Archive for the ‘Internet Explorer’ Category

Friday, April 11th 2008

Nice start, Ameibo

Screenshot of Ameibo

I was just checking out Ameibo which was launched only yesterday. If I’ve understood correctly it is a legal, torrent based file sharing service which charges for downloads and pays users for uploads.

I haven’t actually tried downloading anything yet. Since downloads cost money I’ll only download stuff I really want. But everything was looking really promising and I got the feeling of Wow, finally someone has worked it out!. How to provide legal downloads of films for a reasonable price.

But then I got a welcome email, and I quote: (translated from Swedish)

To make best use of the service we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 6.0 and Windows Media Player 11 or higher.

Emphasis mine there. Well as you understand, that’s a bit of a turn-off for a Firefox guy geek like me. At least there’s the higher which refers to IE7 I guess. That’s better than asking for IE6 only, which would be plain crazy.

Don’t they understand that their audience, people using (or willing to use) bittorrent, are much more biased towards using Firefox than the average internet crowd?

Then there’s the fact that most of the films are DRM’ed, and therefore can’t be burned and played on a DVD. But perhaps the film industry will one day understand (like the music industry now finally has done) that DRM is only a nuisance for the legal downloaders and no one else.

Wednesday, March 5th 2008

Good news from Redmond

I’m a bit late to the party, but in the last couple of days we’ve had two great pieces of news from Microsoft:

  1. IE8 will render web pages in IE8 standards mode by default, not IE7 standards mode as was previously announced.
  2. The first beta of IE8 has been released for testing.

Internet Explorer IE 8 logo

In the IE8 beta announcement I really like the sound of this paragraph (emphasis mine):

One theme I hope developers notice here is interoperability. The team understands how big an impact differences between browsers (and previous versions of IE in particular) have had on developers in terms of wasted time, frustration, and (in some cases) limiting the experience that they deliver to users. We want to deliver a big step forward in real-world interoperability for developers with IE8, and standards are at the core of our approach. This topic deserves a lot more than just this paragraph; expect more soon.

That’s really the first time they have properly acknowledged all the pain web developers have felt over the years. Sure, they have admitted they were behind the times back when they released IE7, but this was the first real reference to the huge annoyance IE has been to web developers.

Let’s hope all this means they really will try to move forward on the standards front. If IE8 passes Acid2 it means it must cope with min- and max-widths/heights, so my blog will look as it should for the first time ever in IE. If you happen to be stopping by in the IE8 beta, please send me a screenshot. (My email is in the right hand column.)

Edit: One very important factor which I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere is that they’ve made IE8 available for Windows XP. If they hadn’t, all the dreamy thoughts about standards compliant web developing would have had to be postponted another five years, waiting for Vista to gain some serious market share.

Read more about IE8 and it’s features at microsoft.com. Personally I’m going to wait a bit before I install it. IE beta releases are usually about as stable and reliable as early alphas of Mozilla products, and considering how deep IE is integrated into Windows … Let’s just say I’m not going to risk borking my whole system.

Thursday, December 20th 2007

IE8 will pass the Acid 2 test

This is seriously good news for everyone who is planning on making a website in the coming 10 or so years.

What does it mean? Well, here are a few things:

  • The IE team must have started working on IE8 roughly at the same time as they started work on IE7.
  • Finally, IE will support CSS min- and max-widths. (Which I use on this blog to regulate the width of this main column.)
  • Loads less IE layout bugs: Web designers and web developers will be happier at work in the coming decade.

However, there is a big however. The IE team speaks of some kind of switch to make IE8 work in IE8 Standards Mode. Let’s just hope they didn’t choose a non-standard way for websites to request standards mode… (I.e. I hope they’re going to stick with the transitional vs. strict doctypes for quirks mode vs. standards mode.)

Saturday, December 8th 2007

Internet Explorer 8

Cross posted from my comment at the IE Blog:

I must say I’m carefully optimistic about IE8. No thanks to the IE Blog though.

At the moment, the most informational information about IE8 is to be found at molly.com:

In the transcript of Molly H’s discussion with Billy G there is mention of a new engine.

However, I doubt that the IE team could have built a new rendering engine from scratch in just over a year. Or is that why they’ve been so quiet – they just haven’t had the time to post because they’ve been too busy rewriting Trident from scratch? We can always hope.

The fact that Molly just said what I’ve heard so far is to my liking about IE8 also adds to my optimism.

Thanfully though, I won’t need to care much either way:

  • If IE8 gets it right, I won’t need to care because it will render my websites like all the other browsers.
  • If IE8 gets it wrong, I’ll be too fed up with IE to even think about caring.

Tuesday, January 9th 2007

Search Netscape for Firefox, get Netscape

The other day I was bored and searched for Firefox using the built-in keyword search in Netscape 7.01. (Somewhat outdated browser, I know… To make things better, this was on Mac OS 9.)

