In general, there’s no especially good time to explain why Internet Explorer is bad. It’s been bad for years, it’s still bad, and all signs point to it being bad forever—so, in some sense, it’s not news.
So here are a few reasons why I chose now to tackle the topic:
- Back in April, the Department of Homeland Security asked Americans to stop using IE (all the way up through the latest version, IE 11) because of a major security flaw. This wasn’t the death knell for IE that I would have loved.
- Last week, I bought a new laptop that came bundled with Internet Explorer 11. In the process of using IE 11 to download Google Chrome, I remembered how hard it is to use, and how many things it still gets wrong.
- I had to pause writing this article to troubleshoot an e-commerce site that (only) IE users couldn’t access, because there’s something IE 11 doesn’t understand about very simple grid layouts. That inspired me to push this post through to the end.
With that preamble, here are some great reasons why it absolutely never makes sense to use IE, in whatever version including 11, and why instead Chrome or Firefox are much better choices:
It’s always the odd man out.
If something’s broken in a specific browser, that browser is almost always IE. This remains true in IE 11.
Only IE suffers crucial security flaws requiring the intervention of Homeland Security.
Only IE is difficult to debug because of its badly built “Developer Tools” interface.
Only IE opens every new browser tab in a new taskbar window, erasing the distinction.
Only IE errors by default when you enter a search term into the URL bar.
These are just examples; the overall experience is that IE constantly surprises you with the things it can’t do, or does completely differently from the better browsers.
One result is that, when you build a website, IE remains the only browser for which you hold your breath to see how it’ll look. Firefox and Chrome will look quite similar, perhaps with some minor differences; IE remains a crapshoot.
It lurches erratically from version to version.
I use Chrome for hours every day, but I have no idea what version I’m using. (Just now, without checking, I guessed Version 23.0. Then I checked, and it’s actually Version 35.0.1916.153 m.)
Chrome updates do it right: they improve an already good product through incremental, unobtrusive versioning. Because of this, I can forget about Chrome versions, and simply think of “Chrome” as one product that steadily gets better over time without me having to worry about it.
With IE, on the other hand, it’s impossible not to know what version you’re using, for a few reasons:
- Half the stuff that works in the latest IE version is broken in earlier versions.
- A small percentage of the stuff that worked in older IE versions is now broken in later IE versions.
- Microsoft is in the habit of organizing a big publicity blitz around every major IE version release, with the inaccurate promise that it’s finally the IE version that’s as good as its competitors. (Check out this Microsoft-owned Tumblr account for forced praise of both IE 10 and IE 11).
Because of IE’s wild version swings—and the underlying badness of the software—a responsible developer must currently test any site he or she builds in the following browsers: “Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE 9, IE 10, IE 11.” Maybe IE 8 as well depending on client needs, meaning that at least half of the browsers to be tested are just divergent IE versions.
So when you use IE, you’re using one or another in a series of flailing attempts to “finally get it right,” which will simply become more baggage for future developers to have to accommodate. Meanwhile, Firefox and Chrome get steadily, unobtrusively better.
Not only is it bad in itself, it’s a cause of additional badness.
IE isn’t just bad in itself; its existence perpetuates other problems. This is true in lots of ways:
- IE drives up the price of every web project, since it is almost guaranteed to throw curveballs that the client must pay to have fixed.
- IE tries to funnel you into using other inferior Microsoft offerings, like Bing, the Google clone that is IE’s default search engine.
- IE is a barrier to entry for people interested in web technology. Learning how to debug senseless IE problems is one more skill that separates you from becoming a web developer or a do-it-yourself site admin, and the pain of testing for IE also makes being a developer significantly more complicated and frustrating. All this prevents more people from understanding the web, and from helping to grow it and make it better.
Internet Explorer is the worst browser on the market right now, as it has been for years—and the alternatives are free. Why not take a minute and download Chrome or Firefox, and set it as your default browser? You’ll be contributing to a better web for yourself and others.
Image Credits: Javier Aroche