Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Will Internet Explorer Be Missed?

It is with at least a small amount of nostalgic sadness that I have read about the end of GeoCities, Dr. Dobb's, Codehause, and Google Code. However, I cannot say that I'll miss Internet Explorer and I felt more relief than sorrow when I read today that Microsoft is killing off the Internet Explorer brand. It sounds like the browser in development under the name Project Spartan is designed to be the main web browser for Windows 10.

I have heard more than one user of Internet Explorer not-so-affectionately refer to it as "Internet Exploder" and some of this is deserved from both a user perspective and a web developer perspective. Although the developer experience and user experience associated with Internet Explorer over the years, I still prefer Chrome and Firefox over Internet Explorer both as a user and as a web developer.

It used to be far worse and I still have bad memories of developing web applications and dealing with Internet Explorer's spotty support for standardization of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Although most browser vendors have been and are guilty of picking and choosing how well they'll support each standard, Internet Explorer consistently seemed especially slow to adopt new standards. As a user, I was frustrated with the perceived slowness of Internet Explorer when compared to Firefox and then especially when compared to Chrome. I was also frustrated when those addictive tabs seemed to take a long time to make it into Internet Explorer.

Although I won't miss Internet Explorer, I think it's polite to speak well of the dying. In that vein, I'll finish this post by outlining some of Internet Explorer's positive contributions to web development and to the Internet experience.

  • Internet Explorer brought the web to the masses - My first experience with graphical web browsers was using Mosaic and then using Mozilla and Netscape. Many of my fellow college students and contemporary young software developers also used these browsers. However, Microsoft Internet Explorer was the first browser used by many people because it came pre-installed with their Microsoft-provided operating system. For many people who transitioned from a vendor-specific online experience such as provided by America Online (now AOL) at the time to a more general browser-based web experience, Internet Explorer was the browser that allowed this to happen.
  • XMLHttpRequest (Ajax) - Jesse James Garrett's article Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications changed the way many of who were developing web applications thought about web development. As Garrett pointed out in a follow-up to that article, "XMLHttpRequest is only part of the Ajax equation," but it is the "technical component that makes the asynchronous server communication possible." For me, XMLHttpRequest was the biggest missing piece in making this type of asynchronous communication happen. The post A Brief History of Ajax points out that the XMLHttpRequest was pioneered by Microsoft in Internet Explorer 5. It has since been adopted by all major web browses as a standard.
  • A Starting Point - Related to the first bullet above (ubiquitous nature of Internet Explorer on Windows platforms), it has been pointed out that one advantage of Internet Explorer is that its automatically being available on Windows machines has made it easy for people to download alternative web browsers of their choosing. This is becoming less of an issue as more devices are not Windows platforms and have their own standard browser often provided.

Although I won't particularly miss Internet Explorer, there are those who will. The following are some examples of posts written by people or about people who believe that Internet Explorer has advantages over its competitors.

Goodbye, Internet Explorer!

1 comment:

@DustinMarx said...

Project Spartan now has a name. The successor of Windows Internet Explorer will be Microsoft Edge.