Why would anyone use Internet Explorer?

Don’t worry, this is not a post about Internet Explorer’s support (or lack thereof) of code support, but instead solely focused on the end user experience. I regularly try out a number of web browser, and I have one question:

Why would anyone use Internet Explorer?

The UI

I’m only talking about their latest version, IE 7 here, and the way I see it, it doesn’t offer anything particular that no-on else does. There have been lots of discussions about the UI and if it’s actually user-friendly, and I won’t go into to the entire thing but to say that it just seems stupid to hide away the File, Edit etc menu (although it magically appears when you press Alt). Most inexperienced web browsers users use IE, so to hide something as fundamental as that, and give them an inconsistent experience from (basically) all other programs, doesn’t seem to be the smartest way to go.

Compare it to their biggest competitors on Windows: Firefox and Opera. Both of them have everything clear and visible, and, more importantly, consistent.

Browsing experience

Surf around a while with IE, and then switch to Firefox or Opera and feel the difference. To me, IE feels flimsy and shaky, and it has a nasty flicker when scrolling on a web page with a lot of pictures. Overall, IE seems slower, but naturally, some serious tests have to be made to verify this.

Another thing that thoroughly annoys me is that opening a new tab takes over a second (!) for me in IE as opposed to milliseconds in the other two. They have implemented a zooming feature (although Opera’s zooming is way better implemented), but the result of this is that is almost impossible to find how to resize just the text, if desired.

Security

Yeah, well, I guess this is a given point with IE. IE has a history of being extremely insecure, and as long as they persist on having such a close tie-in between Windows and the web browser itself, it is without a doubt more prone to security risks than their competitors.

Extensibility

Firefox has a dominating lead in this field with a myriad of amazing Firefox add-ons, and I think this is one of the reasons it has become so popular. IE 7 is trying their best with Internet Explorer add-ons and Opera has their Plug-ins, but no one is even close to Firefox in this field.

Sidetracking with a little personal rant…

As a little sidetrack (please forgive me for this), but with my post about semantic URLs the other day close in mind, compare the URLs for IE’s add-ons to the Firefox and Opera equivalents:

Internet Explorer add-ons
http://www.windowsmarketplace.com/category.aspx?bcatid=834&tabid=1
Firefox add-ons
http://addons.mozilla.org
Opera Plug-ins
http://www.opera.com/docs/plugins

Let’s just say that different companies has various understandings about how the web should work… 😐

Mouse control

Something that a lot of people love about Opera is the ability to control web browsing through Opera mouse gestures. There’s a Firefox Mouse Gestures add-on to accomplish the same, and also Mouse Gestures for Internet Explorer.

I rather prefer using the keyboard as much as the possible, but some are mouse addicted. If you are, check out the three above to find what suits you best.

Conclusion

I’m open-minded, and want you to use the web browser that suits your need the best. However, I think that most people using IE don’t know about the alternatives plainly just don’t want to. From my experience, people use IE for one or several of these reasons:

  • They don’t know about the alternatives (without a doubt, the number one reason).
  • It’s pre-installed on their computer, so they just start it and go (definitely related to the reason above).
  • Some very poorly developed web sites, like certain bank sites and others, only supports one web browser on one platform. Really capturing the essence and the spirit of the web… Not.
  • It’s, for reasons beyond me, a company policy from narrow-minded System Administrators to narrow them down to one web browser.
  • They like everything from Microsoft, and would use it no matter the quality.
  • They tried something based in the open-source community in 1995, didn’t like it, and will never give it a whirl again.

Any reason I’ve missed? Is Internet Explorer your primary web browser and you like it? Please tell my why, I won’t criticise you, but is genuinely interested in why you like it.

57 Comments

  • Jeff says:

    Some people are just masochists.

  • snitko says:

    You've forgotten such addons as Maxthon, many people use them and feel quite ok ) I personally used it for some time and moving to Firefox was a pain in the ass, was very hard to get used to it. Though now, of course, can't imagine using anything else, than FF.

