The Difference Between IE7 and a Virus

by Kurt Cagle

What do you call a program that gets loaded in surreptitiously and without your approval, has the potential to lock down your computer so you can't get access to it, takes up significant system resources and promptly crashes upon running. Normally, I'd call it a virus, except for the last part ... viruses are usually stable (and well written) once they start. On the other hand, it's a perfect description of Internet Explorer 7.0.

I am a programmer dealing with client-side development, which means that, like it or not, I spend a great deal of time in Windows, because that's where my users are. Given the nature of Windows, I am also forced to keep Microsoft's Auto-Update feature active, because without it I can't receive the dozens of weekly patches necessary to keep the system stable in the face of bad programming decisions made by Microsoft over the years. However, I was more than a little bit peeved to discover that Microsoft seemed to consider Internet Explorer 7 a "necessary patch", rather than giving me the decision to choose to install it.

On November 1, the world over, people will boot up their Windows system and discover that mysteriously IE6 has gone the way of the dodo and IE7 is now the designated heir apparent. Of course, this assumes that in the process of booting up their system they don't run afoul of the Validation feature, which presumably goes in and checks with the mother ship that the Windows that people are running is in fact legitimate. I don't know the fate of those who don't, though I can see significant swathes of business throughout the world suddenly in the dark because the copy of Windows they THOUGHT they were legitimately buying proved to be bootlegged.

Of course, if that wasn't bad enough, I then get to sit through the install process itself, which features the increasingly common we're-doing-something-in-the-background "cylon" bar that only tells me that Internet Explorer Core Components are being installed. At no point can you say "No, don't install this, I'm still developing my app for backwards compatibility with Internet Explorer 6!". At no point can you say "Hey, I really don't LIKE Internet Explorer taking up resources on my system and I spent the requisite six hours deep in the bowels of the registry trying to extricate the LAST version of IE, so don't install this!" At no point can you say "Wait, we haven't properly tested this in our enterprise setup to insure that the applications we have spent YEARS developing will actually work in your stupid browser!"

Nope, you WILL install Internet Explorer 7, we won't tell you what's going on in the background even as we do, and we won't even bother to show you a simple progress bar that indicates how far to perdition you've actually gone. We are Microsoft and you aren't. So there.

Perhaps I wouldn't have reached the point of ranting about this issue, save for the simple fact that after this whole process had completed, and I, begrudgingly, double clicked on the Internet Explorer "e" icon, the browser opened up, showed the default installation page, then promptly crashed.

I am writing this in Firefox 1.5. I'll be upgrading to Firefox 2.0 in a week or so when the XForms extension is completed for it and I can finish my development there. FF1.5 does occasionally crash, usually at 3am after I've been extensively programming and have left all kinds of interesting things hang in the environment. As a developer, you expect crashes - if you don't get them you're not pushing the envelope enough, but you generally expect that such crashes are due directly to something you did. I like Firefox. I like Opera 9, which to me is a fine-jeweled watch that's a wonder to work with. I'm even beginning to like Konqueror when I can escape outside of Windows land and play in my Linus sandbox.

I don't know about IE7 - I'm afraid to start it up again for fear that it will corrupt my system.

Kurt Cagle is an author, software developer and technology analyst, and is the Chief Consultant for Metaphorical Web, in Victoria, British Columbia.

99 Comments

Vyach
2006-11-01 10:57:11
What about ability to disable IE7 installation?
Michael
2006-11-01 11:06:05
It crashed on me on first startup. I noticed it was trying to go to some welcome to IE7 page. After the first attempt, things where back to normal... Well, I had the beta(s)...
len
2006-11-01 11:19:25
Ummm.... installed it last week. So far so good. I don't like that it hides the Blaxxun menus now but otherwise, it seems to be running fine under Windows XP with the latest Server Pack.


OTOH, all I am doing on this machine is writing VRML at the moment. I'm sure it has dutifully called the Powers that Be and reported my surfing habits, my SSN and the phone number of my taxidermist, but that's ok. If Redmond wants to know how evil I am, they can call my daughter. She'll spill the beans faster than my 56k dialup.

