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Mailbag: All Eyes on IE, More

Readers share their thoughts on the second beta of IE 8, the future of IE in general, and how it holds up against Firefox:

The beta 2 of IE 8 is a significant improvement over IE 7, although still quite buggy on some sites because of the changes to comply with W3C standards. I'm just wondering if sites will be willing to change for IE 8 to W3C or mark as compatible with older versions of IE.

The feature that was the most impressive was the more secure capability to identify dangerous Web sites such as phishing sites. Checking for dangerous Web sites is a big jump for IE. In the beta 2 release, they stepped up the warning message to be sure it is hard to miss. Yet to be seen is whether the loose coupling helps with performance. The use of Accelerator to invoke a map is a nice feature. The recoverability feature has limited value for my use. The changes further place IE 8 as a browser that is trying to catch up with Firefox along with the many Firefox add-ons, but also likely to keep IE as a highly popular browser that remains as a corporate standard for most Fortune 500 companies.

I have not seen any reason to use IE over Firefox. I stopped using IE because it kept crashing (locking up) and I have not had this problem with Firefox. I have not used IE since V7 first came out so this may not be an issue today. However, Firefox seems so much more flexible and extendable that I have never considered going back. And with the new features in Firefox V3, I just love it even more.

Unless Firefox becomes manageable at some point, it'll always be useless in a business. With no ability to remotely install, patch, configure and monitor Firefox, companies that care about security are forced to use IE no matter which browser they prefer. Hopefully, the new version of IE will catch up to Firefox's usability and performance advantages.

There's no compelling reason to use IE over Firefox, though there's a compelling reason to use Firefox over IE: The last time Microsoft gained a monopoly in Web browser usage, it let the product stagnate for years, festering into a massive security problem and massively slowing the development of the Web in general.

I'm glad that it has started its photocopiers up again, because Mozilla and Apple need something to compete against. But Microsoft has proven time and again that it doesn't innovate, and as soon as its products are "good enough" that its competitors lose ground, it stops progressing. We need to make sure it continues to have something to copy.

In my opinion, IE's share of the browser market is a direct result of its bundling with Windows. If users had to download it separately, Firefox (or perhaps some other player by now) would have the commanding lead in browser market share and IE would be an also-ran at best. Security exploits would orient around Firefox or whatever browser that happened to be the most popular.

In the past, I've used every available version of IE, Netscape, Firefox and several of Opera. I've found that each one has had its share of annoying quirks and agreeable features. I like the fact that Firefox doesn't use ActiveX and I also like the fact that IE uses integrated Windows authentication. It all comes down to usefulness. Neither browser is the be-all/end-all platform by which to enjoy the Internet. IE 8 will be no better or worse; it'll just be the next version with its set of features and quirks as the all the previous versions have had.

I think that the big thing missing in IE are plug-ins. Now, I'm not an expert, and I know that some plug-ins for IE exist, but the one I really miss is something like Foxmarks. I have four PCs and at least with Firefox all PCs' bookmarks are constantly in sync.

I am happy that Firefox is out there because this forces Microsoft to make IE a better browser. The features in IE 8 will be a direct result of this.

The only other Web browser that could give IE a run for its money would be Apple's Safari. If Apple plays its cards right, it could sneak in Safari on everybody's PC through the use of all the "i" devices it sells.

Speaking of Apple, Doug wrote last week that his daughter has finally decided to go the MacBook route -- and that means paying for Mac Office. A few readers have other ideas:

I'm still an Apple hold-out -- there's something about its superior attitude about the security of what is a completely closed system. But they are very pretty machines and I understand the allure. But shelling out over $100 for MS Office as a requirement? No way -- have your daughter download OpenOffice. I've been recommending it to tons of people recently, and use it on my Eee PC (Debian Linux). We all find it smoothly integrates with our MS Office (or Gmail Docs, Spreadsheet, etc.) files, and it's free!

Why shell out for Mac Office? Wait 'til September and use the release of OpenOffice 3.0 (which will have a Mac version).

Finally, these readers are over the Mac-love:

Perhaps you should simply go work for an Apple magazine since it is very apparent that not only do you not like Vista, you also don't like PCs.

For someone who is the editor in chief of Redmond magazine, I find that you are decidedly anti-Microsoft (from reading the Redmond Report daily). I know your goal is to be independent, and I appreciate that. However, recommending to your family (and everyone else, I imagine) to buy an Apple? It seems to me that anyone with as many contacts in the Microsoft world could help his daughter keep her computer from "slowing down" after two years.

I would hope to get some news and insight into the world of Microsoft. After all, your editorial mission "is to provide readers with the information, strategies, and behind-the-scenes insight into Microsoft and the Windows computing platform so they can make better informed decisions regarding their organization's IT infrastructure." I think its time you changed the name: Cupertino magazine, anyone?

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on September 03, 2008