  • Maaike says:

    I think most people couldn't care less which browser they're using, as long as it works. I made my parents use FF, but I'm quite sure they're only using it to do me a favour (and because I've hidden all shortcuts to IE from their desktop πŸ˜€ ).

  • Kristin says:

    I believe in your first alternative: They don´t know the alternatives. Good article Robert. Love this subject…

  • It's a question I've asked myself often as well. I don't see any advantage in using Microsoft's browser.

    I love Firefox, and have come to rely on its various plugins. When I switched to a Mac a while back, I've tried Safari to see if it worked for me, but the fact that F5 is not (by default?) the refresh-button disturbs me no end.

    The ultimate weird thing for me is web developers who actually prefer using IE6. But on the other hand, the developers I know who do this are mostly ASP.NET developers. πŸ™‚

  • Tom says:

    I think your no. 1 reason is right. Another reason might be: they are just very familiar with IE6, which they used for probably more than 5 years. I see people choke on IE7 and they want to go back to IE6. I agree with Maaike: most people don't even know what a browser is, they just know they have to tick a certain IE-icon to enter the internet.

  • For me, IE7 was the perfect moment to convert some people to using Firefox. After IE7 was installed, they had no idea what they were looking at. They wanted their old browser back, which is not an option. So, I recommended Firefox as the browser that brings the best in a world they're familiar with.

    But yes, I agree, I don't know why they use it. The "I visit many sites that don't work in Firefox" just doesn't fly. I'm a heavy browser and rarely do I ever come across a site that I want to use often, yet requires IE. Then again, that's just me… πŸ™‚

  • Birgit says:

    Had a serious discussion about that yesterday (or, rather, an argument). Opponent is strongly convinced that IE is not only faster and easier to use, but also safer and less likely to crash down.

    I would like to see some unbiased tests about that to either approve or disprove that. So, if anyone has some links…?

    I have been using Opera since 2002 and FF since 2004 and I have never had a better browsing experience than with the latter.

  • Binny V A says:

    The only reason I use IE is to test how my sites hold up in IE – I use Linux and I had to install IE on Wine just for testing purposes.

    I am at a complete loss to understand why people use it as their primary browser.

  • Rob Mason says:

    Familiarity is the biggest thing that stops people using other browsers. I've experienced it first hand with my wife. I'll say"Try Firefox out, it's great" and she'll respond with a "Oh yeah, but I know IE and I'm used to it"…what a crap excuse.

    Once you've tried better you never go back.

  • Jens Meiert says:

    Nice overview, and I wholeheartedly agree on almost all points (I also always claimed that <abbr>IE</abbr> is unusable and urgently needs the next update). Thus for most web professionals, <abbr>IE</abbr>'s single purpose stays to test.

  • Devon Young says:

    The UI bugs me a lot. Whenever I have to use IE, it's irritating. It seems unfamiliar and takes my focus away from what I'm trying to do. I know of a few non-experienced users who don't like it either. It's actually helped me convince them to give Firefox a try.

  • Chris Huff says:

    Your conclusion is right on, especially #2. People use it because it's already there. They don't know why it's a bad browser, so they just assume that websites are not built right if they look funny in IE, not realizing that it's the other way around. To some extent, however, they are right. We should make sure our websites work in even the stupidest browsers out there. That's one way we know we've done our job well.

  • I actually thought quite opposite to all of you. IE7 has really changed the UI to get rid of many options that aren't needed frequently. Gettin' rid of the top menu bar really makes sense. How often do you actually use it? I know I don't on my FF. And FYI, I'm a Debian user.

    Sure, it doesn't have half the perks of other browsers, but is it _really_ necessary for average users?

    I think Microsoft is gettin' there, catching up with the rest. But they also try not to leave their user-base behind.

    Not perfect, but mucho better than IE6 IMHO.