Josh
2006-11-01 11:28:20
IE7 has been in beta for a long time; if you as a developer haven't begun to take steps to accommodate the biggest platform change to happen in years, then you've got no room for complaint.


The automatic upgrade has been announced for weeks. Posted with that announcement was instructions for blocking it's install at the corporate level.

piers
2006-11-01 12:02:23
Hey, sure I'm not the first, so pls discard if this has already been mentioned (my home computer limps along under XP as it is, and I think IE7 would be the final nail in its coffin, so thx!):


http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/5046

Jeremy
2006-11-01 12:11:28
I was also amazed when during the install of IE 7, it told me to close all other programs and *back up all important data*!


This is a web browser right? It's just a web browser.


That leads me to think that any security hardening they do to the browser will be welcome, though it will probably remain inherently vulnerable because of its ties to the operating system. I wonder if there are elements within Microsoft who would have preferred to keep it a separate entity.

David Megginson
2006-11-01 13:54:40
I know that it's nice actually to be running Windows for some tests, but it's much easier to test multiple MSIE versions in Linux by installing ies4linux:


http://www.tatanka.com.br/ies4linux/page/Main_Page


It sets up three separate Wine environments, one for MSIE 5, one for MSIE 5.5, and one for MSIE 6 (I don't think MSIE 7 works in Wine yet). The Flash plugin is preinstalled for each of them, and they can all be open on the screen at once. There's no font antialiasing, but I can live with that.

FlorentG
2006-11-01 14:38:27
Must IE7 be installed automatically, or not ?


Pros : IE7 fixes lots of bugs and improves dramatically the support of CSS, so the faster users adopts it, the faster we developers can create cross-browser websites.


Cons : IE6 will still have a important userbase (considering Win98-2K-XP SP1, max 20%), so we must make sure that our site still works under it.



The main problem here I think is that IE is too embed into the OS, running a standalone version of IE is not stable... I wouldn't care if IE7 installs automatically, as long as IE6 may still be runned. Official Microsoft response ? Use Virtual PC, and run another XP installation with IE6. But it makes testing more difficult of course.

Anon Coward
2006-11-01 18:11:48
C'mon Kurt... you usually write better stuff than this FUD.

2006-11-01 20:05:25
Amen. How do we uninstall it?
Grant
2006-11-01 22:07:09
Enough with the ranting, your attitude is getting to me!!!! Get back to useful stuff.
techieBird
2006-11-01 23:26:47
Thats why the firefox juggernaut keeps on growing :)

2006-11-01 23:50:29
1 word sums up ie7 RUBBISH
Asbjørn Ulsberg
2006-11-02 03:16:55
I'm not going to attack your experience with Internet Explorer 7, because it's your experience after all, and nothing I say will change that. Not to mention that I hate the browser, no matter which version we're talking about, so it's just nice to see that I'm not in this boat alone.


However, there was something you could do to prevent the automatic Internet Explorer installation. You could have, prior to the automatic update, installed a little utility called "Internet Explorer 7 Blocker Toolkit", that would block the IE installation:


http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=4516A6F7-5D44-482B-9DBD-869B4A90159C&displaylang=en


What you can do now, is uninstall it completely in add/remove programs. However, an even smarter move is to re-install Internet Explorer 6 with the wonderful, stand-alone, downloadable package from Evolt.org:


http://browsers.evolt.org/download.php?/ie/32bit/standalone/ie6eolas_nt.zip

Jeremy Jones
2006-11-02 04:57:45
Come on, Kurt! Just drink the Kool-Aid. You'll like it. Seriously, though, you raise very strong points, particularly around needing to keep previous version(s) of IE around and MS forcing the upgrade. I'll have to boot my laptop into Winders and see if it forces upgrade to IE7.

2006-11-02 05:06:49


How exactly does IE7 load without your approval? Last time I checked, it runs when you open it and stop running when you close it.


If it were true that it took "significant" amounts of resources (which is actually false when compared to, for example *cough* Firefox, see this page), and if it were true that it crashed upon running (



Maybe if you checked your computer for real viruses or spyware from time to time, you wouldn't experience crashes. So before you blame it all on Microsoft, check your own system.


