Enterprise Software

Both Internet Explorer and Firefox Need To Be Held to a Higher Standard


David Berlind over at ZDNet recently responded to George Ou's piece on the possibility of media bias regarding coverage of Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Let us apply my patented Logic Analysis System on the concept of holding companies to different standards for the same type of product, using some of Mr. Berlind's arguments:

"Internet Explorer can be held to a higher standard than Firefox because it has been on the market longer. In addition, Microsoft has plenty of money and can hire the best engineers in unlimited quantities. Microsoft has been making bold claims about IE whereas the Firefox team does not. Therefore, when Internet Explorer has defects in terms of stability and security it is much more of a problem than when Firefox does."

Let's first parse out all product references and replace them with variables:

"{Product A} can be held to a higher standard than {Product B} because it has been on the market longer. In addition, {Company A} has plenty of money and can hire the best engineers in unlimited quantities. {Company A} has been making bold claims about {Product A} whereas {Company B} does not. Therefore, when {Product A} has defects in terms of {Defect X} and {Defect Y} it is much more of a problem than when {Product B} does."

Now, let's try filling in some new values:

Product A = "Ford Explorer"

Product B = "Kia Sportage"

Company A = "Ford"

Company B = "Kia"

Defect X = "engine fires"

Defect Y = "brake malfunction"

"Ford Explorer can be held to a higher standard than Kia Sportage because it has been on the market longer. In addition, Ford has plenty of money and can hire the best engineers in unlimited quantities. Ford has been making bold claims about Ford Explorer whereas Kia does not. Therefore, when Ford Explorer has defects in terms of engine fires and brake malfunction it is much more of a problem than when Kia Sportage does."

All of a sudden, this type of statement doesn't sound so great, does it?

What I find even more amazing is that the Web 2.0 cheerleaders seem to closely overlap the Firefox groupies (as well as the Google bootlickers, for that matter). They want to replace most of userland applications with Web-based applications, but they seem to have no problem if the web browser is filled with problems? It is fine to use a buggy, error prone product as long as it is GPLed? Especially when you want the browser to replace most userland applications? Get real.

Some argue that since you pay to use Internet Explorer (indirectly though an OS license) and Firefox is 100% free, that Internet Explorer can be held to a higher standard. This is an excellent point, but not completely correct. If you had a choice between paying for IE and not paying for IE (such as purchasing it separately, or as an add-on to Windows) then this might be a legitimate argument. Similarly, if the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows played a part in your choice in operating systems, then it could be said that you are paying for Internet Explorer. But in all honesty, if you chose Windows for reasons that have nothing to do with Internet Explorer, you did not really pay for it; you got it as gravy.

A lot of people also emphasize that Firefox is a new product, and where it is at this stage of development (better than Internet Explorer on some things, more features than Internet Explorer, not as good for other things) is amazing considering its age. This is a completely bogus statement! Firefox actually comes from an older code tree than Internet Explorer! How is that? Firefox is actually the Mozilla Web browser at heart, sans the Mozilla suite (originally it started off as a lightweight browser, but it is now just as heavy as Mozilla). And where did Mozilla come from? It came from Netscape, when Netscape open-sourced Navigator ages ago. Netscape was on the market before Internet Explorer. So to give Firefox bonus points for its age is simply ignoring history.

The real truth is, Internet Explorer and Firefox need to be held to the same standard, and that standard is not the one that Firefox is being held to; it is the standard that Internet Explorer is being held to, if not a higher one. It is downright shameful that Internet Explorer still has as many bugs and security holes as it does. I do not know if ActiveX is disabled by default, but it should be. Internet Explorer, to be frankly honest, is a dog. It is not standards compliant, its PNG rendering is messy at best and ActiveX is still filled with security holes, and so on and so on. If Internet Explorer needs to meet this standard, than so should Firefox. I do not consider either one of them to be particularly great products. I rarely use Firefox, except to test cross-platform compatibility, so I cannot truly judge it as a browser. But from all of the reports I read regarding its stability, I think I would prefer to avoid it for the time being. When it comes to web browsers, my personal choice is less features, probably less secure (I do not think we will be able to really judge Firefox's security for a while longer), and more stability. I rarely go to Web sites that I am not familiar with, I have locked down Internet Explorer fairly tightly, and I most definitely do not go to Web sites of a questionable nature. But I frequently have a web browser open, and cannot afford to have it crashing on me repeatedly.

There is no extra credit for an engineer who designs a bridge that only partially collapses. There is no curve for an auto maker who has a faulty product that kills only 25% of the people who own the product. There is no bonuses to give to programmers who write code that allows security breaches. Period. It does not matter who you are. So why give one product a free pass (or a reduce fare admission) and not another? Especially when both browsers need a lot more work to be ready to transition to the world of online applications replacing desktop applications?

J.Ja

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

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