  • drnhrn says:

    IE7 has the best multimedia support. I'm talking about the WMP11 embedded sweetness. It's fast and works superbly. For Firefox you will have to use the (discontinued product, and completely unmaintained) WMP Netscape plugin. (Vista doesn't even ship with it anymore.) It has problems with aspect ratios and sometimes the image is all disorted. Video stuff on IE7 simply works better than on Opera/Firefox.

    The UI is imho quite pleasant, tabs work better than on Opera at least (Opera folks attempt to be too smart and fail utterly in the logics of the tabs), it's pretty fast. Some things are slightly worse on the alternatives and some slightly better. There's not much to say on that area.

    Then the problem with IE7. There isn't really good ad blocker for IE. Microsoft is for IE7 supporting add-on development but no one has done "Adblock plus + Filterset.G" for IE7. Yet. That's a blocker for me.. The day such add-on arrives I'll go 100% IE7.

    Security? It's actually pretty good, there has been many years of development since the XP/IE6 codebases and it shows. You can't really start whining that IE7 on Vista is insecure when there's no real proof of it. It's under the hood simply different product set from the others.

  • adam says:

    The best plugin for FF is AdBlock+. I hardly ever see an advert now which makes the web a much nicer place to be. πŸ˜‰

    When I go back to IE now it seems much slower as t loads all the ads!

    It's also really annoying when you do something that looks okay in FF and then you look at it in IE and it looks completely different. What's that all about?

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks everyone for very good comments! I'm really glad that we can talk about this in a balanced manner, as opposed to flaming.

    Thanks.

  • NICCAI says:

    Well, this is interesting. I have to agree with you – and I still use IE a fair amount (again due to testing). However, I think you've stated more reasons why users started using IE in the beginning. Now, they use it, because change is undesirable for most. Familiarity is key to why people don't switch. The same is true for switching from PC to Mac or switching away from Outlook. People just don't like change. I once asked a user/client what change meant to them. The answer was "death."

    With that said, IE7 is an embarrassment. The UI is a horrible step back – and I don't mean hiding the file menu (I'm not going to touch that one). What happened to button placement? You need a mental map of where the button locations are and what buttons might be in each location – ridiculous. Back is over here, refresh over there. Also, the script and css execution is very, very slow. It is so slow that I'm almost embarrassed myself.

    In my opinion, IE7 will be replaced by a brand new MS browser – much the way Firefox converted Netscape users. The long and the short is that its days are numbered, and MS will combat this by creating a new option.

  • I interviewed a candidate for the position of "intermediate web developer" last week. He told me that his browser of choice was IE7 and his explanation was that IE7 had the little "tab button" to open a new tab whereas Firefox didn't have this. He was aware that there was a keyboard shortcut for opening a new tab in Fx but didn't know what it was.

    Needless to say, we're still looking…

  • Andrey Sorochan says:

    Aaron Schmidt, amazing story! πŸ™‚

  • Johan says:

    I see less and less talk about Opera??

  • eugene says:

    People use <abbr title="Internet Explorer">IE</abbr> because using Internet is clicking that 'blue E' on their desktop.

    Maybe this will help too: <a href="http://www.ie7pro.com” target=”_blank”>www.ie7pro.com

  • adam says:

    I've also been using a browser called Maxthon. It has the same rendering engine as IE but has a much nicer UI.

    Has anyone else used it?

  • wioota says:

    OMG – thats where the menu is?? I've been using IE7 for testing for ages and never knew ALT made the menu appear… its definitely meant I avoid IE for general browsing. I might actually use it now. The main thing in its favour is that it doesn't have the same cut and paste issues FF has.

  • Chris says:

    I have a colleague who insits on using IE; I asserted that in the whole company FF is installed. But she don't use it, I told her many times…

    But I think many of the other browsers' advantages aren't used anyway by the users. I basically miss 4 things in IE, I think:

    – Large number of plugins

    – Searchbox

    – Quicksearch

    – Speed

    There are other things but that are the most useful. However none of my colleagues actually uses them.

