I never thought I’d see Microsoft throw in the towel on their browser engine. Or that, by the time it happened, I’d see that as a bad thing.

But it’s true: like Opera did a few years ago, Microsoft is dropping not only the old Internet Explorer engine, but the newer Edge engine, and will be building Edge on Chromium going forward. That means Edge, Chrome, Opera and Safari are all built on the same codebase. (Chromium split from Apple’s WebKit a while back, but they still have a lot in common.)

Monoculture is still a problem, no matter who runs it. We’re already at the point where webdevs are treating Chrome like the defacto standard, the way they did IE6 back in the day.

Firefox is going to be even more important in the future, ensuring that the web continues to be built on interoperable standards instead of one stakeholder’s goals.

Mozilla is a non-profit organization, and like many, they’re running a year-end donation drive. Now is a good time to contribute to their mission to keep the internet and the web open. (I’ve already made my annual donation to them.)

I think I may want to finally shut down or retool that old Alternative Browser Alliance site I ran during the Second Browser War. The last time I made a significant update to it, Chrome was the new upstart.

Apparently there are websites out there that are redirecting Internet Explorer users to the Alternative Browser Alliance. This is, IMHO, both counter-productive and counter to the open spirit of the web.

For all the same reasons that you shouldn’t block visitors using Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Opera, or anything else unless there’s an actual, genuine technical reason (and unless you’re doing serious multimedia that has no fallback option, there is rarely a genuine technical reason), you shouldn’t be blocking visitors using Internet Explorer…

Because you’re not going to change them. You’re just going to make them angry.

They arrived at your site looking for something. Slapping them in the face and sending them off to another site is not going to get them to change their behavior and come back. It’s just going to make them look somewhere else for someone offering the same thing who won’t make them jump through hoops.

Case Study

Last week I received a message through the Alternative Browser Alliance’s contact form asking, “What does this have to do with cpanel?” I wanted to reply, “Nothing, why do you ask?”…but the person who asked the question hadn’t left an email address, just the name “King Kong.”

(Tip: If you want an answer to a question, give people a way to contact you!)

So I checked the server logs and saw that he(?) had arrived on the Why Alternative Browsers? page and had left no referrer. Great, another dead end.

I was ready to write it off as spam, but then I decided to search the logs for cpanel, and found several hits referred by a cpanel tutorial. I visited the page and didn’t see any links to my site, but when I looked at the source, I spotted this script:

if(navigator.userAgent.indexOf("MSIE")!= -1)
   window.location = "http://www.alternativebrowseralliance.com/why.html";

Wow. They just redirected all IE users with no explanation — not even pointing out that they were being shunted off to another website! Imagine opening the front door of a computer repair shop and walking inside to find a political activist’s office instead!

Presumably “King Kong” had searched for cpanel, followed a link to this tutorial, and found himself looking at a page about alternative web browsers. No wonder he didn’t leave a contact address. He didn’t want an answer. He was angry and blowing off steam — at me, for something that someone else did.

And did badly, I might add: Three of the five visits I could actually identify in the logs claimed to be Opera Mini, not Internet Explorer. I don’t recall whether Opera Mini can masquerade as another browser (the current Android version doesn’t offer the option, but this claimed to be an older Java version), but the desktop version certainly can. Older versions of Opera used to deliberately identify themselves as IE (with a tag adding that, no, actually it’s Opera), and would have been caught by this script!

The User-Agent isn’t a reliable indicator. It was never intended to be. If you must single out Internet Explorer for some reason, use conditional comments. That’s what they’re designed for.

If what you want to do is block IE visitors, though, think about what you’re really accomplishing. And please, don’t just silently shove the “problem” visitors onto someone else.

Just a quick note: I finally got around to updating the Alternative Browser Alliance website. Not the full rewrite that I was planning to do two months ago, but at least it’s now current on things like Google Chrome, Firebug, Dragonfly, etc.

I’ve also released that site under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license, which should simplify matters for translations.

Finally, as a compromise between a full blog and little notes on the home page, I added another Twitter account, @AltBrowser*, where I’ll post not just site updates but random bits of news, comments, tips, etc. related to the topic.  I don’t have time to maintain yet another blog.  And I’m not convinced the net needs one.

I still hope to do that major rewrite, but this should bring it mostly up-to-date.

*Deactivated January 2023

Rather than looking at campaigns for specific browsers, I’m looking at a class of campaigns that are either promoting a group of browsers, or advocating against the current dominant player: Internet Explorer.

Browse Happy — the classic.

  • Goal: Move users away from Internet Explorer.
  • Target Audience: IE users.
  • Promotes: Firefox.  Also Safari, Opera, and… um… Mozilla.  Hmm, someone needs to update that.
  • Pitch: IE is dangerous.
  • Method: Banners

Alternative Browser Alliance

  • Goal: Keep multiple standards-compliant browsers viable.
  • Target Audience: All users
  • Promotes: Opera, Firefox, Safari.  Also Flock, SeaMonkey, K-Meleon, Camino,etc.
  • Pitch: Competition is good for everyone.  See what’s out there.
  • Method: Banners

End 6! (end6.org)

  • Goal: Move people off of IE6
  • Target Audience: IE6 users
  • Promotes: Firefox, Opera, Safari, Flock, IE7
  • Pitch: IE6 is outdated, buggy, and unsafe.  Use something modern instead.
  • Method: Overlay for IE6 visitors

Save the Developers (savethedevelopers.org)

  • Goal: Move people off of IE6
  • Target Audience: IE6 users
  • Promotes: IE7, Firefox, Safari, Opera
  • Pitch: Coding for IE6 is a pain.  Stop putting us through that.
  • Method: Animated drop-down at top of page for IE6 visitors

(Yeah, I’m catching up on old draft posts.)

Alternative Browser AllianceYou may have seen my website, the Alternative Browser Alliance. I put it together in 2005, when flame wars between Opera users and Firefox users were at their height, to show that we shared a common goal: opening the web. The most popular page on the site is a list of web browsers, which is linked as a resource from a number of sites and also gets a steady stream of traffic from people searching for alternative browsers.

Of course, things have changed a lot since 2005, so I’m planning an overhaul of the whole site. Continue reading