A reply to Microsoft’ statement about IE9 vs. Firefox and Google Chrome adoption rate

This morning I was notified of an article about the download rate of IE9 by Ryan Gavin, Senior Director, Internet Explorer Business and Marketing. I had to check the date to see that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke; alas, it wasn’t, so here’s my reply.

Let me start by saying that I’m happy to know and talk on a regular basis to a number of people at Microsoft. I appreciate the constructive discussions, and the open-minded takes on challenges, opportunities and what all web browser vendors can do to improve the web. And IE9 is much better than its predecessors, and a move in the right direction.

With that said, it really saddens me with such a statement from Ryan, and there are three things I’d like to address:

“Windows Update hasn’t pushed IE9 yet”

Ryan claims that since Microsoft hasn’t pushed IE9 through automatic updates via Windows Update yet, the download rate has been lower that it otherwise would have been. While I’m sure this is true, I would not really use the argument “as soon as we force IE9 on all Windows users, it will be all good”. People wouldn’t upgrade because they even want IE9, they would do out of security fears that their operating system would otherwise be insecure.

I wholeheartedly believe that a web browser should not be a part of the operating system, and have such strong ties (that goes for you too Apple, with Safari).

“Mozilla has turned on update notification for Firefox 4″

This is simply not true. It will be done in the future, but right now the reason behind the massive download success of Firefox 4 is that people choose to download it and install it.

“Our IE9 download numbers should be tripled for a fair comparison”

By far, the most annoying, and completely thoughtless statement, is that we should only compare download numbers for Windows Vista and Windows 7. Since Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are available on all major operating systems (iOS excluded), it’s “just not fair”.

Here’s the thing: if you produce a product for accessing the web, the most democratic medium we have in the world, naturally you would want the end users to be able to use any operating system or device of their choice to do that. Microsoft chose to not support any other operating system – and that includes not even your own Windows XP, the most popular operating system in the world (54 % market share)!

To add to that, all other web browser vendors support Windows XP, and Microsoft, if you truly believe HTML5 is the future, how come initiatives like HTML5 for XP are needed?

You made the choice – you face the consequences.

What the statement should have been like

This is how Ryan’s statement should actually have read:

We at Microsoft are happy to see the adoption rate of Firefox and Google Chrome. We welcome the competition and collaboration in making the web a better place, and it will challenge us to keep on improving Internet Explorer.

We also believe it’s in the best interest of all end users to have a lot of good options, and people upgrading their web browser to a new version is something everyone will gain from.

Posted in HTML5/HTML/XHTML,Technology,Web browsers |

21 Comments

  • Jonas says:

    Well said. To first choose to not release IE 9 for the most common Windows version in use today, and later complain about that is just pathetic. I knew this would happen when they decided to go for Vista and 7 and I personally think it was the wrong decision.

    Microsoft puts a hell of a lot confidence in their IE 9 if they think it’ll motivate Windows users to upgrade their computers to run it.

    In that case, it’s much easier to just use browsers that are superior in most cases anyway, such as Opera 11, Chrome 10, or Firefox 4. At least as long as you define “superiority” as following the latest web standards developments, having decent performance, and with large extension libraries.

  • Bjarne says:

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    The “sandbox wars” are so silly, instead of focusing on the users experience of using the browsers for their needs.

  • Daniel says:

    First of all, clarify Update Notification to me. On my girlfriends MacBook FireFox sometimes “shouts” at me “Upgrade now or your computer will explode because of some security flaw”. Isn’t that an update notification in some ways ?

    You can uninstall IE from Windows like any other application (since IE7 og IE8 i think), it is true though that IE still have some ties to the operating system when you uninstall the browser but I cannot really see the big problem with that, so please explain to me what issues you see around that.

    And “force” is not mentioned in any way in the article you refer to, I get the frustration Ryan Gavin might have caused, but you also have to understand how the different browsers approach the same tasks!

    Windows XP is over 10 years old. It’s pretty much outdated and the extended support will end in 3 years. You can upgrade for approx. 100USD and a home premium is around 200USD. Remeber that Windows 7 has made a great impression in market and the share keeps rising. And you make it sound like that users on XP can’t go online. Do you think that users that use XP as their primary operating system gives a …. about HTML5 ? If they use 10 year old technology, old is pretty much what they get.