    Apart from loving Firefox I don't think that's a bad idea hiding the menu – I can't remember using it.

    Another point using IE is corporate environment. For Germany I can say that often only IE is allowed for security reasons. I know it sounds like a joke but it isn't…

  • I was just telling my coworker yesterday that IE felt "tinny", had an annoying flicker and a sub-par tab interface. We've had to relearn naming conventions. Remember Tools-> Internet Options? Now we have new option tabs and everything is in a different place and named differently. This makes debugging and phone tech support more difficult. "If you are on IE6, this is how to clear the cache…" "If you are on IE7, this is how to clear the cache…"

  • Robert Nyman says:

    NICCAI,

    I agree, familiarity is definitely the key, and most people are really refrained when it comes to change.

    Aaron,

    He he. πŸ™‚

    Well, if he prefers IE 7 and is super in all other areas, by all means. But I guess he wasn't… πŸ™‚

    Johan,

    At least to me, Opera has never been, and will probably never be, an interesting choice to me.

    eugene,

    Thanks for the tip!

    adam,

    I've never tried it myself, but I played around with Avant Browser a long time ago.

    wioota,

    Yes, it's a little secret. πŸ™‚

    Chris,

    <blockquote cite="http://www.robertnyman.com/2007/03/23/why-would-anyone-use-internet-explorer/#comment-44353"&gt;

    Apart from loving Firefox I don’t think that’s a bad idea hiding the menu – I can’t remember using it.

    For more computer-savy people, that''s just fine. But I think most IE users just wonder where it has gone.

    Jason,

    Interesting, I've never thought about it from the support point of view, just how much has changed in that perspective.

  • Allen says:

    I have to disagree with the assessment that Firefox is in any way “in the lead” on extensibility. IE has ActiveX control support, which makes it light years ahead of every other browser on Windows when it comes to this.

    I’m a developer in PHP, Perl, Delphi, and some other languages, and I prefer Firefox for day to day browsing, but ActiveX is absolutely the most powerful browser technology there is.

    Anything you can write as an normal windows program, can be wrapped in an ActiveX container and turned into a ‘pluggable’ control within IE.

    Neither Mozilla nor Opera have anything that even comes near this level of functionality.

  • […] Robert Nyman DonΓƒΒ’Γ’β€šΒ¬Γ’β€žΒ’t worry, this is not a post about Internet ExplorerΓƒΒ’Γ’β€šΒ¬Γ’β€žΒ’s support (or lack thereof) of code […]

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Allen,

    I don't necessarily mean that the technology is better, but rather that the massive amount of extensions and extension developers has put it into a leading position in the market.

  • Allen says:

    That may be true, I don't have any idea which one has more available plug-ins, or better available plug-ins. I certainly use more of them in firefox though. Flashblock and "Web Developer" are both great.

    I am skeptical of the claim however. I find it hard to believe that firefox/mozilla extensions have a dominant market position when the browser itself is just breaking 30% penetration according to http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats….

  • Slightly off-topic, but a good example to the first point of your conclusion, Robert, is the following: A few weeks ago, Microsoft started pushing IE7 through the semi-required updates. A few days later a friend of mine says:

    -"I really like the new internet!".

    I responded:

    -"What do you mean? Internet hasn't changed as far as I know." (a bit sarcastic).

    – "Yes it has, I downloaded it with my windows update".

    Clearly he didn't know that IE is just a program, not 'the internet'. I'm sure he isn't the only one out there…

  • Unfortunately many educational establishments only allow the use of IE and it is really sickening. πŸ™

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Erik,

    Most likely, you're right.

    Robert Wellock,

    Sounds kind of counter-productive… πŸ™‚

  • Not only educational establishments but also government and main stream businesses do not allow anything else. At the place were I work, some of the products do not work in Firefox like foxweb…

  • BlueClock says:

    I think that your number one reason, that they don't know about the alternatives, needs some expansion.

    Not only do most people not know about the alternatives, i doubt if any of them care.