Why don't you call Windows, or better yet Linux

endrem
2006-11-02 05:08:12
Just exactly my thoughts... :-(
Santosh Ramakrishnan
2006-11-02 05:46:01
Yes Kurt !! though you sound curt, you are absolutely right. I too have had very bad experiences with IE7. Some Ajax applications don't feature that well on the new IE. Also, my corporate web mail provider, uses the Outlook activex component and this causes IE7 to crash. Talk about incompatibility, this should be the mother of all !! -- Santu !!
Merlin
2006-11-02 07:44:48
If you were smart enough, you would of disabled auto-update and always do manual updates like I do. This way you can control what gets installed.
Bored Developer
2006-11-02 08:07:16
There's a reason why you're forced to develop in M$ and not in your Linus sandbox. It pays the bills quit whining.
Alex Dresko
2006-11-02 11:18:55
I stopped reading this article after reading this bit..


"I am also forced to keep Microsoft's Auto-Update feature active, because without it I can't receive the dozens of weekly patches necessary to keep the system stable in the face of bad programming decisions made by Microsoft over the years."


MS only releases patches once and month and rarely is it in the dozens.. Therefore, your argument has no merrit. You must be the best developer in the world not to make any mistakes of your own.


Oh, I did just read the last line in your post.. Are you a baby, or just full of exaduration?

Jason
2006-11-02 11:56:39
Yeap.
Kirill
2006-11-02 15:43:45
This must be one of the lamest articles ever. First you acknowledge that you needs IE on your machine because of your user base. But immediately after that you want to prevent its installation? Aren't you supposed to go with your users (that will also have IE7 installed).


Then, you complain about lack of technical information of what's going on during the install. Well, do you really want your users to be scared with tons of log messages running across the screen when IE7 is installed? Do you really hate your grandpa so much?


And finally you complainsabout IE7 crashing. Well, maybe it's because of the stupid registry tricks that you've been playing all this years?

373RN4L
2006-11-02 20:37:04
You are coorect. Internet EXPLODER is terrible. it should be wiped from every system ever made. As if it wasn't bad enought that we almost have to run windows, they must force us to also run their useless pile of !@#$ they call a browser. Not only that but if you end up using another browser you can't get rid of IE, unless like you said you play in that horrible behemoth known as the registry. The worst part is that Micro$oft won't allow you too view half of their web pages unless you are running IE. i mean sure there are plug-ins and the like, but have you ever tried doing windows update in FireFox? it sure as H311 didn't work for me. Oh and what is better than all this is that you have to use Micro$oft's installer to install the new IE, which is corrupt in my windows! So now i will be caught in an endless stream of crashes as windows tries futilely to install their @#$%. I wish i was in India where they are converting all public offices (so far schools and libraries) to linux.
swed
2006-11-02 22:08:47
Sorry, but I couldn't help LMHO even if I realize the seriousness of ur situation. I installed that crappy browser some time ago thinking that it could replace the even crappier IE6; (Swedish ver, completly useless, a digital wreck!), anyway, I used it once or twice but it didn't impress me the least. Still without proper support for CSS which I find totaly incomprehensible. No, I stick to Opera9 coz once I get on line I like to stay on line... Making a travesty of Cato the Censor: I say: Praeterea censeo IE7inem esse delendam (Moreover, I advise that IE7 should be destroyed... ;) swed
Kit
2006-11-03 02:28:47
Set a DWORD called DoNotAllowIE70 in the key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Setup\7.0 and give it the value 1. This blocks update to IE7. Remove when you are ready to update.


Realise it might be a bit late but HTH.

