All posts tagged ‘internet explorer’

File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer Market Share Surges, as IE 9 Wins Hearts and Minds

By Peter Bright, Ars Technica

The browser wars are back on in earnest. For the second time in three months, Internet Explorer made large gains, picking up almost 1 point of market share. Chrome, Firefox and Safari all lost out, as Internet Explorer 9 won over new users.

Internet Explorer gained 0.99 points for a 53.88 percent market share, taking it to a six-month high. Firefox is down 0.37 points to 20.55 percent. This is the lowest share the browser has been at since October 2008. Chrome is down a third of a point to 18.57 percent, Safari is down 0.17 points to 5.07 percent, and Opera also fell, dropping 0.09 points to 1.62 percent.

This is a strong performance from Microsoft, though it may come as a surprise to many. In mid-March, Web analytics firm StatCounter announced that Chrome had overtaken Internet Explorer for the first time ever: On Sunday, Mar. 18, for one day only, Chrome was the number-one browser. This seems at odds with Internet Explorer’s growth and Chrome’s decline.

StatCounter, however, is recording something slightly different from Net Marketshare, the numbers we use for our monthly look at the browser war. StatCounter measures raw unadulterated pageviews. It doesn’t attempt to make any corrections for pre-rendering (Chrome will render pages ahead of time if it thinks that the user will look at them, boosting its number of pageviews), it doesn’t attempt to count unique visitors, and it doesn’t attempt to use geographical weighting to account for uneven visitor demographics. (Some sites are more popular in the United States than China, for example, so their browser usage will tend to be more representative of American users than Chinese ones.)

StatCounter’s numbers are still interesting as a measure of web usage, but Net Marketshare’s numbers, which do try to account for things like the geographical variation, are a better measure of browser market share — that is, the number of people using each browser.

A look at the version breakdowns for each browser reveals how Microsoft has made these gains.

Internet Explorer 9 has picked up 2.6 points of share in the last month. This is its strongest month since its release. Internet Explorer 8 fell by almost the same amount, dropping by 2.19 points. Internet Explorer 7 dropped a fraction, down 0.09 points, and Internet Explorer 6 picked up 0.66 points.

The numbers suggest that Internet Explorer 8 users are switching to Internet Explorer 9 in relatively large numbers, particularly on Windows 7: 34.5 percent of Windows 7 users are using Internet Explorer 9.

Microsoft has been vigorously promoting Internet Explorer 9, most recently with a campaign that encourages nerds to give Internet Explorer a second chance; the latest part in a broader campaign to educate users and explain to them that Internet Explorer 9 really isn’t the same as the much-hated Internet Explorer 6.

On top of that, the company is continuing to use automatic updates to move Internet Explorer 7 and 8 users onto the latest version.

Together, these factors seem to be driving upgrades to the current browser version, and users are actually sticking with it rather than switching to other options.

Chrome’s update story is the same as ever. Its automatic update process is reliable, consistent, and effective, keeping the large majority of Chrome users on the latest and greatest version of the browser.

Firefox continues to have a large number of users on version 3.6 and below. The final update for 3.6, version 3.6.28, was released on Mar. 13. Unless there’s a security emergency, there will not be a 3.6.29: Support for 3.6 ends on Apr. 24. Firefox users wanting a browser with long-term support but without six-weekly major updates will have to switch to Firefox Extended Support Release 10.0.4. Everyone else should switch to the current main branch, which on Apr. 24 will be Firefox 12.

Mozilla plans to make Firefox 3.6 offer an update to version 12 once the end of its supported lifecycle has been reached. This means that Firefox 3.6 users should start to decline. However, as with the die-hard group of Firefox 3.5-and-below users that still exists, it’s unlikely that they will all opt to do so.

Automatic, silent updates are still being developed for Firefox. The latest 32-bit nightly builds (version 14) include automatic updates that do not show any UAC prompts on Windows. They’re not yet silent updates, though this too is planned. Until these things are finished, the browser will struggle to have transitions as smooth as Chrome’s.

In mobile, iOS users continue to outnumber Android users, with the surprising implication that Android users don’t actually use the web very much on their smartphones.

At Ars, however, Chrome and Android are dominant.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer: The Browser You Love to Hate

Microsoft has developed a penchant for self-mockery when it comes to the company’s much-maligned Internet Explorer web browser. Microsoft previously put up a website dedicated to eradicating IE6 from the web, and now it’s promoting IE9 by mocking its predecessors.

As the protagonist of the video above — part of Microsoft’s The Browser You Loved to Hate promotional campaign — says, old versions of IE were good for only one thing: “downloading another browser.” That’s a sentiment echoed by countless Webmonkey commenters over the years. That said, IE is getting better.

Of course we’d be more behind the ideas in the video — that IE is actually pretty good — if it were referring to IE10, which, even in its current preview release stage is a fine browser with web standards support on par with its peers. But that’s not what the “browser you loved to hate” promotional campaign is pushing, it’s still focused on IE9.

