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The problem of old browsers

Old browsers never die. Their codebase just gets integrated into the next version of InternetExplorer.

It's a vicious circle. Sites feel compelled to support old WebBrowsers, and therefore can't let rip with the CSS, to produce web pages the way they should be. Designers are forced to devise ugly workarounds.

People will continue to use old browsers unless they are forced off them. It's not as if it's cruel -- there are now plenty of good, free browsers available. If we pander to the old browsers we'll be bogged down in ugly hacks for ever.

MozillaBrowser's [quirks mode] has been accused of spoiling everything that could have been achieved by its strong support for standards when not running in quirks mode. People still design pages by trial-and-error with InternetExplorer and won't stop if Mozilla continues to display their buggy pages not as garbled as it should. Don't pander to bad design!

To play devil's advocate, one could say that quirks mode is necessary because if you really want to switch over to standards you probably can't do it all in one shot. Mozilla might fail if it doesn't render a lot of old pages correctly, so get the users there by supporting old pages. However, we have to wean developers off the old stuff, and in particular, the practice of designing by trial and error empirical guesswork.

Netscape 4.x is dead.

In the bad old days of the browser wars, the two options you had were IE and Netscape 4.x.

The 4.x version family of Netscape was notorious for its terrible CSS support.

MarcAndreessen publically stated that NetScape followed the WorseIsBetter method of developing software (quote anyone?). Features over stability. But, even worse than that, Netscape was in the middle of creating really nice technology like JavaScript and CascadingStyleSheets when they abandoned development on their browser (at version 4.0).

Netscape 4.x also had a rather horrible memory leak that potentially could cause virtual memory exhaustion when editing very large documents in a web text box, which was a real issue on wikis (see Wiki:TooBigToEdit).

It was often the case that while making a page InternetExplorer friendly and LynxFriendly was trivial (on the matter of minutes), mutilating the page so it showed up reasonably on Netscape was a whole day affair. Usually involving totally blowing the CascadingStyleSheets (they implement font colour, but not font face?!?!) and accessibility.

The good news is that the number of people using Netscape 4.x is now [insignificant]. Actually the only people using Netscape 4 these days are bored and overambitious CSS hackers. Netscape 4.x is dead. Don't code down for it.

InternetExplorer must die.

Because of its lack of alpha-channel PNG support.

It's not that IE must die (it does that regularly) I just wish it didn't take the the desktop with it.

I've never gotten along with Active Desktop or shell integration or whatever name it goes by. Turn it off, and your desktop, taskbar, et. al. should be hunky-dory.

It's strange how the Windows IE team seemed to be completely out of touch with the Mac IE team, except when they agreed that both versions should CrashAndBurn? really often.

The typical Slashdotter doesn't hate IE because it is technically inferior. While MS, like Netscape, has a tradition of breaking existing standards with proprietary extensions (ActiveX, special CSS features, VBScript etc.), their browser functions fairly well. There are several reasons not to use it:

You believe the plot theory, that Microsoft created such a wonderful browser for the sole purpose of eventually confining and spying after their users. That is absolutely stupid. Of course they create their browser for profit, they are a commercial company. Their profit is making you buy Windows, Office and Frontpage. The Smart Tags are just another source of profit - now they will be able to sell ads with almost 100% percent rating to other companies. You don't hate your TV network for trying to do that. Complaints about standards are rediculous. On one hand, they don't properly render HTML, so you hate them. On the other hand, you are angry because they try to implement DRM and PICS. It seems like you think that everything Microsoft tries to do is bound to be evil.

IE is not free. Eventually you pay with your freedom of choice and your privacy. That's why we care about the browsers -- not because we hate IE itself (if you throw that much cash at a problem, you are almost bound to come up with a solution). Using IE means signing away your rights for convenience. If that is your choice, fine, but you're on a shaky moral ground if you want others to think the same way.

I refuse to use IE unless a page will not display, which is rare. It is part of my social duty. It is our public collaboration, we should not complain if we are not helping. -- JimScarver

The sheer number of bugs that IE6 has in regards to CSS is staggering. The CSS/DOM support is sketchy at best, and what about the box model. ARG!