Cindra
2006-11-03 08:51:47
We use Firefox and it has been a relief. No more freezing up and a definite reliability in browser use. It's a lot more fun to use too.
Howard
2006-11-03 10:15:08
OK You hate Microsoft we get the picture. Gosh
Aristotle Pagaltzis
2006-11-04 00:15:32
I try hard not to have to care about IE, so I actually prefer it this way. IE7 is already obsolete at the time of release, but at least it's a good deal less obsolete than the paleolithic IE6. Every minute spent cursing at the things that broke because of the IE7 upgrade is one minute less spent cursing at the things that won't work in IE6. Bring on the breakage. Better a terrifying end than endless terror, as they say in German.
M. David Peterson
2006-11-04 04:40:18
Kurt, do you need a hug? ;)
Bob
2006-11-04 06:20:49
"I'm still developing my app for backwards compatibility with Internet Explorer 6!".
How long has IE 6 been final? Sounds like you need some real help here.
dave
2006-11-04 06:23:42
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
you're a stupid incompetent!!!
Bob
2006-11-04 06:28:11
"I'm still developing my app for backwards compatibility with Internet Explorer 6!".
How long has IE 6 been final? Sounds like you need some real help here.
Kurt Cagle
2006-11-04 20:58:13
Kirill,


Please read my blog a little more closely. What I said was that I have to use WINDOWS for my clients, because that's where my clients (largely doctors) are. I said nothing about developing for IE - in fact, I'm developing Firefox applications at the moment, because the clients I had DIDN'T want me to use IE - they felt it was too unsafe.


Concerning the install, I would have been perfectly happy with just a percentage completed bar, indicating how much remained to be done so I could figure out how soon I'd get control of the computer back. It's a comparatively minor thing, but there were a number of these comparatively minor things that together added up into a fairly unpleasant experience, and also seemed the waste of a perfectly good opportunity for Microsoft to show off the technology.


Re:registries - I generally try to stay out of the registry unless I'm forced into it, because there is just too much potential for causing errors there. Again, since I'm working with Mozilla, I don't have to deal with the Windows registry, though there is an analogous system of preferences. However, the point remains - if IE won't work because of some setting that someone else improperly set, what does that say about the stability of IE?


Robert
2006-11-06 01:41:22
At no point can you say "Hey, I really don't LIKE Internet Explorer taking up resources on my system and I spent the requisite six hours deep in the bowels of the registry trying to extricate the LAST version of IE, so don't install this!"


Really?


Organizations that use AU to keep their computers up-to-date can use a free Blocker Toolkit to block automatic delivery of IE7. This blocker has no expiration date; you can find more information in the blocker FAQ.

Wildfire
2006-11-09 17:47:08
IE7 was silent, surreptious, and shocking. Coming at me in the middle of the night like one of Microsoft's monopoly ninjas, it became a "critical update" that had to be installed, user opinion (or need) be darned. Then again, given the number of sites that still require a proprietary browser solution, and the number of programs that decide to use MSIE to open sites without asking, it may indeed be a critical issue.


The IE7 install process was simple enough: download, then relinquish control of your PC. I've had multi-gigabyte game installs finish faster than IE7. It's a web browser, how hard can it be? I installed Firefox 2.0 the other day (to fix irritating issues with 1.5), and it went in quickly and without fuss. I can only shudder to think what kind of tinkering was done under the hood of my primary work (as in, what I need to make a living) OS. When it was done, it demanded I restart my system. Sorry IE, no dice. I have work to do. So all day, every 10 minutes, the booby-trap launches in the form of a pop-up window asking me to shut down. If I should be typing when the bomb goes off, or click the wrong button, bam... bye-bye work. Then again, I should expect bomb-like behavior from Microsoft by now.


I came here after using IE7 and finding, without surprise, that my websites looked dramatically different than they did in IE6 and Firefox. It's not enough to intentionally break CSS, now they break fonts too with their cleartype technology. And as if it were some kind of demented game, they HIDE the menu bar, then HIDE the option for cleartype to be turned off. How does a company with cash reserves in the billions manage to not test out their technology on standard computer equipment? It looks -terrible- on any decent digitally-driven LCD.


Peter Gurevich, Internet Explorer Program Manager, says this in his Blog from February 2006:


"Q1: Why is IE7 making this change?
A1: To improve the readability of text on the internet."


