someone who thinks this is a killer point in IE's favour:

...here's the serious footwork Microsoft would have to do to "catch up": 1. Put the Explorer control in a tabbed shell. The end. Well by god I don't know if the boys in Redmond are capable.

Hey, join the club! I listened to people rave about tabbed browsing for, what, two or three years while a bunch of random guys in hempen sweaters worked in their spare time to bring the open-source browser up to speed. I thought tabs sounded like a stupid idea until I tried them for a week or so. What kind of argument, exactly, is "Product X is actually superior because it could contain Feature Y without too much trouble on the part of the manufacturer"? Hint: starts with 's', rhymes with "cupid".

This is where Cosh's train of thought goes off the rails, leaving me to basically agree with Udolpho, though Udolpho's post and postscript don't go in the direction I will, and Udolpho is probably wrong if he lumps Cosh in with the MS-bashers.

For all their relative savviness and internet-immersion as weblog writers and readers, neither Cosh nor Udolpho mention the existence of Maxthon (formerly MyIE2), Deepnet Explorer, Slimbrowser, Avant Browser, GreenBrowser, E2 Browser, PhaseOut, Myweb4net, and other browser shells which all provide tabbed browsing (and additional enhancements) and are all based on the IE core. (They share something else with Firefox, the hype on their homepages.) Those browser shells show that Udolpho is undoubtedly correct that adding tabbed browsing to IE is not technically difficult.

But, if offering tabbed browsing in IE is not technically difficult and is popular, why hasn't Microsoft done so? This is Cosh's basic question, and one possible answer springs immediately to mind. The Anything But Microsoft crowd is every bit as shrill and malicious as the Anybody But Bush crowd. If MS had offered tabbed browsing as an IE option before the over-hyped Firefox got to the 1.0 release, the first thing that would have happened is the ABM crowd would've gone on the warpath, quickly followed by the Attorney Generals of half-a-dozen states suing Microsoft on some flimsy antitrust charge. Now, however, if Firefox starts climbing in browser share and tabbed browsing becomes all the rage because it's been essentially endorsed by The New York Times, Microsoft can add a tabbing option to the next version of IE and realistically say it was based on user demand. The ABM crowd might still be furious, but the actual public relations and legal fallout will be nil, as it was when MS finally got around to putting a pop-up blocker in XP/IE6 SP2.

(If IE users want a quick and easy simulation that probably provides about 80% of the benefits of tabbed browsing, just move the Start Bar to the top of the screen and shift-click on links to open them in new windows.)




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