I regularly root for the home team, even when they may be a bit inferior to the competition. On many occasions I cheered for the Mariners during a losing season, I was among the small group of people who was stoked to see the Seahawks make the playoffs (despite being the first team in the history of the NFL to do so with a losing record), and I typically find myself singing the praises of Microsoft – largely because they are here in our proverbial back yard and it feels like they are the home team. However biased I am to want to like Microsoft products, I have finally concluded that Internet Explorer is a horrible product that is wasting countless hours of web developer’s time and it is time that Microsoft own up to this reality.

Here are two examples of what I’m talking about.

  1. Acid3 is the standard upon which the world has agreed how browsers should render images, animations, etc. (100 is a perfect score). Chrome scores 100/100, my current version of Firefox scores 94/100, the crappy little browser on my Android phone even scores a 93/100. Internet Explorer 8 scores 20/100. That’s right, the flagship browser shipped every day by Microsoft, a company with 89,000 employees and with a market cap of $240 billion gets an “F-“ with the product that they want everyone in the world to use as their window to the Internet. But don’t worry, IE 9 is coming soon – early versions of which score a 32/100.
  2. Have you heard of HTML5?  It’s pretty exciting because all kinds of cool new things are coming down the pike that will allow the Web to do all sorts of amazing things that it couldn’t do before. HTML5 has a long way to go in nailing down its standards, but browsers already support the early standards and there is a good, objective HTML5 test to see how well browsers support these new standards (300 is a perfect score). Are you ready for the results?  Chrome gets 242/300, Firefox gets 139/300, my mobile Android browser gets 176/300, Internet Explorer 8 gets 27/300.

As a result of Microsoft’s refusal to adhere to industry standards, developers are forced to do all sorts of unnatural things in order to build web apps that look good and actually work across all browsers. Usually that means building fast, good looking, stable web apps for Chrome and Firefox, and then bloating those apps with all sorts of crazy IE workarounds in order to make sure your site doesn’t completely break when used with IE. Right now there is an unprecedented amount of wasted developer time and energy being spent wrestling with Microsoft’s albatross of a browser. And if that wasn’t bad enough, IE doesn’t have a built-in auto-upgrade mechanism like all the other browsers, so almost 40% of their IE install base is on old browsers like IE7 and even IE6. If you think IE8 is bad, just try and write a modern web app that actually functions with older versions of IE.

We are a startup with 17 highly talented employees. We do weekly sprints with rollouts every Wednesday and generally speaking we bust our asses to build cool, modern web apps. Two weeks ago, a bit before midnight, our team was huddled around their computers fixing a bunch of weird IE related bugs that suddenly became apparent during our post-release user acceptance testing. These of course didn’t show themselves during our automated unit testing, our automated system testing, our outsourced user testing, or our internal user testing (all of which we do religiously every week prior to a release). We have an amazingly advanced testing process, and yet despite these efforts we seem to regularly be wrestling with IE bugs and issues. The wasted man hours dealing with IE specific bugs – just in our little startup – can be measured in the thousands of man hours. IE has become an enormous tax on anyone building modern web apps, but this tax is felt especially hard by startups that are moving quickly and iterating often.

Two weeks ago as I watched our team perform the familiar ritual of working well past midnight in order to squash IE bugs, I wrote (but didn’t post) the following:: MICROSOFT, YOU NEED TO STOP MAKING BROWSERS. YOU ARE WASTING MILLIONS OF HOURS OF DEVELOPER’S TIME EVERY YEAR. THE STALE, MOLDY BAGEL ON MY DESK COULD BUILD A BETTER PRODUCT THAN THAT PIECE OF CRAP YOU’VE ATTEMPTED TO CALL A BROWSER FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS. A PUBLIC APOLOGY FOR BEING INEPT AND EVIL WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!

I knew better than to post that when my blood was still boiling, but I included it here to demonstrate how much anger and resentment the developer community is amassing toward Microsoft because of Internet Explorer. I regularly speak with other developers at other startups about the IE challenge, and I typically hear an equally passionate disdain for Internet Explorer. As a result, Microsoft is doing long-term damage to its brand because they are quickly coming to be seen as slow moving, obstinant and inept by the very web developers they need so badly to continue writing apps on their platforms. As developer confidence erodes, so will their market dominance.

Case in point. Our solution was to stop supporting Internet Explorer for our gamification CMS used by our business customers. Our business customers are typically much more sophisticated than a typical web user, and as such we now prompt all of them to upgrade to a modern browser (either Chrome or Firefox will work wonderfully) when using our gamification CMS. This solution is increasingly becoming the norm amongst web developers, and I think we’ll see the trend accelerate in the coming years.

BigDoor will, of course, continue to make sure all of our consumer facing applications (like our gamification MiniBar) work with every browser out there. It isn’t easy to do, but we can’t afford to turn away consumers using IE. But when it comes to our B2B products, we are taking a stand, deciding to move faster, and deciding to no longer let Microsoft’s sorry excuse for a browser slow this startup down. 

I’m still hopeful that Microsoft will realize how damaging it is to their entire franchise to alienate and anger web developers by their lack of support for standards. I’m hopeful that they will get religion around web standards and that IE 9 will comply with those standards. Microsoft, are you listening? I’m begging you – I want to again root for the home team!

Developers and startups, do you agree? Or are we just a bunch of angry curmudgeons shaking our virtual fists in the air and yelling at the neighbor kids to stay off our lawn?  Comment and tell us what you think.

–Keith