All posts tagged ‘IE10’

File Under: Browsers, privacy

Yahoo, Microsoft Tiff Highlights the Epic Failure of ‘Do Not Track’

People who walked in snow also bought jackets, would you like a value proposition jacket? Image: rabiem22/Flickr.

Microsoft continues to take a beating for its decision to enable the Do Not Track privacy setting by default in the company’s brand-new Internet Explorer 10.

IE 10 has only been on the web for a few days (see Webmonkey’s IE 10 review), but Yahoo has already released a statement saying that the company will ignore the Do Not Track header when broadcast by IE 10 users. Yahoo is not the first to take exception to Microsoft’s decision to turn Do Not Track on by default — the Apache web server may ignore IE 10′s DNT header as well — but it’s the biggest site so far to square off against Microsoft.

This most recent squabble comes despite the fact that Microsoft and Yahoo are partners and that Yahoo has previously said it would support Do Not Track.

The Do Not Track header is a proposed web standard for browsers to tell servers that the user does not want to be tracked by advertisers. DNT is supported by all the major web browsers, but only Microsoft has elected to make DNT part of the browser’s default setup. That means that all IE 10 users will be telling advertisers to back off, which some argue is not what DNT was intended to do.

The problem for Yahoo is that it risks ignoring not just a coming web standard, but the wishes of those users who would have opted in to Do Not Track even if it were off by default. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s VP of Legal & Corporate Affairs, recently said that turning on Do Not Track “reflects what our customers want: 75 percent of the consumers we surveyed in the U.S. and Europe said they wanted DNT on by default.”

On the first count Yahoo’s jargon-laden policy announcement seems to be saying that the company believes Microsoft is violating the W3C draft of Do Not Track. “Recently, Microsoft unilaterally decided to turn on DNT in Internet Explorer 10 by default, rather than at users’ direction,” says the Yahoo Policy blog. “In our view, this degrades the experience for the majority of users and makes it hard to deliver on our value proposition to them.”

The latter statement seems to be a blanket argument against DNT existing at all — a common argument from companies that make the majority of their money from advertising — rather than anything specific about IE 10, especially given that Microsoft appears to be conforming to the current draft of the spec. I contacted Yahoo asking for clarification about the company’s position on web standards support, but the company did not respond before this story was published. [Update: Yahoo’s Sara Gorman tells Webmonkey that “Yahoo does not consider the current Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 or Windows 8 install flows to represent explicit user consent with respect to Do Not Track.”]

Yahoo’s complaint, along with similar complaints from Apache and others comes down to this: Is Microsoft violating the DNT spec by turning it on by default?

Here’s what the spec says: “The goal of this protocol is to allow a user to express their personal preference regarding tracking … key to that notion of expression is that it must reflect the user’s preference, not the preference of some institutional or network-imposed mechanism outside the user’s control.”

That certainly sounds like it backs up Yahoo’s decision, and puts Microsoft in the wrong. But the spec continues:

We do not specify how that preference is enabled: each implementation is responsible for determining the user experience by which this preference is enabled.

For example, a user might select a check-box in their user agent’s configuration, install a plug-in or extension that is specifically designed to add a tracking preference expression, or make a choice for privacy that then implicitly includes a tracking preference (e.g., Privacy settings: high) (emphasis mine).

For Internet Explorer 10 Microsoft’s setup dialog offers the user two choices: Express settings and Customize. Choosing the Express option clearly states that it turns on the DNT header and would appear to comply with the wording of the current spec since it gives users a choice.

The cynical might be tempted to say Yahoo and other ad companies are nervous that DNT is actually going to catch on and may well hurt their bottom line, but to be fair Yahoo isn’t alone in saying that Microsoft is violating the proposed spec. Mozilla, which originally created Do Not Track, has argued in the past that Microsoft is abusing DNT with IE 10.

In the end it might not matter. The DNT specification has become a joke. It has seriously been proposed that one of the “Permitted Uses for Third Parties and Service Providers” be “marketing.” So one of the permitted uses for Do Not Track might be to allow advertisers to track you.

If that’s not crazy enough for you consider that most online ad companies are not planning to interpret the “Do Not Track” header to mean “stop collecting data.” Instead most advertisers plan stop showing you targeted ads, but continue to collect data and track what you’re doing on the web.

If that sounds insane, well, it is. But the reality is you are being tracked and you will continue to be tracked unless you do something about it.

If you’d like to be in charge of which data is collected about you and you’d like to actually stop advertisers from tracking you, you’re going to have to do it yourself using add-ons like Ghostery or Do Not Track Plus. See our earlier post, Secure Your Browser: Add-Ons to Stop Web Tracking, for more details on how to stop tracking without worrying about who supports or doesn’t support a still unfinished, potentially heavily compromised web standards proposal.

