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App designer turns Microsoft's own 'kill IE6' campaign against IE8, IE9

Microsoft 'standing in the way' of new Web features, argues designer behind theie8countdown.com

A Web and app designer has stolen a page out of Microsoft's own playbook in urging users to abandon three of the company's four newest browsers because Microsoft is "standing in the way" of progress.

Josef Richter, formerly a website designer who now works primarily on iPhone app design, registered a quartet of domains two years ago -- including theie8countdown.com -- just a day after Microsoft debuted its own Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) deathwatch at ie6countdown.com.

An iPhone app designer has mimicked Microsoft's own death-to-IE6 website with four of his own, including one calling for the demise of IE8.

Richter updated theie8countdown.com Monday, along with two others: theie7countdown.com and theie9countdown.com, that tackle 2006's IE7 and 2011's IE9, respectively. He also owns theie10countdown.com.

"It was an immediate idea when Microsoft launched their ****," said Richter in an email. "Everybody was super excited, but I was like, 'Nice try, but IE7, IE8 and IE9 are still **** compared to the WebKit browsers,' so I made this half-joke to get rid of all of their IE versions."

Microsoft launched its IE6 countdown March 4, 2011, to convince customers to give up the aged browser. "We bring you the next step in our mission to see IE6 gone for good," a company executive said when Microsoft announced the site.

The ie6countdown.com site hasn't accomplished its mission of pushing IE6's worldwide usage share below 1%. According to U.S. metrics firm Net Applications, IE6 accounted for 6.2% of all browsers used last month, more than half of the 11.4% when the website appeared.

Richter's sites resemble, but don't explicitly copy Microsoft's IE6 countdown. And unlike Microsoft, he relies on data from Irish analytics company StatCounter.

StatCounter and Net Applications use different methodologies to arrive at their estimates. StatCounter tallies page views, which it argues more accurately reflect "usage," while Net Applications counts daily unique visitors. The browser numbers from the metrics companies sometimes wildly conflict with each other.

That's quickly evident when looking at Richter's websites. His theie8countdown.com, for instance, claims that IE8 has a 10% global share. Net Applications, however, pegs IE8's usage share at 23%, or 10 percentage points higher any one version of Google's Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox.

While Richter's theie7countdown.com claimed victory -- that IE7's share was less than 1% -- Net Applications put that browser's share at 2%.

Unlike other efforts to shove IE into its grave, Richter's motivation didn't stem from the general bitterness developers have for Microsoft's quirks, which require them to spend extra time tweaking their work to render sites with older browsers like IE6, IE7 and even IE8.

"It's not about the time itself, it's more about limiting the features available to users," Richter argued. "If there is a super-cool feature that is super-useful for users, but 20% of browsers don't use it, many companies [with websites or apps] just don't try to implement it at all, because they know at the very early stage that it would mean additional development [and] cost, hacky workarounds, making the app potentially unstable, and so on."

Richter cited "canvas," the HTML5 element for scripting bitmapped images, as a prime example. The Apple-introduced standard was adopted by Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera Software's Opera browser in relatively short order between 2004 and 2008. "The thing is, it's not supported in IE8, it came in IE9 in 2011," said Richter. "Given the significant market share of IE8, canvas is still not widely used. Companies just opt not to use canvas at all, even though it would be available to 85% of users. And that's the main problem here. IE is simply blocking the development of the whole World Wide Web."

While Microsoft has pledged to retire IE6 in April 2014 -- alongside Windows XP -- it will continue to support IE7 until 2017 and IE8 until 2020. XP users will, however, not receive security updates to any Microsoft browser after April 8, 2014.

Microsoft may have used the adjective "modern" to describe each of its last three browsers, IE8, IE9 and IE10, but Richter wasn't buying it.

"Microsoft is obviously closing the gap now, and IE10 is almost a modern browser," Richter said, referring to Windows 8's default browser, and the one now being pushed to Windows 7 PCs. "But Chrome and Firefox are moving fast, and there are still several cool features not supported in IE10, [such as] Stream API or SPDY, [so] I am still committed to move people away even from IE9 and IE10."

SPDY -- for "speedy" -- is a Google-driven protocol designed to load pages faster and more securely. Both Chrome and Firefox, the latter since 2012's Firefox 15, support SPDY, as does Opera. There are reports that Microsoft may enable support for SPDY in IE11, the browser slated to ship alongside this summer's update to Windows 8, code-named "Blue" but likely officially designated Windows 8.1.

Essentially, Richter wants IE to either get with the program or get out of the way.

"Everything that is currently introduced by both Chrome and Firefox becomes de facto standard, and Microsoft is just standing in the way by their slow implementation," Richter said.

But his campaign to ditch IE8 was quixotic at best, if browser management developer Browsium is to be believed. According to Browsium, enterprises are standardizing on the four-year-old browser. "They're doing that in part because they'll have XP and Windows 7 side by side," said Gary Schare, president and chief operating officer of Browsium, in an earlier interview.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about web apps in Computerworld's Web Apps Topic Center.


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