European Flag Creative Commons License photo credit: rockcohen

The EU wants to stop Microsoft from bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system. In today’s day and age, how does this make sense? The charge is led by Opera, who claims that having Internet Explorer ship with Windows unfairly limits competitors from getting through to customers.

Any web designer will tell you that Internet Explorer is one of the most challenging browsers to target since it basically ignores web standards and renders web pages in its own proprietary way. So the design pattern we follow is:

  1. Design web site using sane browsers
  2. Mutilate our markup so it renders as desired on Internet Explorer

Apologies for the digression, but the point is there is a lot of work needed to make web sites work properly for one web browser. Why do it? Depending on the site, up to 65% of your visitors will be using some version of Internet Explorer - not because it is any “better” but simply because they don’t know about alternatives or haven’t taken the time to try them. Likewise for Safari among Apple users - most people don’t customize their computing experience and simply deal with their default settings.

In that regard, Opera’s proposal makes sense - force vendors to include 3rd party browsers along with Internet Explorer on new machines. But… which browsers should be included? Firefox, Opera, Safari, Netscape? What about the dozens (hundreds?) of others? Who chooses which ones are “mainstream” enough to be included?

The biggest problem I have with this is that Microsoft has done nothing to prevet users from switching web browsers. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, your first move upon booting a new PC is to download Firefox/Chrome and ditch Internet Explorer (that’s one of the main advantages I get from targeting a technical audience).

Suiong Microsoft is not the answer - we need to work on the unwashed masses and teach people to make their own/better choices when it comes to their web browsing experience. While we’re at it, perhaps we can all learn to keep our systems patched as well…