The search results were very interesting. You would have expected the top hit for a “mozilla firefox” search to be at least a page hosted somewhere on mozilla.org or mozilla.com, but no. Instead the first item (after the skilfully disguised sponsored links) was Download Netscape 7.2 Browser.

That’s just plain weird if you ask me. I could sort-of have understood if the first hit would have been Netscape 8, since that at least is based on Mozilla Firefox…

Searches for firefox browser and opera browser both result with the top search spot being filled with a specially designed ad for Netscape 8, while the previous number one has been pushed down to second:

In fact, any search including browser will put Netscape’s ad at the top.

Imagine the fuss that would arise if Microsoft did something like this! The fact that this hasn’t caused a huge fuss just proves that Netscape means nothing these days.

Interestingly, though, a search for Microsoft Internet Explorer doesn’t put Netscape in first position…

Netscape, you’re fighting a losing battle. Even Microsoft is! 😀 Just move aside, and you might keep some dignity!

Monday, December 18th 2006

Firefox Gaining, Thunderbird 2 Beta Out

Firefox logotype (logo), 200x200 pxI love the fact that Firefox is still gaining on Internet Explorer even though MS just released version 7.

According to WebSideStory, Firefox is now at 10.7%, having increased by 0.89 percentage points between October and December. Internet Explorer meanwhile dropped 0.86 percentage points to 88.2%, even though version 7 is seeing increased usage.

IE7 holds 16.3% of the market, or 18.5% of IE usage. Firefox 2 meanwhile has 3.1% of the market, or 29.1% of Firefox usage. As usual, Firefox users seem to be more with it.

Keep in mind that nearly all other browser stats show Firefox at higher percentages than WebSideStory. XiTi, for instance, show that Firefox usage in Europe is at roughly 23% and 14% in the US.

Thunderbird 2 beta 1

Thunderbird logotype (logo), 200x200 pxMozilla have just released the first beta of Thunderbird 2. There are many great new features and enhancements:

  • Message tags – sort your emails using tags instead of folders, or both if you like.
  • New theme, which uses the every-second-line-is-light-grey scheme for the message list.
  • Improved performance of saved search folders, which btw is a wonderful feature.
  • Improved information popup when you receive new mail.
  • Session History Navigation – New Back and Forward buttons which work like back and forward in your web browser.
  • Improved filing tools. Remembers folders that you recently copied or moved emails to and makes them easier to find in the context menu.
  • Several others, but the above are my favourites.

Finally a word of caution. If you are planning on reorganizing your emails in Thunderbird 2 beta 1, make a backup of your profile first.

I found a nasty data loss bug, which drops some messages if you try to move too many in one go from one folder to another. (It seems to depend on message size.) A simple and seemingly safe workaround is to copy your messages and then delete the copy in the first folder.

I haven’t been able to find a bug for this at bugzilla.mozilla.org, so if you’re good at searching bugzilla and feel like helping me (and everyone else) out, I’d be very greatful.

Saturday, October 21st 2006

CSS3 Teasers

Some of these CSS3 previews show just how far behind Internet Explorer is when it comes to the latest and greatest in CSS3. Nice features such as HSLA colours are already being implemented by other browsers!

HSLA colours are a very nice thing indeed. Instead of defining a colour as Red, Green and Blue, web designers of the future will be able to choose Hue, Saturation and Lightness, as well as Alpha, an opacity value.

That means it will be much easier to guess-pick colours when you’re coding. Also, making a colour semitransparent will be a very nice possibility for backgrounds. (No more semitransparent 1px png graphics!)

Then we have rounded borders, which is already being used around the web, since it degrades nicely (into square corners).

Another promising feature of CSS3 is columns. Currently, only Mozilla browsers (Firefox 1.5+) support this in any way. The idea is that you will be able to set a column width as well as spacing, and the browser will calculate how many columns to fit across the screen. Alternatively, you can define how many columns you want, and the browser will adjust their width to fit the space provided. A List Apart has a very nice article on the subject.

If you’re really intersted, have a look at what the W3C are working on right now, the different modules and their specs. CSS3 is still work in progress, so only a couple of the modules are even close to the recommended status. (I.e. implement now! status.

Friday, October 20th 2006

IE7 Only Half Way There

I guess I was just a little curious to try out IE7, so I have now installed it, although I said I wouldn’t… 🙂

But before doing so I created a system restore point so that I could go back properly, if necessary. (I believe IE7 is uninstallable, restoring IE6, but I wanted to be safe – not sorry.)

To begin with, I’ve somehow got the feeling that some think we should just be kind to the IE devs and like IE7, since they are very nice people and they have worked very hard, and after all, IE7 is very much better than IE6. But I don’t buy that. In 2001, Microsoft messed up – and even five years later with IE7 they haven’t caught up with the competition on some major points.

