So I had to spend a little time yesterday re-familiarizing myself with Microsoft's Sharepoint product, as I was preparing for a phone interview with a company that uses it. I was watching a video demo from a MS geek when I noticed a funny looking icon on his screen: that's Firefox (bottom of image, beside the IE icon), the open-source web browser that is MS Internet Explorer's chief competition in the web browser market. And it appears to be that geek's default browser on his machine (see the icon for the web page link on his desktop at the upper left).
Geeks don't really care about their corporate affiliations. They behave essentially the way the rest of us do, or should, or once did, in America -- they choose what works best (when you work in the IT sector of a big company, you can sometimes get away with receiving local installations of alt-software for the purposes of "testing"). Corporations are slowly, but inexorably catching on: Google has decided to stop supporting IE6 on its Youtube site, beginning in about ten days. Many geeks blame IE6 for the Chinese cyber-attack on Google's and some 30 other corporate web servers that we covered earlier this year, details of which are still emerging.
For years, I messed around with the HTML of this site to keep it displaying properly in IE6, and finally gave it up as a bad job this year. Every single web browser out there, from Safari to Firefox to Opera to the lowly KDE Linux Konqueror, effortlessly and correctly displays our content, images, videos, and sidebar material. Only IE, especially IE6, has trouble with it. It is an insecure, outdated, abysmal application that consistently fails where others succeed. Yet, when I was pushed off the sinking ship of AIG last year, their corporate standard web browser was still...IE6. Stupidity and stubbornness are usually very happily, or at least inseparably, married.
But you're running XP, Vista, or some other version of Windows and have had IE6 for a long time and don't feel like leaving the devil you know -- what to do? Well, the simple answer is exactly what MS wants you to do: upgrade to IE7 or IE8. It's not the worst answer -- IE8 performs considerably more reliably and smoothly than 6. But it's still IE, with the same old antiquated Trident engine running it. My recommendation would be Google Chrome, because it's fast, safe, and user-friendly on its interface. Firefox is also an excellent option, and I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the performance of Opera as well. And if you're working for a company that still is in the IE6 swamp, I'd ask why. By this time, given the seriousness of the Chinese attacks, it's a very good question to ask the government, via your local Congressman or Senator. How is it that the world's most advanced and wealthiest nation can only deliver barely half of the broadband Internet access to its citizens of, say, Denmark or Canada or Switzerland, and is still technologically and politically in the pocket of a corporation that perpetually churns out unsafe and dysfunctional product (MS)? If America is so great, how come it is so damned slow and stupid on the uptake of the simplest, clearest issues of fact and experience?
When even a geek paid by MS goes public with his implicit disdain for his boss's own product, that should send a message to the rest of us.