Enterprise Browser Analysis: IE8 As Laggard

eWeek’s Jim Rapoza has done a comprehensive survey of Web browsers evaluating their suitability for Enterprise Applications. This is ever more important in the business world as Cloud Computing accelerates and Web 2.0 programs dominate new Enterprise Applications . Also Netbooks/Smartphones are becoming ever more prevalent with much better browser and Web connections. So businesses can no longer afford to make the status quo decision on a browser – there is too much at stake even sticking with the prevalent IE browser if only because of the many changes to IE’s interface and operations. But there is lts more reason – all the other browsers have gotten so much better. Hence the potential interest in and importance of Jim’s review.

Jim has long been one of the most independent and forthright reviewers of browser software. For example, he was one of the first reviewers to highlight the vastly improving performance and features in the Firefox and Safari browsers. Likewise he has promoted some of the nifty innovations in the Opera browser. So I was surprised to see three major flaws in his Enterprise Browser review.

The first major problem is not Jim’s line-up of browsers but rather which version was chosen:
Apple Safari 3.2 – instead of the stable 4.0 beta publicly available for last two months
Google Chrome 2.0 – latest release
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 – latest release
Mozilla Firefox 3.01 – instead of stable 3.5 beta available for the past 4 months
Opera 9.6 – instead of the 10.0 snapshot also publicly available
There is a failure to at least notify the public of the soon to be released and vastly improved Apple Safari 4, Mozilla Firefox 3.5, and Opera 10.0 browser.  All are publicly available, will see release well before the year end and, given their superior features and performance, should be a part of any enterprise level assessment of browsers.

The second problem is with the speed rankings in the Overall Ratings chart:

Browser
Web App Compatibility
Standards Support
Security
Administration Features
Extensibility
Browser Features
Platform Support
Performance
Chrome
Good
Excellent
Fair
Fair
Fair
Good
Fair
Excellent
Firefox
Excellent
Good
Fair
Good
Excellent
Good
Excellent
Fair
IE 8
Good Fair
Fair
Excellent
Good
Good
Fair Fair
Opera
Good
Excellent
Fair
Fair
Good
Good
Excellent Excellent
Safari
Good
Good
Fair
Fair
Fair
Good
Good
Good

source:eWeek Enterprise Browser Analysis
This performance problem is related to the first because the latest and best near-term browser technology does not get presented for users consideration – only Google Chrome and Microsoft IE have full presentation of their browser capaibilities. But there appears to be a misjudgement on the relative speed and performance of the browsers. The very recent chart from betanews shows the relative speed performance:

Clearly FireFox 3.0 does not deserve a Fair ranking along side IE8 when it nearly doubles the performance of IE8. Likewise upcoming FireFox 3.5 and Safari 4.0 will certainly be challenging and in the Excellent performance ranks respectively. Meanwhile Opera’s Excellent ranking appears to be an overrating. The following browser speed tests would lend credence to the above observations:
From Techradar – Smaller numbers mean faster performance.
IE8 5708.4ms / 5632.4ms
Safari 4 beta 994.0ms / 1138.6ms
Firefox 3.1b3 1865.0ms / 2004.8ms
Chrome 2 beta 991.2ms / 976.0ms

Meanwhile TechnologyGear shows the following results:
(1) Safari 4 beta 985.6ms / 1,079.6ms
(2) Firefox 3.1b3 2,221.2ms / 2,232.4ms
(3) Chrome 1.0.154 1,332.4ms / 1,371.2ms
(4) IE8 RC1 5,804.2ms / 5,834.6ms

In sum, I would expect Firefox to have its Fair performance rating upgraded to Good at the very least, Safari to Excellent, and Opera to be downgraded to Good.