Sure, the individuals in the IE team have worked their gluteus maximuses off to get IE into it’s current shape, and deserve credit for their work. Keep it up! But the fact remains that it is not yet on par with Firefox et al., and I believe the leadership that killed IE development back then should hear that.

Anyway, lets start with the goods.

The Goods

Internet Explorer 7 feels snappier than version 6, which is a positive surprise. I was really expecting it to feel more bloated.

They’ve done a good job in maximizing the website canvas. And the strive to maximize the canvas was probably what made them remove the menus and put those commands over to the right. There’s been a lot of whining about those changes, but frankly, I think they work quite well.

Screenshot of IE7 (Internet Explorer 7)

Tabs have been made discoverable in a very nifty way. There is always a tab visible, but without stealing a whole bar of screen space. The new tab waiting at the end is sort of cool, but I think Firefox’s button is more practical, especially if you want to open more new tabs in one go.

The Bads

I did say IE7 was quicker than IE6. Sadly, IE6 hasn’t been a benchmark for browser speed for quite a few years. So IE7 is still quite a way behind Firefox. (And that’s comparing to a Firefox installation with a ship-load of extensions.) The most annoying slowness in IE7 is when opening new tabs: Hit Ctrl+T, and there are two discrete phases until your cursor is actually sitting in the URL bar waiting for you to type. First a tab is opened in the background, saying Connecting…. (Why??) Then focus is switched to the new tab, which changes title to Welcome to Tabbed Browsing. All of this takes roughly one-mississippi, while in Firefox you get a new tab in about one-.

Having the stop and reload buttons at the right end of the URL bar does not make sense. They are both buttons that you want within quick reach if there’s to be any point in having them at all.

It beats me that you can’t rearrange the buttons as you want. (So we could move the stop and reload buttons to a more practical position, perhaps.) In 2006, you’d have thought rearranging buttons would be possible in any old browser. Even stranger is the fact that if you right click within the top toolbar, you get the alt+space menu popping up where you clicked. Makes it feel like a beta… or an alpha, by Firefox standards.

Quick Tabs is mentioned as the feature that Firefox doesn’t have. If you’re asking me, it’s cool, but not in a usable way. It’s only cool in a wow, look what you can do! kind of way. I can’t think of any situation when it would actually be quicker to use the Quick Tab feature than to navigate the tabs in the traditional ways. Even if I open loads of tabs, I don’t get the feeling that Quick Tabs actually saves me any time. But as I said, it does look cool:

Screenshot of IE7 (Internet Explorer 7) Quick Tabs feature

For some obscure reason they’ve chosen to stick the off-by-default menu under the URL bar, if and when you switch it on. It strikes me as ironic that no other software company brakes the UI design guidelines for Windows as often and as seriously as Microsoft…

Another weirdness is that the Tools command and the Tools menu contain slightly different menu items, and because of that use different accesskeys. I expected them to be identical.

While IE7 was a positive surprise when it came to speed, it was a disappointment when it came to standards. I was under the impression that the IE Team had basically fixed the CSS stuff that web devs wanted. When I checked my blog design yesterday, I realized they haven’t. Max-width for instance, which is a very useful CSS property, has not been implemented. This will probably be my main reason for letting Firefox stay in charge of my http transfers.

Firefox 2 advantages

So, if you don’t believe in the ideological reasons for sticking with Firefox, you might like to know that Firefox 2 will have some very real advantages over IE7. And it’s only days away.

I already mentioned the speed, and the rendering engine being in an entirely different league. Firefox 2 can also undo closed tabs. This, folks, is a very usable feature. Just hit Ctrl+Shift+T and you’re back at the page where your brain had a temporary glitch and made your fingers hit Ctrl+W although you didn’t really want them to. You can also find recently closed tabs on the history menu.

Firefox also has a built in spell checker for forms. This is another feature in the list of Firefox features which just work, and work very well. Incorektly spellt wordz are underlined in red, and Firefox almost always gets the first spelling suggestion right.

Then we have the Firefox extensionsphere. If you ever catch yourself thinking Oh, I wish Firefox could do such and such a thing, you can bet there’ll be an extension at addons.mozilla.org which will do exactly what you want. One-thousand-eight-hundred-and-ninety-six free extensions, just waiting for your imagination to find them.

In a me-too spirit, Microsoft have launched ieaddons.com. But if you look at what it actually contains, you’ll see that it is basically just a showcase of the toolbars and add-ons for IE6 which made people switch to Firefox in the first place…

  • Half the stuff they list is paid stuff.
  • They have a whole page of pop-up blockers, even though IE7 supposedly includes one. (And half of these cost money, too… $30 for a pop-up blocker anyone?)
  • A whole page of form-fillers… shareware, naturally
  • A whole page with bookmark managers.