File Under: Browsers

Review: Internet Explorer 10 Bests the Competition on Windows 8 Tablets

Windows 8 is here, bringing with it a brand new version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser.

Internet Explorer 10 is the first release of Microsoft’s once-dominant browser that’s built for use on touchscreen devices and, while IE 10 is the default browser on all Windows 8 machines, it’s on tablets that IE 10 really shines.

I’ve been using Internet Explorer 10 on a Samsung tablet running Windows 8 for over a month now and I can say that, while Windows 8 overall may be something of a mixed bag (see Alexandra Chang’s review on Wired’s Gadget Lab blog, which closely mirrors my own experiences with Windows 8) IE 10 is not only a nice browser, it’s currently the best experience on Windows 8 tablets.

There may come a time when Firefox and Chrome catch up to where IE 10 is now on Windows 8 tablets, but at least for now neither take full advantage of Windows 8′s touchscreen interface the way that IE 10 does. If you’re planning to get a Windows 8 tablet, IE 10 is the fastest, stablest option and, thanks to some nice touch features, the most fun to use.

The entire IE 10 experience on a tablet revolves around gestures. By default the browser launches in Windows 8′s full-screen mode with little chrome or UI to see. To get to many features you need to use gestures — swipe down from the top and you’ll see the tab bar with thumbnail previews; swipe up from the bottom and you’ll see the URL bar.

Initially the URL bar at the bottom bothered me. I eventually adjusted, but I still think reversing those two positions, or having both at the top would make IE 10′s other potentially confusing interface changes feel a little bit less jarring.

Even better than the up and down gestures is IE 10′s Flip Ahead feature, which makes it possible to navigate the web by swiping to the left (a bit like Opera’s FastForward feature). The left swipe gesture — like flipping the page of a book — tells IE 10 to follow any “next” buttons on the page, loading the next page without clicking anything. It doesn’t always work because the web is full of poorly coded pages and sometimes Flip Ahead doesn’t see a “next” link. However, when it works Flip Ahead feels so completely natural and obvious that I constantly found myself trying to do the same thing in Mobile Safari on iOS (which, sadly, does nothing of the sort). Note that turning on Flip Ahead means your browsing history will be sent to Microsoft to help the company improve how it works.

Internet Explorer 10 adopts at least one idea popularized by Apple’s iOS — the ability to pin sites to your start screen. It’s nothing more than a bookmark really, but it makes getting to your favorite sites and apps a bit quicker and makes them feel more like first-class citizens on the start screen.

It’s worth noting that, protests not withstanding, Microsoft has indeed shipped Internet Explorer 10 with Do Not Track web tracking protection enabled. There is a way to disable it when you first start IE 10, but it involves choosing the advanced setup option, which most users are unlikely to do.

IE 10′s tablet interface did end up supporting Flash, despite Microsoft’s initial claim that it would not. However Flash support in Metro mode is limited to a whitelist of approved sites, so YouTube videos work, but other sites, like Rdio, do not.

There’s also a version of IE 10 that runs in Windows 8 desktop mode, though on the desktop there’s not nearly as much to recommend IE over competitors. From tests I’ve seen around the web IE 10 benchmarks well on the desktop and, as we’ve looked at before, it has much improved web standards support, but without the touchscreen features there’s not much to recommend IE 10 over alternatives like Chrome or Firefox. If you’re an IE 9 fan looking for a solid update, IE 10 has you covered, if you’re already a happy Chrome or Firefox user there’s nothing in IE 10 on the desktop that’s likely to tempt you.

Unfortunately — and this may well be IE 10′s fatal flaw — there’s no way to make IE 10 the default app for the Windows 8 Metro UI and another browser the default for the desktop interface. It’s all or nothing.

For now IE 10 is better on touchscreens and more or less on par in the desktop interface, but both Chrome and Firefox release updates every six weeks, while feature-adding IE updates tend to be years apart. That means odds are Chrome and Firefox will reach feature parity on touchscreens before IE 10 sees a major update. Still, for the time being at least, IE 10 can claim the crown on Windows 8 tablets.

File Under: Browsers

How to Get IE 10 Playing Nice With Responsive Websites

Windows 8 will arrive in consumers’ hands later this week and with it will come the first official release of Internet Explorer 10.

It used to be that a new version of IE meant a new set of headaches for developers, but thankfully that’s no longer the case. In fact, when it comes to web standards support IE 10 stacks up pretty well against the competition.

IE 10 adds support for nearly a dozen new HTML5 APIs like Web Sockets, Web Workers, the History API, the Drag and Drop API and the File API. You can look over a complete list on Microsoft’s IE 10 Guide for Developers. There’s plenty of CSS support in this release as well; Animations, Transitions and Transforms are among the many new CSS tools. IE 10 also has experimental support for next-gen layout tools like CSS Grid Layout, CSS Multi-column Layout and CSS Regions.