    Most people I talk to don't know what you mean when you talk about a browser and many still type a url into google rather than just into the address bar.

    And why should they care? They just want to get online, get some news, book a hotel, bouy a book etc.

    The developer community is large, but tiny in comparison to the actual web user base. Firebug and similar extension are great for developers, but their user base is miniscule in comparison to the web using population.

    I think IE has held it's dominance in the western world simply because it is the default option for most people. As different OSs take hold throughout the rest of the world this will change.

    I use IE7/FF/Opera at work

    Camino at Home

  • […] A little while ago, Robert Nyman asked Why would anyone use Internet Explorer? […]

  • AeroMax says:

    Asked hacker Mr. xxx-xxx-boy

    Q: Does IE really have that much `holes' in it?

    A: "Heck no! Firefox, Opera, `ol Netscape and the rest of those so called browser have more holes in them like a circuit board than IE. They even have so much `tender' spots, so ripe for the taking."

    Q: Why IE then?

    A: "It's the world! Why waste on a few odds & ends on a small following, when you can have the world…

    if any of those `other' browsers were on top of the world, then that would be our prey of choice. Heck! it would've been far easier poking those tempting `tender' spots. Not so for IE, going up against a giant like MS. They're covering those holes faster now than we could plan our next `peeking'! As for the rest of the `newbies', they've only `vaccinated' after IE got the brunt. What matters is, anticipating an attack, not covering up only after the the big fella's down with a flu. & yes, the rest of the flock only expanded on what MS has gone thru… after the storm. So you see, why go for easy prey when it's the big game we want. Try browsers built like a tank for OS/2 and other heavyweights. Yup IE is hanging on & almost at par. As for the rest, we haven't trained our sights on them… yet. M$ hasn't been boring… X->"

    "And yes, I personally use MS IE myself ever since i realized what the internet was. I just love it. Like what that other fella said, it really does integrate beautifully with all sorts of web & media stuff. seamlessly when the rest still just mess up things.

    Hat's off to those who bravely & boldly explore the web on IE!"

    AeroMax: Thanks!

    Mr. xxx…boy: Welcome. Oh, and watch your six, when surfing…

  • Robert Nyman says:

    AeroMax,

    Thanks for the story. πŸ™‚

  • John Scott says:

    I really think which browser safer is a mute point for the average user. Sure the people who have bone with Microsoft will say Firefox. But other than being another choice that's about all it is for most.

    It's really about using a browser that you like and our familiar with.

    Most of this safer crap people brag about with Firefox is not concerning for most. They really could care less. I tell most user's that firefox is probably safer, but of course if some idiot writes malware for just Firefox then all bet's are off. I tell people to worry more about what sites you go too than which browser is safer. Safer may have worked with IE6 VS Firefox. But IE 7 has made some great strides in security. Which must impress the masses because Firefox adoption has slowed.

  • aljuk says:

    People who use IE do so because they don't know any better.

    Anyone who knows better uses a proper browser.

    No versions of IE render javascript or css properly, and as for ActiveX – it's an insecure abomination.

  • templework says:

    Most people who use IE – use it because the can.

    IE is the equivalent of an automatic transmission.

    FF is a manual.

    Sure those that know how to drive a manual will say it is more fun and a better driving experience

    but if you don't have that knowledge – it doesn't matter how good it may be.

    IE allows everybody to drive – not just the computer gurus.

  • As I have read this post, I can only be glad am using Opera 9x, since it is reliable most of time. Except on those sites "only on IE" which piss me off… Although, I used Fire fox for some time, but didn't fulfilled my expectatives, while Opera with its speed dial by default, tabs, themes, switchin tabs with 1 for left tab and 2 for right tab, voice for reading websites, widgets (some fun other not much) and mouse gestures!

    Hail big O!

    Mabudife~

  • forgot to add the sessions and if closed by mistake a tab, simply use ctrl+z to reopen it.