Admittedly, there are a few useful things there too, but very few are as simple and pure as Firefox’s extensions.

Wait a minute… um … bookmark managers? Is that a freudian slip of the tongue from Microsoft? 🙂

The End – Finally

Finally &ndash The End

Phew! I didn’t intend for this thing to get so long… Sorry! Anyway, you get the idea: I’m sticking with Firefox, and if you’re ever planning on visiting my websites again, I hope for your eyes’ sake that you do to!

Wednesday, October 18th 2006

Why I Will Use Firefox 2, Not Internet Explorer 7

Gervase Markham has a well-written blog post on why you should stick to Firefox as opposed to switching to IE 7.

I think he really nails it. To cut a long story short:

  1. Firefox stood up for the user when Microsoft/IE stood down.
  2. Microsoft’s only motive to produce and update IE is control over internet access.

And I’d like to make an additional point: a heterogeneous web is a healthy web. If everyone uses the same web browser, we’re all more vulnerable to virus attacks and similar stuff. It’s simple logic.

Thursday, October 12th 2006

Doodle for Firefox 2 On The Way

With Firefox 2 just around the bend, Ogirtd and me have got cracking on updating the Doodle themes – Plastik and Classic. There are quite a few changes that need to be addressed, such as the new RSS behaviour and a few changes to the extension system.

Selection of icons from Doodle for Firefox 2.

We are also adding support for a few more extensions: FireFTP, Sage and Undo Closed Tabs.

Undo Closed Tab icon of Doodle for Firefox 2.

Might also add support for IETab. Actually, I think I’ll get to it right now. Edit: IETab is a great extension which embeds the IE rendering engine into Firefox (gasp!) for those websites which use stoneage layout techniques, etc.

IETab icon of Doodle for Firefox 2.

Update: Added the Undo Closed Tab and IETab icons.

Sunday, August 20th 2006

Windows Live Messenger Sucks (Rant Ahead)

Microsoft never cease to amaze me with their stupidity.

Windows Live Messenger opens all links and web searches in the default browser (as opposed to previous versions of MSN Messenger?), but still forces the user to use Internet Explorer when opening Hotmail. Why, Microsoft, why?

You would have thought that Microsoft, having devised the scheme of default applications in Windows, would respect them. What’s the #¤%&§! point of allowing the Windows user to specify a default web browser if not even Microsoft’s own programs respect the users choice?

Come on Microsoft – grow up and get with the times! Even my non-techie friends understand enough to realize that you’re being really stupid here.

And while I’m at it – it’s just so 2005 to have an advert at the bottom of Windows Live Messenger and every chat window.

Right now I have not one single reason why I should use Windows Live Messenger instead of Google Talk. Let’s see … Google Talk …

  • … has no ads.
  • … has better sound quality for the voice chat.
  • … has (much) faster file transfers (since 16 August).
  • … doesn’t open my email in Internet Explorer, ignoring my choice of web browser.
  • … has a very minimalistic and lovable user interface.

Why don’t you get it too?

Tuesday, January 31st 2006

IE7 Beta 2 (Preview) Released

I just noticed that IE7 beta 2 has been released. Sounds like the IE team know their stuff. It has (almost) everything that I love about Firefox. The only things I can think of are…

  • Less standards support. Did anyone say SVG?
  • Extensions, extensions, extensions

However, even if IE7 were just as good as Firefox on every point, or even slightly better, I would still stay loyal to Firefox. Simply because Firefox gave me this perfect mix of simplicity and features way before anyone else did. Why walk out on the guy that saved you, just because the guy who left you out in the cold for four years says he’s going to be good again?

If I only could get SP2 to work properly on my computer I would install IE7 in order to test this site and others. Since SP2 had a habit of drawing random turquoise lines across my screen, I won’t be doing that. So I’d like to ask anyone reading this in IE7 to report back to me about how things look. This is what things should look like:

Screenshot of what my blog should look like.

Tuesday, November 22nd 2005

Address Bar Colours In IE7

Rob Franco has written about the plans for IE7’s secure/insecure website user interface over at IEBlog.

The current suggestion is to have three different background colours for the address bar indicating different statuses for the current website. Red – the website is blocked by the phishing filter and an informative message is displayed instead. Yellow – a suspicious website, showing signs of being a phishing scam but not confirmed by the list of known phishing websites. Green – sites that meet future guidelines for better identity validation.

So here’s the problem: Firefox and Opera today both use the yellow background colour, together with the lock icon, to identify secure (https) websites:

Firefox in secure (https) mode.

Opera in secure (https) mode.

If Microsoft were to implement their three colour system it might cause major confusion, at least for the digitally impaired.

