As is true just about any time Microsoft launches a new product, there's been no shortage of hype about Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). And indeed, my PCWorld colleague Tony Bradley has no shortage of good things to say about the new browser.
I'm not so sure. Actually, I am sure - that I won't ever be using IE9. Why? Four very powerful reasons.
1. The Treadmill
But to exclude Windows XP, which according to Net Applications still accounts for more than half of the operating system market? That reeks of a hard sales tactic and fits right in with Microsoft's characteristic strategy of enforced, perpetual upgrades - the "treadmill", as it's called.
Haven't paid the Microsoft tax recently? Well then no IE9 for you. Microsoft may say the move was necessary for functionality reasons, but the reality - as usual - is simply that you must pay out or shove off.
2. Vendor Lock-In
Even aside from the treadmill factor, I am irked by the fact that Microsoft won't extend its browser's support beyond the universe of its own products. Mac users, doesn't this bother you?
Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari don't seem to feel the need to stay exclusive to a single operating system, so why does Microsoft? For the answer, see point 1 above. If you don't want to live in an all-Microsoft, pay-the-tax-all-the-time world, Redmond hereby invites you to take a hike.
It may be true that the particular security flaws that caused Internet Explorer 8 to fall so quickly at Pwn2Own have since been closed, but Microsoft's track record on security doesn't exactly inspire confidence that IE9 is likely to be better in any enduring way. Its much-touted anti-tracking technology, for example, has already begun to come under fire.
Of course, Windows' security is also woefully inadequate compared with that of Linux. Particularly now that IE9 is so tightly integrated with Windows, could it possibly compare with Google's Chrome in this respect? No way.
Part of it is the monoculture effect. Any technology that's used by the majority is going to be subject to more hack attempts, even aside from its inherent security. At the same time, how much of a majority IE9 can come to claim without support for any operating system other than Vista and Windows 7 remains to be seen.
Another part of it, however, is also the fact that Internet Explorer's code is closed, so all the many bugs and vulnerabilities that crop up are fixed only at Microsoft's leisure. With Firefox and Chrome, on the other hand, the code is being scrutinized and improved all the time.
4. Lacklustre Scores
Some may tout IE9's "blazing performance," but the data really doesn't back that up. On the Acid3 test, for example, which measures conformance with web standards, IE 9 scores far below Chrome 10, Opera 11 and Firefox 4, as noted recently by GigaOM.
Bottom line? IE9 will be used primarily by the minority already on Vista and Windows 7, though Microsoft may even succeed in strong-arming an impressionable few to upgrade from XP just so they can. But it won't turn around Microsoft's slipping share in the browser market - and it won't ever find its way onto my PC.
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