    I recommend Opera or Firefox, both relible enough to keep the surfin safe of the sharks…

    Hail big O!

    Mabudife~

  • Adam says:

    What can you make with ActiveX that you can't make just as easily in a Java Applet? Aside from the fact that Applets must be written in Java whereas ActiveX controls can be written in multiple languages, they are virtually indistinguishable to the end user. Besides, what kind of functionality could you possible want a website to have that you could not write in Java? Except in extremely rare cases, Java will be able to meet all your needs. In addition, Applets work in every browser, whereas ActiveX only works in IE.

    Someone said something about how you need to be a computer guru to use firefox, then made an analogy to manual transmission. You don't need to be a pro driver to drive manual transmission. I was driving manual when I was 16, and this isn't me bragging, it's not an accomplishment, driving manual is easy.

    Now, this is a terrible analogy regardless, because firefox doesn't require you to do any extra work as opposed to IE. All the extra stuff you can do to firefox is OPTIONAL, the basic functionality of firefox that you get strait out of the box is more than you get from IE.

  • Johnny Smith says:

    Here's my take.

    A huge amount of people on the PC still use IE, in fact a HUGE portion of whom you are designing websites for/or to be viewed by in the first place!!

    Think of it as the same reason middle america watches Fox News…cuz it gets piped into every trailer for free, won't pay for cable. Likewise, PC's come with IE, so most consumers use it because it is there (totally oblivious to better, faster solutions).

    May 2009 Browser Stats:

    47.7% Firefox

    41% Explorer (6, 7 and 8)

    5.5% Chrome

    3.0% Safari

    2.2% Opera

    I'm actually suprised about the number of people that took fate into their own hands and went to the "Internets" to get Firefox. That's pretty impressive.

    May 2009 OS Stats:

    89.5% Windows (67.2% XP, 18.4% Vista, 1.7% W2003, 1.1% Win7, 1.1% 2000)

    6.1% MAC OSX

    4.1% Linux

    These OS Stats are what we really have to worry about. Let's just keep buying iPhones and showing our aging parents how much easier and intuitive operating a MAC is shall we?

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments, people!

    Keep educating people about the options!

  • Gandalf says:

    I personally use Opera (latest beta with latest snapshot) and I'm loving it completely. Can't wait to see the full power of Opera Unite..

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Gandalf,

    Glad that you like it! πŸ™‚

  • Friends dont let fri says:

    I just feel anybody who uses IE is typically computer illiterate and definitely not tech savvy. The only people I ever meet who don't want to switch from IE or actually protect it are much older people who don't know anything about computers/internet/etc. other than what they do with one at work and mostly teenage boys and girls who THINK they know what's going on. Even if for some odd, strange, unknown reason you felt IE was a more… powerful browser, It's just plain ugly.

  • Joe McDonald says:

    I had a friend that insisted on using IE, no matter what. I asked him how many viruses his computer has ever had and his response was "Less than you've ever had running Firefox!".

    I asked him how you can have less than zero viruses and he shut up. NoScript + AdBlock ftw.

    What makes this story even funnier is that he was a computer programmer. I'm afraid to see the code he's putting out.

  • […] you’ll get search results, including Robert Nyman’s summary and musings, titled “Why would anyone use Internet Explorer“. Yet the predominant answer is quite […]

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Friends dont let friends use IE,

    Agreed. πŸ™‚

    Joe McDonald,

    I'm afraid of that code as well. πŸ™‚

  • Will says:

    Because some people are dickheads.

  • Al Hill says:

    I used Firefox for two year and loved it. Until last week, it locks up as soon as I open it. Have uninstalled and reinstalled, all with no help???

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Al,

    I recommend going to Firefox Help to get, well, help. πŸ™‚

  • Shawn says:

    I only use IE because it’s what I’m used to. I grew up around it, and at age 6 I knew more than my parents about it. I use Chrome occasionally, but it’s a RAM hog. I hate FireFox so I won’t ever use that.

Leave a Reply

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