Internet Explorer - Where are Users Going?
You may have heard about the U.S. government’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) last month advising people to “use a different browser” than Internet Explorer, safeguard against Microsoft Outlook vulnerabilities, maintain anti-virus software, use plain text e-mail, among other things. In addition, there are Windows operating system vulnerabilities that users need to be aware of and take appropriate safeguards, with downloading patches just one part of safeguarding computers.
Users Moving Away from Internet Explorer
Most of us have preferences about which software we use, and it often takes strong reasons for us to switch from one software program to another, whether that means changing browsers, e-mail programs, or editing tools. For companies, switching software can also mean additional expense re-training employees.
Microsoft Internet Explorer is losing users, however, as recent stats are showing a 10% decline in IE use. Robin Good’s weblog post for July 15 even has the following title: “Numbers Talk: Internet Explorer Will Cease To Be The Most Popular Browser Before December 2005. Start Planning.,” noting that internationally IE users have dropped 10% in the past 6 months (less in the US).
The Hazards of Developing for One Browser
For those of us in the Web design and development industry, there are plenty of folks out there who develop sites for Internet Explorer 6 and pay no attention to supporting other browsers. As someone who’s been in business creating websites since 1996, I’ve watched browser trends change dramatically, though, including the days when Netscape 3 and 4 were the most popular browsers out there.
Especially as a long-time advocate of Web standards, I’ve continued to believe strongly that it isn’t a good idea to create sites for one particular browser without regard for other browsers or alternative devices. I feel that way developing for intranets, too—even intranets in a more controlled environment where an entire company uses the same browser can potentially end up having their intranet sites be partially or totally crippled if they change browsers or upgrade to a newer version of the same browser.
It’s no surprise then that I recommend developing sites based on the latest W3C Recommendations, including supporting a wide range of browsers and alternative devices. My own routine includes first testing with browsers that have the best CSS support, followed by testing with browsers with less CSS support. That means I typically initially test with Opera and Mozilla since they provide the best CSS support right now. Once everything is fine, I then test using Internet Explorer 6, followed by Netscape 4, Lynx, speech recognition software, keyboarding only, and final testing using Browsercam. I take this browser testing order approach because of IE not following some of W3C’s CSS Recommendations. I’ve had far fewer cross-browser, cross-platform problems with this approach than if I test with IE first.
Needless to say, I have concerns for all the websites out there developed for Internet Explorer without regard for other browsers. The one thing that’s certain in this life is that things always change.
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