While IE9 is faster and offers much better web standards support than previous releases, it still lags behind what you’ll find in other browsers like Chrome and Firefox when it comes to supporting the latest and greatest features on the web.

IE10 catches up with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, and in a few cases even surpasses some of them. IE10 really is a good browser. Seriously. Try it. But IE9? Not so much. It’s too bad Microsoft couldn’t hold off with this promo until it really did have a great browser to show off.

File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer 10: Touch-Friendly and Securely Sandboxed

By Peter Bright, Ars Technica

Microsoft is continuing to show off new features coming in its Internet Explorer 10 web browser, with a couple of posts describing its touch-friendly Metro interface and its enhanced security.

The current trend in browser design, led by Google Chrome, is to scale back the browser’s interface so that it takes less and less of the screen, devoting more room to the web content itself. Windows 8′s Metro design similarly removes window chrome to put the focus on content.

Metro Internet Explorer 10 is the logical conclusion of this trend: Most of the time it has no visible interface at all, leaving only the webpage visible. Its app bar, displayed by swiping from the top or bottom of the screen or right clicking the mouse, contains tabs, the address bar, and so on.

The Metro version of Internet Explorer feels slick and comfortable using both touch and mouse and keyboard interaction. Particular highlights are the tile-based favorites view and the tab thumbnails, both shown to good effect in Microsoft’s post.

Internet Explorer 9 introduced some particularly taskbar-oriented features: support for pinning sites to the taskbar, and the ability for those pinned sites to create custom options in the Jump list. In Windows 8, sites can be pinned to the Start screen to make them instantly accessible. Sites pinned this way can even update their tile to show status notifications — much in the way that “real” apps can do. However, the Jump lists are tucked away, only available from within Internet Explorer.

One concern that this chromeless look raises is that of differentiation; Metro-style versions of both Chrome and Firefox are being developed, and it’s hard to see how they might look any different.

Security-wise, Internet Explorer 10 will include a new Enhanced Protected Mode. Protected Mode is the name Microsoft gives to its sandboxing technique. The current version, introduced in Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista, creates a separate, low-privilege process for running JavaScript and rendering HTML. This low-privilege process has no write access to most of the file system. This means that even if there is a security flaw in the browser, the attacker cannot write malware to the hard disk.

Sandbox protection of this kind isn’t perfect — there are various techniques for escaping from the sandbox and increasing privileges — but it serves as another measure attackers have to defeat if they want to exploit users.

Enhanced Protected Mode further reduces the rights that each low-privilege process has: Not only do they not have write permission to the file system, they also lose read permission. This makes the sandbox even harder to escape, but it comes at a cost: It breaks virtually all current plugins.

The Metro browser is already plugin-free, but the desktop browser is not. Enhanced Protected Mode won’t be the default on the desktop (though this will be an option) to ensure that plugins remain compatible. If Enhanced Protected Mode is enabled, then any attempt to use an incompatible plugin will result in a prompt to disable the mode for that tab, to allow the plugin to work.

With the systemwide anti-exploitation features that Internet Explorer 10 is also using, it’s shaping up to be the most secure Internet Explorer ever.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: CSS, Web Standards

WebKit Isn’t Breaking the Web. You Are

It sounds like something from a galaxy far, far away, but in truth it was not that long ago that the web was littered with sites that proudly proclaimed “works best in Internet Explorer.” Thankfully those days are over. IE6 no longer dominates the web.

But, while IE6 may be a thing of the past, the root problem — websites that work in one and only one web browser — sadly, remains.

This time the culprit is WebKit, the rendering engine that powers the browsers on the iPhone, iPad and Android phones. But what’s different about this round of monoculture is that, unlike IE 6, the WebKit developers haven’t done anything wrong. It’s web developers that have created the WebKit-only web.

Instead of writing code that will work in any browser, which might mean adding an extra three lines of code to their CSS rules, some of even the largest sites on the web are coding exclusively for WebKit.

The problem is bad enough that on Monday at the CSS Working Group meeting, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera announced that each are planning to add support for some -webkit prefixed CSS properties. In other words, because web developers are using only the -webkit prefix, other browsers must either add support for -webkit or risk being seen as less capable browsers even when they aren’t.

The danger is that if other browsers implement -webkit prefixes then the entire CSS standards effort will be broken. Instead of coding against a single CSS specification developers will need to code against changing vendor prefixes. As CSS Working Group co-chair, Daniel Glazman, says, “I don’t think this is the right way. And this is the first time in this WG that we are proposing to do things that are not the right way.”

Vendor prefixes like -webkit and -moz were designed to help web developers by allowing browser makers to implement CSS features before the official standard was published. Prefixes were intended to help speed up the process of adding new features to the web and, used properly, they have worked. Unfortunately they’ve also been widely abused.

WebKit is currently the dominant mobile browser in the mind of most web developers (that Opera is actually the single most widely used mobile browser). But even the perceived dominance of WebKit is not the real problem. The problem is — just as it was last time — that web developers are developing exclusively for WebKit.