    Lastly, there is no business case for Microsoft to launch IE on other platforms, turn the picture around, and there is plenty of business in it for Mozilla and Google to do it. Microsoft owns 88% of the operating system marketshare, and if the company were to launch IE on another platform someone would probably try to sue (that last part was a joke) :)

  • Tino Zijdel says:

    > Ryan claims that since Microsoft hasn’t pushed IE9 through automatic updates via Windows Update yet

    But Microsoft has been pushing IE9 (already starting with the bèta and rc1 version) through heavy advertising. Ryan obviously ‘forgot’ that too…

  • David Bruant says:

    I meant to write a reply too, but I think posting a comment on your post will do it too.

    “We also have a responsibility, as the most popular browser on the planet…”
    => biggest market share and most adopted doesn’t imply “most popular”. Almost the entire web developer community hate Internet Explorer because of undocumented features and bugs.
    Moreover, most people who are still using IE6/7 do it not because they like it, but because of one of these reasons:
    – They are forced by a company internal policy which prevent them from upgrading or installing another web browser (see gs.statcounter daily stats to notice how IE market share decreases each week-end to increase back each Monday)
    – They have no idea that there are other web browsers or even what is a web browser

    “To truly move the web forward and give developers and designers new capabilities that will make their experiences as rich as native apps, you can’t optimize for the lowest common denominator.”
    “[IE9 integration with Windows 7] is the experience that will push the web forward.”
    => As a matter of fact, what pushes the web forward is when web developers can effectively drop support for older web browsers.
    Web developers all dream to be able to take advantage to platform-specific features. Reality is that it already takes enough time to build the website and make it work in IE6 (‘”lowest common denominator” with sufficient market share to still be supported).
    Keep denying that a web developer work contains a cross-browser component won’t help IE unpopularity within this community.

  • Ege Özcan says:

    This is so true… They became worse than the politicians. I hate both Microsoft and Apple, and we seriously need another big player. Not Google, they are not “not evil” either.

  • Ege Özcan says:

    Also, Apple just targets it’s own hardware, so it’s operating system market share should be multiplied by ten =D

  • Daniel says:

    If someone says that IE6 should be the lowest common denominator they should find someting else to do with as their professional work-life.

    I am so sick of listening to IE6 bashing. If you don’t like the browser don’t target it! IE6 is so old and insecure that you cannot seriously take it serious when some says “let make it the lowest common denominator!”. I don’t the corp’ update policy argument which is the only think people say all the time.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Daniel,

    Good to hear that your girlfriend has good taste in web browser choice. :-)

    Since it wasn’t evident, what both me and Ryan were talking about were major version upgrades of the web browser, not security updates. Major updates hasn’t been pushed for Firefox 4 nor IE9 yet.

    Regarding the problem about having a web browser tied to the operating system: tried to install multiple versions of IE in Windows? Not possible, because it’s one rendering engine that’s spread through the entire operating system, instead of being self-contained to the web browser as it should be.

    Given your comment about computer upgrades and old technology, it seems like you have a very limited and Western view on both economy and user experience expectations.

    Do you think it’s a good message to users of an older version of your product that “yes, sure, over half of the world use that product, but we don’t care about you anymore – we just want you to buy our new shiny stuff”.

    No business case for supporting other platforms? If getting more users is not a business case, sure…

    Many, very large companies are stuck on Windows XP with IE6 since Microsoft told them to specifically build things for only that web browser, various ActiveX approaches etc. Upgrading is financially not a viable solution for those companies.

    What Microsoft should do is take the responsibility for that, not just ask them to upgrade, but send people there to help and advise them how to change their systems to work with more modern web browsers.

  • David Bruant says:

    @Daniel I’m sorry if the argument is redundant, but the corp update policy is a reality. About 6 months ago, I’ve met someone who works at the SNCF (French national railroad network company). At her office, she was under WindowsXP and the system was locked down so that she couldn’t upgrade to IE8 and wasn’t allowed to install softwares on her machine.
    If someone creates a website forgetting IE6 (using position:fixed or display: table-* for instance), she won’t be able to see the website properly or at all.

    On the question of browser targetting, I think the question has no absolute answer and shouldn’t be subject to the web developer taste. It should all relate to the expected audience.
    If I create a website aimed for techies and web developers, I won’t even care about IE8 now.
    If I do a website for a goverment, then, I have to make sure it is compatible with most of citizens browsers. Even browsers with 0.1% market share within the country.
    How outrageous would it be if a Tsunami alert website couldn’t be seen by people if these used IE6 and the website doesn’t support it?

