Followup to The Difference Between IE7 and a Virus

by Kurt Cagle

I have to admit ... I knew if I ventured into Microsoft land that I'd likely end up with these responses (and yes Dave, I get the message).

I haven't done a formal analysis of the release version of IE, nor was the attempt in my last post an attempt to do so. The article I wrote WAS intended to point out a few of my major peeves with the way that Microsoft went about upgrading the browser:

  • Just about every other application on the planet requires that you indicate ahead of time that you wish to install their product. Operating system upgrades are one thing - I assume that the upgrades being made in general are to core systems necessary to protect my system, improve performance, or fix bugs. I do not consider Internet Explorer to be a core part of the operating system. I should also point out that while people have been posting many useful hacks to keep IE FROM installing, the fact is that Microsoft never specifically indicates that it was installing IE until that particular act was done.

  • The whole .NET user experience was supposed to have moved us away from the need to install critical OS system upgrades when we added a new program, yet from what I can determine, IE seems to operate completely outside of this. Now I have to wonder what ramifications this installation process will have on other applications.

  • Yes, I was aware of the November 1st upgrade, though only accidentally. Windows zealots may be shocked to discover that those of us who are only peripherally in that particular camp (and before people start throwing more mudballs, understand that I HAVE worked at Microsoft, several times) generally don't spend time in the distribution channels that Microsoft sends these messages out to. Chances are, most people don't - and there will likely have been any number of people who will be caught flatfooted because of this upgrade.

  • Additionally, this was MY user experience ... yours (Dave) may very well have differed. I will of course use IE7 - I'm a web developer, and while I'm focused on Firefox issues I do try to keep up with all of the browsers ... I am just upset that after an interminable upgrade with little feedback beyond an animated gif cycling that the very first time I try to use the product it crashes on me. That other people are reporting the same is encouraging - it means that it wasn't just because there of something idotic that I did.

I'm frankly a little disappointed in the feedback on the article, however. Linux and OSS partisans have a reputation for occasionally getting hostile and anal about their particular OS, but its a little disturbing to see the same kind of attacks coming from the highly literate readers (I hope) of this site from the Windows side.

I am frustrated with IE because it could have and should have been so much better a browser. It is still the one that most people use, largely because its what gets defaulted in any new windows installation, and many (especially non-technical) people have neither the time nor the understanding to seek out something else. However, this didn't prompt my last rant ... rather, I am taking fault with the user experience of the installation, which is THE front door that most people will end up seeing before using the browser in the first place.

The IE7 auto-upgrade gave Microsoft had a chance to gain back a lot of people that it has lost in the last few years - wow them with something spectacular, send the user to a page that would put the browser through its paces and show off the positive points, get past the "We are Microsoft and we know better than you do what you want." attitude and make people wonder if maybe they were wrong about Firefox after all.

They blew it.

Instead, the user experience that was sent out was cold - "We don't trust that you're running a valid copy of Windows, so before we go anywhere, we're going to frisk your operating system!", "We'll let you know how soon we can give you back your computer as soon as we're actually done.","Oops, there's a glitch here that we didn't anticipate, and on 17.2% of all computers this program will crash." Programmers may not believe that User Experience matters - I'm USED to Linux programs crashing all the time - but for most non-programmers, the message that comes out of this user experience is simple: "Microsoft is a cold, large, indifferent monolithic corporation that builds shoddy products". Is that the reality? No, from my own experiences, generally it isn't. But it IS the perception, and experiences like this only serve to bolster that perception, especially among the non-technical.

I'm hoping to do a formal analysis of Internet Explorer 7 in the near future, and no, I'm not going to be partisan about it - there are a number of good features and upgrades that IE7 has to offer, and I think it is important to highlight these positive aspects, especially given the expectation that IE7 use will spike this week despite the less than sterling installation process.

Kurt Cagle is an author, CTO and software industry analyst for Metaphorical Web, located in Victoria, British Columbia.


M. David Peterson
2006-11-04 14:43:08
Good for you, Kurt! I had mixed opinions in regards to your last post, thus decided to ask if you needed a hug instead. ;)

That said, I'm glad to see you standing your ground while extending things a bit as to why you made the original post in the first place. I'm looking forward to your follow-up analysis.

NOTE: To each of you who sounded like the classic 14 year old script kiddie Linux-advocate but from the Windows side of the fence,

Please go outside and run off some of that angry energy. That kind of crap does nothing more than -- well -- make you look like a 14 year old script kiddie. Flames with a reason and purpose are one thing. Random drive-by personal insults from someone who won't even leave their real name or attach a real web address to their comment are quite another.

Please try and keep things civilized this time round, k?


Dave Pawson
2006-11-06 04:48:38
Laptop, Windows XP, auto update set to true.
Setting was to prompt before installing.

I had a chance to say no. Also set it to 'don't ask again'.
After reading your article, I declined the offer.

Whether M$ will do its usual and assume it knows best, is another matter. I'll let you know.

regards DaveP

2006-11-06 05:31:52
It was the usual mix of tricks to figure out how to exact more dollars from the monopoly. I'm used to that. The music execs do it, my last company did it, and the new mantra really is, "We don't care if it is immoral or unethical, as long as it's legal." It's accepted in business and politics and so it shouldn't surprise anyone that it is the way of the web too.

OTOH, this blog page looks a lot better in IE7 than it did in IE6. That is the tradeoff for a loss in speed overall.

I don't expect any business as big as Microsoft to come up with an easy unencumbered process for anything they do or release. How long did it take the W3C to go from being the streamlined modern alternative to ISO to becoming the slow stodgy process bound and multinational hijacked alternative to WHATWG.

Life never gets simpler unless we garage sale our stuff. Why should a browser?

2007-04-14 23:20:37
Interesting comments.. :D
2007-04-15 00:01:51
Interesting comments.. :D