Problem 3 – Standards Support

This blog has been following the Web standards adherence for the past five years, and there is no doubt that IE has the poorest record by far. With IE7 and again with IE8 there was great hope in the Web development community that Microsoft would finally deliver on their decades old promises to:
1)to fully implement HTML, CSS, DOM, and JavaScript standards;
2)and bring there browser extensions inline (read deprecate) with W3C and general Web standards.
After 5-6 years of no updates to Web standards, Microsoft has failed to deliver yet again. Here is an example of CSS non-compliance. For a company that could marshal 1000′s of developers to wrest the browser market share lead from Netscape aided by “cutting off the oxygen” tactics – the company’s spokespeople now claim “resource constraints” as a primary cause of their inability to deliver 10 year old standards compliance.

This has meant 10-40% more time has to be devoted to Web projects in order to make them run properly in IE. And Redmond continues to drag its feet or attempt to extend with proprietary features such key technologies as JavaScript E4X; DOM enhancements for new browser technologies like tabs and gestures; refusal to implement SVG and XForms; plus delays and proprietary proposals for HTML 5 – the record of deliberate malfeasance on Web standards by Microsoft in IE is undeniable. Thus a poor rating would send a strong and unequivocal message to Redmond – the company has not done nearly enough for the Web development community. Internet Explorer in its latest IE8 version is still lagging way behind in Web standards. Finally Microsoft’s continued laggard and often time obstructionist behaviors in Web standards compliance and development is unacceptable.

Summary

Although I agree substantially with Jim’s browser ratings I differ in a number of  notable cases. I would raise Google Chrome’s rating in Security from Fair to Good because some of its pioneering security innovations including each browser windows running in its own security sandbox. I would raise Firefox’s Standards rating from Good to Excellent because Mozilla and Firefox are always in the top 3 in standards compliance and are leading the way on E4X, SVG, HTML 5, and XForms delivery. In addition with the new 3.5 Firefox browser I would raise the performance from Good++ to Excellent and Browser Features from Good++ to Excellent. I would raise Opera’s rating on Features from Good to Excellent because Opera has consistently pioneered (and been imitated by other vendors) with features like gestures, text to voice, tabbing, and a visual carousel of frequently-visited sites. These changes when applied to Jim’s table of ratings:

Browser
Web App Compatibility
Standards Support
Security
Administration Features
Extensibility
Browser Features
Platform Support
Performance
Chrome 2
Good
Excellent
Good
Fair
Fair
Good
Fair
Excellent
Firefox 3.5
Excellent
Excellent
Fair
Good
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
IE 8
Good Poor
Fair
Excellent
Good
Good
Fair Fair
Opera 9.6
Good
Excellent
Fair
Fair
Good
Excellent
Excellent Good
Safari 4.0
Good
Good
Fair
Fair
Fair
Good
Good
Excellent

bring his overall argument into sharper focus. Yes, indeed IE is the distinct laggard in Web browser capabilities and Enterprise IT managers should not let IE’s ease of installation and administration leave their  users with a distinct competitive disadvantage, especially in the fast moving Webscape. Also with the release of Firefox 3.5, it has clearly become the best Enterprise Browser available on the market – no small achievement for a browser that debuted just 5 years ago and depends on Open Source development.
Original Release: May 31st, 2009
Updated July 27, 2009 for Apple safari 4.0 and Firefox 3.5 release

  6 comments for “Enterprise Browser Analysis: IE8 As Laggard

  1. June 1, 2009 at 7:22 am

    > … Firefox … leading the way on … SVG …

    Though Firefox is doing quite nicely on this aspect, Opera has been in the lead for years on this aspect

  2. admin
    June 1, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I agree that Opera has pioneered on SVG and that is one reason I raised their rating on Features from Good to Excellent. There are notable Firefox misses in the SVG including the animation, color profile and font-modules even in Firefox 3; but by keeping it alive and improving it among the US browser vendors Mozilla prevents SVG from becoming a European-only feature. But look at Microsoft’s moves – refusal to implement and instead a move to get elements of its XAML/WPF as the foundation for a new “presentation” standard. The last thing the Web community wants or needs is an overlaying of more de facto extensions over incompletely implemented standards.