Thankfully (and surprisingly!) Microsoft’s IE developers have sat down together with devs from Opera, Mozilla and KDE and talked the matter over. Hopefully this will lead to some kind of mutual agreement on this issue. (Although I believe they were mostly discussing ways of selecting and identifying properly identified websites.)

Two possible solutions to the colour problem popped up in the comments:

  1. Microsoft makes their yellow some shade of orange instead to minimize the confusion.
  2. The browser UI developers together agree on some standard colour system and apply it in all browsers. Either the system proposed by Microsoft, or some variation of the system used today in Firefox and Opera.

The latter would obviously be better for the user, but the question is – can these big browser players really reach an agreement here?

I still can’t quite grasp that they actually sat down together and talked about this, like we were moving towards some kind of… er… I don’t know – Web 2.0?

Thursday, September 22nd 2005

New Design

After having played about with a three-column CSS layout, I decided to use the design for my blog.

So, here’s the result! There may be some minor polishing work left to do, but I think I’m mostly done.

I used Firefox for testing while I was building the design. Then I checked the result in Opera (no problems) and lastly in Internet Explorer. I made one small adjustment to the CSS for IE, in order to make links the right colour. (It seems IE doesn’t understand the inherit value for links.) Something I decided not to do for IE was swap the max-width property (which IE doesn’t understand) of the posts for the width property. Doing so would break the scalability of the design. I’d rather make it clear to users of Internet Explorer that they’re using an outdated browser…

So, If you’re reading this in Internet Explorer, and wondering what this design really should look like – try Firefox instead. You’d be doing yourself, me, and every single web designer in the whole world a huge favour.

I also added a favicon for anyone who may have bookmarked the site.

Update: Just for the heck of it I made a semi-transparent white PNG image for the background of links when hovered. That way I don’t need to find different suitable hover colours for the different background colours. Also, if I want to change the colour-scheme later on it will be much easier.

Wednesday, September 21st 2005

Opera Now Free: Opera Fans – Start Spreading

As I was hoping a while back, Opera (the desktop version) has now become real freeware, without ads. This is truly great news for the web.

Now, hopefully, the Firefox and Opera communities can work united (sort-of, at least) towards the main target: to bring down the marketshare of that old, stinking, vile pile of a browser known as Internet Explorer.

Now, some may think

Oh, what does it matter, now that IE7 is just around the corner? Microsoft are working towards standards compliance now.

And here’s why it matters: We still don’t know if Microsoft’s intentions with Internet Explorer 7 really are good. In fact, they most likely aren’t – simply because they have no reason to. They do seem to be caring at the moment, but they did so about five years ago as well… It’s merely an overgrown PR stunt. If we ever let Internet Explorer’s market share grow as high as it was a year or two ago (~95%), I think we will find out the hard way that Microsoft’s aim was, once again: domination and (most importantly) lock-in. 8-|

So, if we (i.e. us Firefox and Opera fans) make sure that our favourite browsers always have a healthy market share, of at least 10% each (and hopefully a lot more), I think we can keep this Internet thing moving. If we want to be able to use any CSS3 stuff before we die we had better give it our best try.

Monday, September 19th 2005

Playing Around With CSS – A Scalable Three-Column Layout

After having read the first few chapters of Lie and Bos’s book Cascading Style Sheets (3rd ed.) I was inspired to play around a bit with some of the nice things available in CSS.

Unfortunately many of these nice CSS features (such as the sibling or adjacent selectorme wants it very much!) don’t work at all in Internet Explorer 6.

Anyway, I put together a three-column layout based entirely on CSS, which a) is completely based on the users default font size and b) makes use of the full screen width. Actually, to my surprise, the basic layout seems to work quite OK even in rusty old IE6. Here’s what I’ve put together so far. Feel free to use all or parts of it if you should want to.

Can’t wait ’til the standards compliant browsers have a more substantial market share, so we can start using adjacent/sibling selectors seriously. They are truly wonderful for making good-looking typography.

Comments on this design, or other advanced CSS stuff, are more than welcome.

Oh. And one other thing I’m looking forward to play with is CSS3 colours, which will be allowed to be semi-transparent: colours with an opacity value. Sounds pretty neat, eh? Can only imagine it will be totally so.

Update 2005-09-26: As you may have noticed, I decided to use the three-column layout I was playing with here as the base for my new blog design…

Saturday, August 27th 2005

How I Became a Browser Nerd and a Firefox Addict (And Some Thoughts About the Future)

The Beginning

I guess it all started back in 1998 when we were to make our own websites at school. (I was 15 at the time.) To make them, we had Netscape Composer – version 4 if I remember correctly.

Somehow I got hooked on this whole webpage making thing. I guess I had always enjoyed making nicely laid out documents with word processors, ever since I was a tiny kid. The ability to produce a dynamic document with colours really appealed to me, since any paper documents I made could only be printed on our (black and white) laser.