Yes Peter, everyone was going blind from internet text before. We had no options to increase font size, tweak monitor resolutions, override site font options, or that worst option of all, simply sitting closer to the monitor. Thank God for Microsoft. (I'll ignore the imperialistic suggestion that MS has to take on the heady role of fixing the whole Internet.)


He continues:


"The Advanced Reading and Technologies group at Microsoft has conducted several studies on ClearType on LCD and CRT monitors. These studies show a measurable improvement in reading comprehension and performance as well as an improvement in the perceived user experience (Mostly on LCDs, but even on CRTs)..."


Yes Peter, because it makes text artificially BOLD. It's much easier to read BOLD text, but it's up to the designer to decide how they wish their text to be presented. It's been scientifically proven also that audio that is louder sounds better. Why doesn't MS artificially jack up all audio output on the system to help its users hear better also?


Peter drones on saying:


"Q2: Why don't we turn on ClearType just for LCD monitors?
A2: There is no reliable programmatic way to detect whether the monitor on a system is an LCD or CRT."


Funny, I thought Plug-and-Play and EDID information for monitors was old-hat. I guess their army of engineers can't make a database of driver information. Then again seeing what they did with the Windows Registry, I may be glad they didn't try. (The more conspiracy-oriented of you may suggest that monitor identification is part of an industry standard, which means MS will not support it until they have their own competing non-licensable "standard" ready to replace it.)


Peter's last comment is a perfect testament to Microsoft operability:


"Q3: Why does text in Outlook Express still look blurry even when I turn off ClearType?
A3: This is a bug and it is known issue."


So if we translate this from MS MarketSpeak(TM), they can't implement the technology properly, they can't turn it off, and it does nothing useful when turned on unless you have a monitor from the 1980's. Yep, that sounds like a regular "feature".


Of course, I come here to complain because even though Peter asks us in his blog, "...please let us know if you have any questions or comments", comments are disabled. I guess the guys at Microsoft do have some intelligence after all, at least when it comes to dodging consumer complaints. Maybe that's why I have to give them my credit card just to get a Service Pack nowadays.


As a part-time web designer, I also appreciate not being able to test my code on IE6 and IE7 without having to set up a borg-like network of computers. Each one of which, incidentally, requires a new Windows license. Wait... maybe I just figured out part of the plot.


If this is what we can expect from Windows Vista, I'm going to start buying stock in Linux-related companies.

Dan
2006-11-13 03:03:30
IE7 is uglier than IE6. Most important of all, it has successfully preserved 90% of the CSS and W3C incompatibilities in IE6. Quite a successful work by the guys at Microsoft.


More here http://arstechnica.com/journals/microsoft.ars/2006/8/16/4999

anonymous
2006-11-14 12:32:44
I believe IE 7.0 is included in the windows update for XP but users have the option to install it after download. I am not sure how it gets automatically install on your system. On the other hand, there are still incompatibility issues evolve around IE 7.0 as well as Firefox 2.0. The new browsers release seem to have affected some currently running applications on older browser version. That's a pain for all web developers out there. Come on now, let see some backward compatibility here.
amc
2006-11-14 22:45:14
I've got IE7 on one machine and IE6 on the other, unfortunatly the machine thats got IE7 is a small 1.5Ghz laptop. IE7 is unstable when it can't connect, which is a big problem on a weak wireless network. Now use Opera, much quicker and much more stable. The only problem with Opera is that the tab bar gets filled up and slows the whole computer down.
Civilizator
2006-11-16 18:40:13
I installed IE7 the day it came out in the official "final" version. Encountered no troubles in the actual installation process. When I needed to use it, IE7 opened without a glitch and allowed a decent browsing experience, except for the very annoying layout of toolbars which could not be moved. Then, the operating system stopped responding. CTRL-ALT-DEL could not do a thing, so I had to reboot my computer by pressing and holding down the power button, just like in the "good old days" of Win 98. This had NEVER happened to me before in the Windows XP environment. So, I rebooted, restarted IE7. Ten minutes into the browsing, the darned thing happened again. I rebooted, restarted IE7. After the third time around, I uninstalled IE7 and went back to IE6. The system is back to normal, not a glitch any more. I guess I will wait until Microsoft irons out the glitches in their web browser.
Ivan Thomson
2006-11-19 04:00:38
I looked forward to IE7 hoping it would be better. So I installed it and found the the layout annoying as h@ll, it was slower than IE6 to respond and the tabs, although a nice addition, were a bit to late to take me away from Firefox. Additionally, after a while IE7 started playing up with my OS so I dumped it and my system is all the much better for it now.