  3. DavidM
    October 3, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Hi All,
    I am forever bemused by IE’s rating as having poor standars complience. I mean, there a very few occassions when IE doesn’t work on a complient page, and it is far more forgiving to errors or ommissions or simplifications of code and content than other browsers. Also, when you consider that there are probably more than 5,000 seperate tags, properties, and combinations of these to be supported and you can name the few that cause some problems for IE (and many more that cause even more problems for other browsers), I think that IE is held by the devel community to a higher standard than other browsers. Historically, there are many more flavours in other languages and operating systems (Unix used to have up to 20 different flavours that did not comply with one another at a fundamental level, and same went for FORTRAN, BASIC, Pascal, SQL, etc). I am not saying that efforts should net be made for everyone to be standards complient – no, I just think that people who are generally opposed to Microsoft tend to use standards as the be-all and end-all to criticise IE and other MS products when even the standards are flawed or unclear and that we should be very clear when using a term like “poor” standards complience – that would indicate to me that a page that was even vaguely standards complient would have difficulty running on IE.

    Cheers.

  4. December 6, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Internet Explorer 8 seems to be better than any previous version of IE. IE8 is very stable and rarely crashes or cause blue screens.

  5. admin
    December 7, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    David, Bruce -

    Regarding reliability, I have just been working on a report that requires me to have about 100++ browser pages open at the same time. I began doing this in IE8 because I ran into some sites that had IE-proprietary code. However, when I went to about 20 pages. IE just could not cope with the load. It stalled and just made itself completely unavailable with that load of browser windows open. On the same machine I ran the identically same websites [less the 3 offending Windows-only sites]in Google’s Chrome 4.02 browser. NO PROBLEMS WHATSOVER. In contrast, Chrome provided fast response time, quick downloads, etc, etc. That is what I mean by reliability problems.

    As for Web standards being flawed and unclear I am listening at the same time as I have 100 pages open to a lecture about ECMAScript 5 and its new standards. These guys are not fooling around – rigorous peer review, jealous watchover by many vendors, and comprehensive testing are the topics of the day.

    David, as a Web developer what I resent most of all is all the extra work I and all my Web developer colleagues have to go through to make Microsoft IE in all its incarnations [IE6 still has 20%++ market share] work properly. Read the documentation for any JavasCript Framework [jQuery, EXTjs, Mootools are good and free ones] and see how much work and sophisticated hacks the developers have to do to make their DHTML work in the IE browsers.

    Finally, if you have any doubts whatsover on whether IE trails badly in browser performance, features and standards compliance – see the following wikipedia posting : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_browsers

    Right now Microsoft is being as abusive of Web standards and development as IBM was to many people’s eyes in the lates 1980′s and early 1990′s. This disaffection was the key to Microsoft’s success, especially with Windows over the security conscious OS/2. Yet later in the decade after Windows won overwhelmingly in the market place, Windows playing fast and loose on “standards and security” caused havoc for businesses everywhere with not just blue screens of death but also a flood of worms and viruses. One sector that survived here in Canada – the banks which had standardized on OS/2 which lasted to the early 2000′s.

    So I look at the problem in this way – one of the reasons that Bill Gates is the richest person in the World is because he and his troopers have passed on a lot of HIS software’s problems [and the cost of fixing them up] on to to his customers and/or third parties. So, yes Bill and Melinda can go around the World solving some nasty but doable health problems. Well and good – but that has been done while the fixes, hacks and workarounds to IE and the Microsoft Web deficiencies [including stalling on delivering new Web standards- see Microsoft’s laggard record on XFORMS, E4X, JPEG2000, CSS3, HTML5 and likely ECMAScript 5 And as for Windows Vista, this was alpha code foisted on users. No wonder so many business shops stuck with Windows XP – while individual customers were forced to take Vista on a ll new compures from June 2008. Oh wait – no no you can get Windows XP on Netbooks because Vista would not fit …. I mean, please, defending Microsoft’s customer service record is Mission Impossible.

  6. September 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

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