Naturally, my first website was an incredible strain to the viewers eyes. What, with animated flags and spinning e-mail icons, frantically psychedelic backgrounds, and an over-all colour theme that made your stomach churn. This was presumably making up for all the years of black and white only. Sadly, I can’t seem to find a copy of the old gem. Maybe it’s for the best.

I can’t remember if we were encouraged by the teachers to start poking with the HTML code in notepad or if I just decided to have a look anyway. Anyway – fairly soon I felt more comfortable editing the HTML directly than using Composer. (Which, looking back, maybe wasn’t so strange…)

After about a year or so I made a completely new (personal) website. This time around it was a little more pleasant and usable. Below is a screenshot of the website, as seen with an authentic, 1990’s web browser:

Screenshot of one of my old websites

The Cold War

Obviously, all of this was in the middle of the raging browser wars. Some of my class mates thought Internet Explorer was better, while I for some reason always preferred Netscape. (At this time I had no idea about which browser was most standards compliant – all I knew was that they weren’t compatible, and special tweaking of the code was required to serve both browsers.) I guess I preferred Netscape because I was used to it, and Microsoft was the big bad company. (This impression was mostly because their Word had more or less already out-competed Word Perfect.)

I remember reading in a book at the library, about HTML and suchlike, that the upcoming, version 6 browsers could turn out to be standards compliant – as opposed to all the previous versions. Heh. If only both the version 6 browsers had strived for that goal…

The Long Wait

I saw the Internet Explorer versions come and go. I was waiting for Netscape to release their next version (nr 5, which became nr 6). This turned out to be a very long wait, as we all know. I kept up to date with the browser world by watching browsers.com, a CNet website – back in the days when it actually had some kind of content. (Nowadays it’s barely a collection of links, and a list of the most popular browser downloads.)

Screenshot of Netscape 6.0

Finally Netscape 6.0 was released (November 2000), but to pretty chilly reviews. Buggy and slow was the general verdict. If I remember correctly I waited until version 6.2 before I installed it on my dad’s computer. A year-and-a-half later (in June 2002) I read on browsers.com that Mozilla 1.0 had been released. I hadn’t heard much about Mozilla before this, so I was rather curious. I learnt that this was what Netscape 6 had been built from. I liked the idea of always having the latest and greatest web browser, so I chose Mozilla over Netscape.

Tabs, of course, made for love at first sight – a great feature for someone like me who liked surfing a lot. They were also very handy when on a dial-up modem, which I was at the time – just open the interesting pages in a bunch of new tabs and disconnect before you start reading them.

To begin with, for news on Mozilla, I mostly just checked mozilla.org. With time though, I started reading MozillaZine more and more often to get the nitty gritty details. I faithfully downloaded each release, always checking the What’s New page to see which great features had been added. Here are some of the features I remember being particularly pleased about when they were introduced:

By now I was definately a Mozilla addict. Why should I use anything else? Mozilla was the best. Or was it?

The Skinny Newcomer

MozillaZine was increasingly reporting about this Phoenix thing. At first I didn’t take too much notice. I had become used to the Mozilla Suite and felt comfortable using it. Then when Firebird 0.6 was released in May 2003, I gave it a try. There were some things I liked about it straight away, like the way it handled tabs (slightly differently compared to Mozilla Suite) and the separate search box. Other things that were added later on during the development, such as the Extension and Theme managers, were also very handy.

At first I missed having all the managers which Mozilla Suite had: Cookie Manager, Popup Manager, Form Manager, Image Manager, Password Manager. You name it. (Did I hear someone say control freak?) Pretty soon though, I realized that all those Managers weren’t really necessary. Firebird showed that it was possible to get along without them, thanks to carefully chosen default values of the preferences and smarter handling of, for instance, passwords.

Like most of us, I was pretty (positively) shocked and surprised when Firebird was renamed Firefox, at version 0.8, and given a new logo. They worked great together. Then, at version 0.9, the default (Windows) theme was changed too. While many people didn’t like the new theme, I always thought it was better than Qute (the previous theme), which I realized had some rather inconsistent icons. The new theme was more professional in style, and at the same time remaining colourful and XPish.

Firefox was, by the final release, a great browser for almost everyone. I could (and still can, of course) install it on all my acquaintances computers, and they would hardly have any problems using it even though they hadn’t touched anything other than IE for what – like, 5 years? If ever. Firefox is (obviously) also loads of fun for the more advanced computer user who can install extensions to their hearts content, such as (my favourites) Adblock and Minimize to tray. There is an extension out there for every single purpose you can think of. Is there anything you can’t do with a Firefox extension?

What About Opera?

