Why You (Still) Shouldn’t Use Internet Explorer

IE piñata

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Earlier this month, I spent a whole afternoon working for a client to fix a nonsensical hole in the way IE 11 interprets JavaScript. This is the latest version of Internet Explorer, and it still can’t speak JavaScript the way other browsers can. (By the way: IE 9 and IE 10 didn’t have the problem, just IE 11.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
IE 11 browser bug compared to Firefox and Chrome

From top: Firefox, Chrome, IE 11. This is the bug I had to pause writing this article to fix: Firefox and Chrome look great, but in IE 11 the purchase button is missing because IE won’t let the contents collapse to fit the window. Also, the buttons are the wrong color.

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 inserts nonsensical text characters in the middle of JavaScript strings (the bug that took my afternoon earlier this month).

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.

IE 11 every tab is a window

Why is every tab a window?

Only IE errors by default when you enter a search term into the URL bar.
ie errors 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:

  1. Half the stuff that works in the latest IE version is broken in earlier versions.
  2. A small percentage of the stuff that worked in older IE versions is now broken in later IE versions.
  3. 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).

Microsoft perpetually runs these campaigns to make you think IE is good now; it’s not

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:

  1. Developers must write verbose, erratic code just so that IE can act right. For example, I had to write bad JavaScript a couple of weeks ago because IE wouldn’t understand my code otherwise.
  2. 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.
  3. IE tries to funnel you into using other inferior Microsoft offerings, like Bing, the Google clone that is IE’s default search engine.
  4. 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.

In summary…

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

15 thoughts on “Why You (Still) Shouldn’t Use Internet Explorer

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  4. Brian Miller

    I like your site it has a real point and shoot type of style. Journalism at it’s best, if you will. But this Article “Why you still shouldn’t use Internet Explorer” does not follow anything but your opinion and due to lack of knowledge of Internet Explorer, has presented a very bias article. If you were just bashing IE then read no further but if this was supposed to be informative and based on facts then read on.
    I would like to start with, I am not bashing you but since the written word does not show tone very well please keep in mind I am not trying to talk down to you or otherwise make a nuisance of myself.
    You make 16 arguments, and only 4 of those are real reasons to not use IE. 2 of those 4 real reasons don’t apply if you are not a programmer or are trying to become one. So for the average consumer you have 2 real issues, the security flaw Homeland security warned us of and IE 11 has issues with JavaScript. The other 2 reason are more cause and effect not really separate reasons and that was, developers have to write separate code and projects cost more when using IE.
    Of the 12 remaining complaints of your article, 6 can be fixed through settings Internet Explorer, 3 are complaints about not wanting to do extra work, 2 about MS advertising and one that is just silly and states that IE is a barrier for people getting into web technology. Although I agree with it being a barrier at times, I would also state they should make one browser for all the world so that way there is less to worry about.

    I have been a professional in the IT world for over a decade. There really are reasons to not like IE. If you would like I can give you real reasons not opinions. Don’t get me wrong I am not a fan of IE, in fact I prefer Chrome, but this article is not like the rest of your site so I felt the need to say something.
    Maybe this will help you look at MS products in a new light, MS builds its products to be “scalable” or “adjustable” to a user, hence the crazy amount of settings you can change in the options. In my opinion the intended user is not necessarily the average consumer but business’s and as such is intended to be adjusted to individual use. Therefore; I believe in order to help the consumer when you first fire up IE it asks you if it would like it to use recommended settings, the problem I have found is everyone who has problems usually said no to this option.
    I am not trying to be a champion of MS but you can think of MS products as a blank canvas with no frame and that you have to put what you want on and around the canvas. Chrome, Firefox even Safari all start you off with a frame and an intended picture, or in other words starts you with the most common settings that most people use.
    Basically, there are reasons to dislike IE, but for the most part this article doesn’t show them and is kind of unfocused saying all of IE and then saying only IE 11 and then “maybe version 8…”(there is a reason version 8 is important in the programing world).
    I guess if I am going to complain I should at least offer my services to rewrite this, as the solution to my issues with it and to “put my money where my mouth is”.
    Again if this is to bash MS then I am way off the mark and I should be ignored. Thanks for the read if you made it this far.

    1. Fred Meyer Post author

      Hey Brian,

      Thank you for the very thoughtful response to this article. I’ll try to respond as best I can:

      I’m with you that this article isn’t my (or our) best work; in general, I’d say articles with negative subject matter rarely are, since it’s much easier and “cheaper” to criticize than to offer solutions. Despite that, it did feel appropriate to write a good-faith effort to discuss real frustrations with IE, both as a user and as a developer.

      Springboarding off that, it’s not true that I’m out to bash Microsoft generally. I’m a Windows 8 user (and I had a Vista computer before that), so I’ve certainly stuck with Microsoft through some of its darkest hours. The difference with IE is that it’s so much worse than at least two completely free alternatives.

      In terms of the substance of what’s wrong with IE, I honestly don’t know what to say that doesn’t reiterate points in the article. One new approach might be to look at Can I Use, and see how often IE (all versions) falls short.

      As a quick test, I visited Can I Use and clicked on three CSS properties at random. Here are the results:

      1. The first property I clicked on is unavailable in any version of IE, but available in Chrome and Firefox several versions back: http://caniuse.com/#feat=css-clip-path

      2. The second property is broken in IE < 10 but supported in 10 and 11 (as well as Chrome and Firefox): http://caniuse.com/#feat=autofocus

      3. The third property I clicked on is again broken in all IE versions, and available in both Chrome and Firefox:

      I hope this small sample starts to reinforce the overall point that, of the three largest browsers on the market, IE is responsible for the vast majority of headaches, both for developers (who must make sacrifices to design around its quirks) and for users (who experience a worse internet because of those sacrifices). If you disagree with this point, I’m sure I can find other ways to reinforce it; but if you’ve been in tech for a while I find it hard to imagine that your experience is different than that.

      Thank you very much for the offer to bring rigor to the article. Maybe a good addition would be to take a comprehensive look at Can I Use and give some sort of graphical analysis of IE support relative to Chrome and Firefox?

      Let me know what you think. I’d be happy to keep talking about this—I feel strongly enough about IE’s failings that I’d be happy to put in the work to make my case convincing. Thank you again for writing!


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  8. Harvey

    I am a web developer for business solutions, and I am very much agreeing that IE is causing the most problems in the UI area. Those days, javascript and CSS was a nightmare to support. At least now we have all these framework to help us (jquery, angular, etc).
    I don’t do much UI now, or responsive business logic in the front end, so i can’t really comment for the situation these days.

    I’ve had so many problems with different versions of IE behaving differently on some code. It’s really a waste of time to having test all versions of IE, and make adjustments for different version of IE. I just wish IE was like chrome or firefox. Just call yourself “Internet Explorer” the browser, goddamnit Microsoft. Don’t give us all these versions. But what’s done is done, there’s no way to pull back all those versions out there. And now there’s the windows 10 IE version… argh.

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  10. luke

    Personaly, I think Opera is pretty decent, not as good as Google Chrome or Firefox, but a whole lot better than Edge or IE

  11. victor allen

    I can’t even log in to Microsoft’s own Outlook (via live) because the login screen keeps refreshing in IE 11.

  12. Chris M

    I noticed today that attempting to visit this article in IE10 results in “This page can’t be displayed”, while sitting right next to it on Chrome, it’s able to open the page with no problem at all. Coincidence, or did IE blacklist your article? Where’s my tinfoil hat?!

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