I am starting to believe that every upgrade Microsloth makes now is actually a downgrade; the version numbers go up but the usability and stability go down.


Well, after my Masters degree its back to OS X for me and as far as this university laptop I have; well that is going linux. There is no way I'm touching Vista. Especially considering my upgrade experiences with M$ (IE7, Live One Care, Etc) and then looking at the money, time and effort spent over the years.


Thank you.

Steve Walton
2006-11-19 07:41:52
Intuit Quickbooks and Rational ClearCase, one a widely-used home accounting package, the other an enterprise source control application. Neither is yet compatible with IE7.
Geoff
2006-11-19 15:25:28
I thought I had told Microshaft not to install it. This morning, I was commanded to reboot. IE7 installed during the night. Now my IE7 doesn't work at all. A couple other applications no longer work. I didn't even want it. I can't change my internet options from the control panel; the control panel locks up when I try. I don't know about Outhouse Express, since I have never used it. At least Firefox still works.
Kim Broome
2006-11-20 11:35:53
i wish I had read this before I installed I. E 7.0. It took out all my personal desktop icons, and replaced them with their "e" icon,. When you try to replace the icon, it is blocked. Also, my computer was running half speed, and is causing my applications to freeze and crash. I went to a restore point and got my old ie back, thank heavens, but my computer is still slow, but not nearly as bad. thanks
Bob
2006-11-20 22:02:53
Tried to install it twice, both times it just froze after installation and some programs acted up and needed to be reinstalled...back to ie 6 and things seem to be status quo. Something's not right here
Sergey
2006-11-25 21:16:49
Thanks GOD finaly I got my IE 6.0 back
IE 7.0 hakers tools i spend 4 days to retrive data save files
AceHigh
2006-11-28 01:21:02
I like IE7. The beta version kept crashing and was not usable. The one thing I hate is the way they implemented adding a favorite. I have thousands of them and miss control of the tree. I would also like to know what IE7 is connecting to when you start it. It seems to take a long time about it. I'm just a normal user by the way.
Laurent
2006-11-29 02:34:12
IE 7 is now being pushed as a Windows update here too (I'm French)... It still crashes on me (as did the beta I tried a while ago)... There must be something wrong with my system. Too bad MS can't come up with something less fragile... And good luck everyman!


I use Firefox anyway, it even has a convenient "IE Tab" add-on, so you can test-proof the sites you develop using IE engine (and it does use IE7 - hello PNG w/ alpha transparency - without having it crash).

Anonymous
2006-11-30 07:31:49
So WHY have you enabled auto updating in XP?!
Jamie Ashley
2006-11-30 07:41:35
I think Mr. Gates should have offered IE7 as an optional upgrade, and not a "critical update". He didn't do this to major corporations, just individual computer users he decided to use as "guinea pigs" for this untried program as a way to find out how it worked. I didn't agree to be a guinea pig to test this product...and although I'm not a major corporation, I still use my computer a lot as my home office for my real estate business. I totally agree that this program acts like a virus. I automatically install "critical updates" so this got placed on my computer automatically. I spent 5 miserable days correcting all the problems it caused....worse than the virus I got last year. My e-mail wouldn't work without major updates. My printer/scanner/fax wouldn't work at all...caused major problems so that the hp director wouldn't come up anymore. Visual tour studio where I do virtual tours of my listings would no longer come up. It totally erased the WinTotal program where I do market analysis reports (appraisals) and all the saved appraisals I had done were also erased. Finally got the IE7 removed and went back to IE6... had to remove and re-install all the programs that had been erased or corrupted so that they could no longer be used. I went through the worst 5 days of my life in which my home-based business was virtually disabled. I think Bill Gates owes the public an apology! Jamie