To be clear, Firefox, IE and Opera also support these features. In most cases, the -webkit properties being used have -moz, -ms and -o prefix equivalents for use in the respective browsers. Popular CSS 3 features like border-radius, transforms, gradients and animations work in all modern browsers. Developers simply need to add those three additional lines of code to make their websites compatible with Firefox, IE and Opera. But they aren’t doing that.

That the problem lies with web developers, not the browsers, led Glazman, to put out a call for action, asking web developers to “stop designing web sites for WebKit only, in particular when adding support for other browsers is only a matter of adding a few extra prefixed CSS properties.”

Neither Glazman, nor anyone else is suggesting that Apple and Google should stop innovating or stop implementing new features as fast as they can. As Tantek Çelik, a Mozilla representative in the CSS WG, says in the minutes of Monday’s meeting, “I think it’s great that Apple wants to innovate as fast as they can…. I don’t want Apple to slow down in innovation and implementing new things. That helps the Web grow and innovate.”

At the same time both Apple and Google have set some bad examples by building a number of WebKit-only demos that might be part of what lead some developers to conclude that only WebKit supports such features. That has also spilled over into the world of tutorials where even sometimes even standards advocates showcase -webkit in their sample code while ignoring -moz-, -ms- and -o-*.

What makes the current -webkit-only epidemic all the more depressing is how easy it is to solve — just use prefixes they way they were intended. Thanks to modern toolkits you don’t even need to write any extra code. Preprocessors like SASS and LESS make it easy to output five lines of prefixed code with a single mixin. Not a fan or SASS or LESS? No problem, just use cssprefixer, which parses your CSS and adds any prefixes you need before you publish it to the web (there’s also a client-side auto-prefixing solution if you prefer).

That’s fine for your website, but what about all the rest of those top 30,000 sites you don’t control? Well, you could email the developers, let them know that their site isn’t working in the most popular mobile web browser; let them know that you can’t use their service. If you’re a programmer or web developer you can help out with Mozilla developer Christian Hellman’s effort to Pre-fix the web. Pre-fix the web is looking for developers willing to seek out projects on Github that only work in Webkit and then fork the project, adding the missing prefixes to the CSS, extending JS code to do proper feature detection and then sending a pull request. In other words, literally fixing the web.

We at Webmonkey hope it’s obvious that building WebKit-only sites is a waste of time. If you’re only interested in iOS users then take a tip from Instagram and build a native app. As Peter Linss, Hewlett-Packard’s CSS WG representative says the CSS WG minutes, “there’s no advantage to the Web to have someone write a platform-specific website.” There’s also no real advantage for the developer, especially when an automated prefixer can do all the work for you. If you want your site to embrace the web, take the time to learn the craft and embrace all of the web. Be good at what you do and do it right.

File Under: Browsers

Microsoft Touts Plugin-Free Web, Offers Desktop Fallback for Flash

Microsoft’s new version of Internet Explorer has barred browser plugins in the Metro environment. But Microsoft has revealed a method that plugin-dependent websites can use to leap over Metro’s walls and reach the green fields of the conventional Windows desktop, where Flash is still allowed to roam free.

The relevance of proprietary browser plugins is declining as standards-based web technologies mature. Native web technologies don’t yet supply complete functional equivalence with the capabilities of plugins, but the open web has the advantage of greater ubiquity.

The ubiquity of native web standards over proprietary plugins is set to get a major boost from Microsoft with the launch of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. As we have previously reported, the next major version of Microsoft’s web browser will not display plugins in the Metro environment, which will be the default shell in Windows 8.

Microsoft has published a series of posts in its official IE development blog that discuss the implications of this change and what it means for users and web developers. In a new post published this week, IE program manager lead John Hrvatin highlighted the advantages of plugin-free browsing and emphasized the need for web developers to start supporting users who browse in environments that don’t have plugins enabled.

“The transition to a plug-in free web is happening today. Any site that uses plugins needs to understand what their customers experience when browsing plugin free. Lots of web browsing today happens on devices that simply don’t support plugins,” he wrote. “Metro style IE runs plug-in free to improve battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers.”

A growing number of websites that rely on browser plugins already offer a standards-based fallback for users who are browsing on popular plugin-free devices such as as the iPhone or iPad. Microsoft has previously discussed some of the steps it is taking to ensure that those websites serve their plugin-free content to Metro users.

There will still likely be many Flash-heavy websites, however, that can’t accommodate users who are browsing without plugins. In the blog post, Hrvatin explained that such websites can ask the user for permission to jump to the conventional Windows desktop and launch the windowed version of Internet Explorer, which will have full support for plugins.

Web developers can get the browser to display the prompt by including the special requiresActiveX=true property in an X-UA-Compatible meta tag or HTTP header. Hrvatin cautions that this feature is included for transitional purposes and is intended to serve as a last resort. The preferred behavior is still for web developers to display a plugin-free version of their site to users who are browsing in the Metro environment.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.