For all that is good in IE 10 there are a couple of gotchas web developers should be aware of.

One is that, while IE 10 supports CSS Flexible Box Layout, it appears to support the older, now non-standard version of Flexbox (the documenation still uses the old syntax). Hopefully Microsoft will fix this with an update, but for the time being only Chrome and Opera have implemented the updated Flexbox syntax.

The other quirk of IE 10 is related to how the browser behaves on Windows 8 tablets. There are two “modes” in Windows 8, the classic desktop and the Metro UI. When IE 10 runs in Metro mode (which is the default) there’s a feature that allows you to “snap” a window to the side of the screen so you can have a browser window open alongside other applications. It’s a nice feature for users, but it has one quirk developer should be aware of — when snapped, IE10 ignores the meta viewport tag for any viewport smaller than 400 pixels in width. That means that your responsive layouts for smaller screens won’t trigger in snapped mode and your site will be scaled instead. Luckily there’s a fix. In fact developer Tim Kadlec has two solutions, one that uses pixels and one that does not. See Kadlec’s blog for full details.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft is supporting the @viewport declaration rather than the viewport meta tag (IE 10 uses the prefix: @-ms-viewport). While the viewport meta tag is more widely supported (and used), it’s not currently part of any W3C spec, draft or otherwise. For more on @viewport, see the Opera developer blog. (Opera is currently the only other browser supporting @viewport.)

File Under: Browsers

IE 10 Preview for Windows 7 Set to Arrive ‘Mid-November’

Good news Windows 7 users, Microsoft has announced that a new preview of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7 will be available in November.

While IE 10 on Windows 7 will lack some of the features and speed improvements found in IE 10 on Windows 8, it does pack in the same updated web standards support, which is good news for web developers.

IE 10 will add support for a number of now finalized HTML5 and CSS 3 features, including CSS Transforms, Transitions and Animations, which all works sans -ms prefix. Perhaps more exciting, IE 10 will also support all three of the new layout tools — CSS Flexible Box Layout, CSS Grid Layout and CSS Regions (for these you will need the prefix). For more details on all the new standards support coming in IE 10, see Microsoft’s IE Blog.

Microsoft hasn’t set an actual release date for IE 10 on Windows 7 yet, but the IE blog promises the preview will be out “mid-November” — not too far behind the Windows 8 version, which will arrive, with the OS itself, on Oct. 26.

File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer 10 Tops New ‘Robohornet’ Speed Test

Robohornet is a new set of browser benchmarks that attempts to measure how browsers do with not just JavaScript, but HTML rendering, CSS animations, DOM manipulation and JavaScript.

Want to stress-test your browser of choice? Head on over the Robohornet site, but be forewarned its a long test and there’s a good chance your browser is going to fall on its face — unless of course you’re using Internet Explorer 10.

Robohornet was created by Google’s Alex Komoroske, but it’s an open source project with “stewardship committee members” that extend well beyond Google. There are representatives from Facebook, SmugMug and Sencha participating, as well as individuals like Tom Robinson, creator of the Cappuccino framework.

Robohornet is somewhat novel in that it’s trying to be a community-driven benchmark. The tests that comprise the benchmark can be created by anyone. What’s more, even web developers not interested in writing tests can still participate by voting on which tests to include. See the Robohornet GitHub page for details on participating.

Of course, while Robohornet sounds really good up until right here, we have some bad news for you — right now most of the tests are what’s known as microbenchmarks, very small, highly abstracted tests that often have very little bearing on real-world performance.

As Mark Twain once said, there are lies, damn lies and browser benchmarks (or words to that effect) and in its current state Robohornet may well be doing more harm than good.

Microsoft has already come out dismissing Robohornet as not “representative of the performance users might encounter on real-world sites.” What’s most interesting about Microsoft’s reaction is that Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 actually tops the Robohornet tests, besting Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera according to some early tests by Tom’s Hardware.

Not happy with the Robohornet tests, Microsoft has created its own Robohornet-derived benchmark suite it calls Robohornet Pro, which the company claims better represents “real world” sites.

Mozilla’s Justin Lebar and Nicholas Nethercote have also both been critical of Robohornet, filing a bug entitled “eliminate and outlaw microbenchmarks.” “If you guys want us (in my case, Mozilla) to take Robohornet seriously,” writes Lebar, “I strongly recommend you write some macrobenchmarks and eliminate the microbenchmarks from your test suite.”

Lebar goes on to say that he really likes “the idea of a community-driven benchmark. I hope that aspect of this project, rather than the microbenchmarks, becomes the hallmark of Robohornet.” Would that it were so.