I was aware of Opera for quite some time – probably since around the time I first started keeping an eye on browsers.com. Since it was shareware, though, it didn’t really interest me. Opera released their first ad-supported version as early as December 2000 (version 5) but the banner put me off completely. (If I even tried it – I don’t remember.) It also had a somwhat awkward look, which I couldn’t quite get used to. The freeness, usability and, in fact, design of Mozilla Suite (and later Firefox), as well as their entirely open development process made me stay in the Mozilla camp.

The Future

Who knows what will happen the coming years. I know I will keep promoting Firefox, wherever I go. This became particularly easy when I was sent one of these, for… eh – I’m not really sure why I got it actually. They said something about me having given feedback. Hmm. Well, I suppose I have posted the odd post over at MozillaZine and Spread Firefox, if that’s what they meant. It can’t be for my bug reporting anyway: In three years I’ve only posted a single bug report. If they sent off a t-shirt for every bug report, they would have had to send out t-shirts worth more than $5,000,000. I know they are getting plenty of money from Google, but at that rate they must be raking in the cash by the ship loads. Anyway, whatever the reason, I’m not complaining. 🙂

I have a vision (like many others, I’m sure) that Firefox (and possibly Opera, if they decide to set it free) will help open up the web for good, and make it equally digestable on all operating systems. This, in turn, will allow more people to give Linux a serious try (myself included). Once Linux gains a nice chunk of the market, it will be very difficult for Microsoft to win people back. The difficulty for people lies in the actual switching. Once that’s done, I imagine sticking with a free operating system won’t exactly be a neck-breaker… Obviously though, Microsoft failing is not the point here. The point of this vision is that more people could (and would) use a large proportion of free software, thus saving heaps of cash – at the same time putting some much needed consumer pressure on Microsoft.

This vision is also why I believe we still can’t trust Microsoft to do the right thing with IE7 and IE8. The right thing – to make IE standards compliant – would only make the OS market slip even faster out of Microsofts control. However, I’m begging that Microsoft actually does decide to do the right thing. Imagine being a web developer in 2009, with almost 93% of the browser market being CSS3 compliant. Ah, the love…

Saturday, July 30th 2005

Many Rendering Bugs Fixed for IE7 Beta 2

Chris Wilson of the IE Team has just posted a list of bugs that have been fixed for Beta 2 of IE7. It’s a list which will greatly reduce the number and severity of headaches within the web developer community. Check it out:

In IE7, we will fix as many of the worst bugs that web developers hit as we can, and we will add the critical most-requested features from the standards as well. Though you won’t see (most of) these until Beta 2, we have already fixed the following bugs from PositionIsEverything and Quirksmode:

  • Peekaboo bug
  • Guillotine bug
  • Duplicate Character bug
  • Border Chaos
  • No Scroll bug
  • 3 Pixel Text Jog
  • Magic Creeping Text bug
  • Bottom Margin bug on Hover
  • Losing the ability to highlight text under the top border
  • IE/Win Line-height bug
  • Double Float Margin Bug
  • Quirky Percentages in IE
  • Duplicate indent
  • Moving viewport scrollbar outside HTML borders
  • 1 px border style
  • Disappearing List-background
  • Fix width:auto

In addition we’ve added support for the following

  • HTML 4.01 ABBR tag
  • Improved (though not yet perfect) <object> fallback
  • CSS 2.1 Selector support (child, adjacent, attribute, first-child etc.)
  • CSS 2.1 Fixed positioning
  • Alpha channel in PNG images
  • Fix :hover on all elements
  • Background-attachment: fixed on all elements not just body

I’m looking forward to seeing how IE7 will render my web gallery, which makes use of floats and fixed-position divs.

I’m also very much looking forward to the day when we can make websites from scratch and see our CSS code just work in all the major browsers… And the following may sound strange coming for a Firefox addict and advocate, but I truly hope that Microsoft puts a huge marketing campaign behind IE7 once it has shipped so it as quickly as possible replaces IE6 (where still in use) on Windows XP. Firefox will have the older Windows versions for lunch, and through continuous innovation it will probably keep growing on the XP & Vista versions too.

Update: Now if only Gecko would get support for soft hyphens, I would be a truly happy geek…

Thursday, July 28th 2005

A Few Words on IE7 Beta 1

If you didn’t already know, Microsoft has just shipped beta 1 of IE7. In fact, I’ve already had a visitor here using IE7. Being a website developer (although an amateur) I have been hoping that they would improve their severely broken CSS support. Back in February, when the planned update to IE was announced, it was unclear to what extent the rendering engine was going to be improved. Sadly, it now seems all too clear.

Reading the official what’s-new page, it seems us web-devs will just have to hope for a speedy release of IE8 with some real improvements:

CSS Updates – Internet Explorer 7 includes fixes for issues with the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) feature. Both the peekaboo and guillotine bugs have been addressed, and work on other issues is under way to provide web developers with reliable and robust CSS functionality.