  • nitro2k01 says:

    Daniel:
    First of all, clarify Update Notification to me. On my girlfriends MacBook FireFox sometimes “shouts” at me “Upgrade now or your computer will explode because of some security flaw”. Isn’t that an update notification in some ways ?

    Ah! The point is that Mozilla has turned that notification off for FF4. You won’t be asked to upgrade from FF3.x to FF4 for a few months, like you normally would for a minor release.

    David Bruant:
    They are forced by a company internal policy which prevent them from upgrading or installing another web browser (see gs.statcounter daily stats to notice how IE market share decreases each week-end to increase back each Monday)

    We all know by experience that that’s the case, but it’s funny to see how obvious it is in the graphs. It’s quite apparent that those people’s “home browser” is Chrome — the IE6 and FF3.6 graphs, and the IE7 and Chrome graphs, respectively, are almost each other’s opposites. You can almost imagine how 2% of the browsing population are locked in at work during the week and can only use IE7, and then go home and use Chrome in the weekends. :)

  • Rob Kirton says:

    Daniel:

    “If someone says that IE6 should be the lowest common denominator they should find someting else to do with as their professional work-life.”

    Rather harsh comment. What do i do? I’m currently helping deliver an intranet to an organisation 4,000 users or so, who primarily use XP/IE6. Do I turn down the work or simply retrain as say a plumber?

    Also

    “I don’t the corp’ update policy argument which is the only think people say all the time.” (sic)

    – I could point you even larger corporates who are stuck on IE6. The problem lies in that people developed applications for the badly broken browser that was IE6, they in turn will break if moving away from it. In the real world of business there is often little need to keep paying for the upgrades. If it keeps working – keep on doing it. It’s the reason why it may take some time for businesses to move to Windows 7 / IE9

  • Ander says:

    Microsoft has single-handedly slowed the evolution of Internet for years, and looks like they intent to continue doing so. The decision to leave Windows XP users (54% market share right now) stuck with IE8 is going to stop many developers from using CSS3 for a long time. Thanks Microsoft, you did it again!

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Jennie says:

    Well, it’s started. Microsoft just alerted me to an important update, IE9. How many people are going to install that update without thinking? I don’t need it on this netbook. It requires a browser where I can make the font size bigger.

    And Daniel, you sound a bit like a Microsoft fanboy. My apologies if I got you all wrong.

    A few years ago I bought my main computer. It came with Vista. It was horrible, Vista used so many resources that it made everything slow. Even simple flash games that worked fine on my old PC. I had to downgrade to XP.
    And now you tell me to shell out money for another Microsoft OS again, just so I can be up to date? Which I would have been if Vista wasn’t such a disaster. That’s the reason why so many still use the 10 years old XP, because Vista sucks!

    My computer is going to keep running XP and I’ll just use Firefox 4.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jennie,

    I think many people reason just like you do, and look into other web browser options.

  • nitro2k01 says:

    Jennie:
    A few years ago I bought my main computer. It came with Vista. It was horrible, Vista used so many resources that it made everything slow. Even simple flash games that worked fine on my old PC. I had to downgrade to XP.

    (PR lady) And by downgrade, she means upgrade to a more familiar experience.

    (If you don’t get the reference, it’s from one of those “Hi I’m a Mac” ads.)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    nitro2k01,

    Ok. Haven’t memorized those by heart, but that rings true for everyone I know ho have tried Vista.

  • Jennie says:

    And by “upgrade to a more familiar experience” she means, one that works.

    Truth be told, I’d be on Linux if my important (to me) applications would all work on it. It’s so much better and doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg like a Mac.

  • (required) says:

    my FF3.6.16 has shown an message to UPDATE to FF4 for about a month now!

    IE9 came as an update, this week, listed as important update NOT optional, in both Vista windows update AND win7 windows update panels, so most users will just install it IF they haven’t turned automatic updates off and made the updates manual – it’s default is automatic, so I’d imagine IE9 downloads will sky-rocket this week!

  • John S says:

    Their is the option in Windows update to hide a update. You can select a update then right click on it and select hide. You will not be prompted for the update unless you go back and select restore hidden updates.
    But in terms of Microsoft forcing you to upgrade to IE 9. After all IE does come with Windows and weather you think Windows should come with IE or not it does. So I don’t see a problem with Microsoft asking its users to use the latest version. Safari is a worse story because Apple does force a version upgrade in its system updates. If you really want to gripe about a forced update system Apple is the king of that. Microsoft gives you much more choice and like I stated Microsoft gives you plenty of options to ignore the updates or select the ones you want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>