The alternatives to bad WebBrowsers


In the past, MozillaBrowser was huge, slow, late and incomplete - see for example articles written at the time [by Joel Spolsky] (an ex-Microsoftie, and probably the most quoted credible Mozilla basher of all time) and [in Suck magazine]. The project drove TheWebStandardsProject to write [an open letter to the Mozilla Project] asking them to get their act together. However, things have changed a lot since then.

In June 2003, Spolsky switched to using Mozilla Firebird (Mozilla Browser 1.5) saying: "All the little problems are fixed. It loads fast. It's not ugly and clunky. ... [Mozilla has great new features and is set to] soar past IE in functionality and performance." (http://www.mozillazine.org/talkback.html?article=3238)

The newest version of Mozilla is the lean and mean [Mozilla Firefox], which has been widely praised, and addresses the issue of the bloat and JargonFile:FeatureCreep we're all sick of from old versions of Netscape and IE.


After Mozilla, there was Firefox (http://www.getfirefox.com/). The Mozilla Foundation officially swapped its attention from Mozilla to Firefox and handed the Mozilla suite to the open source community.


Opera (http://www.opera.com/) has been around for many years, with a free-with-ads or purchased offering. In 2005, Opera became entirely free without ads.


Hebrew, Arabic, Parsian readers, as well as other readers of BiDi languages must depend on Mozilla and other Gecko browsers, if they're not using Windows - IE for Mac and Opera simply don't support these languages. [June 2004: is this still accurate?]

KHTML - the basis of Konqueror browser on Linux and Safari browser on Mac OSX Jaguar - now also have support for these languages. However, KHTML is much less mature then Gecko, and those browsers still leave many OS unsupported (Mac OS before 10.2, BeOS etc).

The BrowserWars

Before MicroSoft, NetscapeNavigator was the "standard." As it went bankrupt, people wanted someone to move forward. Netscape abandoned most of their implementations midway, which is why Netscape 4 supported everything half-assed such as CascadingStyleSheets. This is also why it's not true that IE4+ and Netscape4+ are equally easy to develop for. Now, the standards have moved outside of Netscape HQ into the W3C and ECMA. The W3C meetings are a lot more open than you've been lead to believe by SlashDot. ECMA may be another story, I don't know, but I understand it's reasonably ok.

The way that InternetExplorer masquerades as Mozilla has a typical browser wars slant to it: Netscape servers weren't serving content to InternetExplorer correctly, so Microsoft had to pretend to be Netscape to get content served to it.

At the time, MS won. But hopefully, Mozilla and other alternatives will give them enough of a run for their money that people won't flock to MS "technologies" wholesale. Linux doesn't do ActiveX or vbscript (and more and more people are putting those on their webpages).

ActiveX became popular after Sun locked Microsoft out of Java. Now Microsoft has created C# to replace both. The wars never end.

They called it the Browser Wars for a reason. Both parties have done stupid things to the consumers. -- SunirShah

What makes a browser bad? The reason I ask is because I don't like any browser I've ever used and I've used nearly all of them...

Lately I think the main reason is that I just don't buy in to the whole "visit a website" experience. To me it will always be one or more file downloads, rendering and maybe an upload (like this post). This also means that I don't care about the form if the content is missing.

What I want is to be able to use the webpage I get. I want be able to move around the visual element of the page. I want to be able to grab a table or image or paragraph and move it out of the window (where it wil get it's own window then, the reverse should work as well some way).

Because it is all just a visualisation of a local copy. Let me edit my local copy! If only to remove all the advertisements before I print it out. I want a great browser: downloads the webpage, interpretes the meaning, makes a rendering based on the stylesheet and then let me edit the result in an intelligent way (xml free). When I'm done editing I will then let it take the edited rendering and produce good xhtml2 code from it (independent from the source) which I can save locally.

Are not all browser bad?

My professors use MHTML files, which is of course a proprietary format that IE will read (but no other browser). I've taken it up with them several times and they generally say "if you can read it why are you complaining about it?" Because some people can't read them, and they're critical course material. Personally, I'm surprised the people using Macs haven't taken it up with the prof yet.

And by the way, now that IE7 and 8 are out, the only people to use them are the ones that have been updated automatically. Lots of places still use IE6 because they don't know better. - NatalieBrown


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