Oh, so both the peekabo and the guillotine bugs have been fixed? Well, that really is good news. But it also makes it quite clear what the prime objective for IE7 is: to stem the flood of people moving to Firefox. They’ve thrown in some tabs and a search box, hoping that doing so will be enough to plug the never-ending leakage of IE’s market share. In fact, IE7 Beta 1 is, at least on the surface, pretty much a Firefox clone.

Over at the IE Blog, someone has now posted a screenshot of how IE7 fares with the Acid2 test. Not surprisingly, by now, it sucks just as hard as IE6 does.

Back in March, Chris Wilson said:

Additionally, with every subsequent major release of IE, we have expanded and improved our implementation of web standards, particularly CSS and HTML.

Well. I don’t claim to know every detail of the IE version history, but my feeling is that the improvements made to the IE7 rendering engine (so far, at least) makes it one of the IE releases which made the smallest improvement over the previous version.

Quite obviously, Microsoft woke up far too late to be able to make any real improvements to IE. When they finally got started, there just wasn’t time to address such nonessential things as standards support. At least, this is the interpretation I make of the comments made by the IE developers. They’re always mentioning a lack of resources and making there’s only so much we can do-type of statements.

However, there may still be some improvements before the final release though. A quote from the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 1 Technical Overview gives us at least some hope:

The final release of Internet Explorer 7 will focus on improving the developer experience by reducing the time needed for developing and testing on different browsers.

If there’s any truth in that statement, Microsoft are going to make pretty serious changes to the rendering engine before shipping the final. Also, if they deliver on that promise, it would get them in line with their new Microsoft does (almost) no evil policy. (I’m talking about fully documented & open XML document formats in the next Office, improved standards compatibility of Microsoft.com, MSN Virtual Earth being virtually cross-browser and with open API’s, etc.) Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But, I tell you this – if they make the final IE7 fully CSS 2.1 compliant then I won’t say another negative thing about Microsoft here for at least six months a whole year. And that’s a promise.

Update: Just remembered another good thing Microsoft has done recently. They remade msn.com, in a strive for total standards compliance! XHTMLstrict, baby, strict! Of course, there are still some errors – but they have been narrowed down to seven in all. Not bad for such a large website front page!

Monday, July 25th 2005

First Look at MSN Virtual Earth

Microsoft just launched its Virtual Earth map service. It’s pretty useful, at least for the US. Parts of the US (no idea how large a part) are zoomable to a much higher degree than with Google Maps. Also, the coolness factor is way higher for Microsoft’s service, thanks to the use of semitransparent boxes on top of the map, scroll-wheel zooming and a nifty little compass which can be used for auto-scroll type scrolling.

I did notice today though, while playing around, that Google Maps automatically resizes the map area to fit the browser window. This has maybe been the case for a long time, but I hadn’t noticed until today. Nifty.

The main advantages I see with MSN Virtual Earth over Google Maps are these:

  1. Easier navigation: Mouse-wheel scrolling and double-click center & zoom. Having to reach for the zoom-slider with Google Maps (or moving one hand to + and – on the keyboard) feels clunky. I’m simply presuming Google will be adding these features in the not-too-distant future.
  2. More intuitive local search: If you zoom in on an area with Google Maps, then do a local search for, say, Internet cafes, it will first zoom out one notch before showing you the results. I’m sure this is supposed to be helpful in some way, but I mostly find it annoying. Secondly, if you then scroll away from your search results, Google won’t automatically give you the corresponding results for the new area you’re looking at. Virtual Earth does just that, which to me seems like the more intuitive (& useful) thing to do.
  3. Full screen map: Having the whole screen width filled with the map is sleek, and makes maximum use of the users pixels. It looks good too.

Google’s hybrid mode is (IMO) a little clearer than Virtual Earth’s labeled aerial photos. Also, when zooming in on the UK, London still isn’t visible at this level. Rather strange, seeing that places such as Weymouth (never even heard of it) are.

Another minor slipup is that the blue search area at the top isn’t semi-transparent when using Firefox. (It is in IE.) Checking the source code, it seems like all they would have to add to fix this is opacity: 0.90 for the ID #search_bg. This is the current CSS for the search box area:

#search_bg {position: absolute; height: 73px; top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; background: rgb(39,101,171) url(i/header_bg.png) repeat-y center; overflow: hidden; filter: alpha(opacity=90); z-index:31; border-bottom: solid 1px black;}

All in all, though, Microsoft have produced a pretty good mapping service, and when it covers a larger part of the world, maybe even us Swedes can have some real use for it.

Edit: I never thought I would be giving Microsoft free PR on my blog, but I guess the times are a-changing.