Good riddance, IE, part deux

This morning, Microsoft released a slightly-updated version of IE for Mac OS X, version 5.2.3. While no future development is planned, Microsoft will update this last version of IE as needed. I hope Ric doesn’t mind my copying this from today’s Macintouch, but he doesn’t provide a permanent link to this story:

Clint McIntosh summarized the issues of Microsoft dropping Internet Explorer development for the Mac (something the company also has done on the Windows platform):

Microsoft is saying that they can’t do as good of a job as Apple of integrating the browser with the MacOS as a a reason they are halting development of Internet Explorer and that Safari is an excellent browser even in this public beta stage. BUT there is a serious problem ahead of us Mac users that deals with browser detection at many sites.

Many sites that rely on security or on compatibility do a browser check when you first try to view their pages. They usually make sure you are running MSIE 5.x or higher or even Netscape 4.x and higher. I’ve found that a lot of site developers don’t even realize that there are many more browsers other than IE and Netscape–either that or they just don’t care.

I’ve already found quite a few sites that don’t work at all with Safari such as my online banking through SouthTrust bank. I’ve written to the webmasters of those sites that aren’t Safari friendly but the standard answer I get back is Our site only works with Internet explorer and netscape.”

Using iCab’s ability to identify itself as another browser, I’ve found that there is no technical reason for the limitation to IE and Netscape. They just do browser checks and see that you are using something other than IE and Netscape they deny you access. I’m not a fan of Microsoft but I do use IE on those occasions when I just can’t get a page to work with any other browser. Netscape 7 is just too slow and bloated for my liking and it still doesn’t work on a lot of sites where Netscape 4.x works flawlessly.

I’ve tried and compared the features of iCab, Opera, OmniWeb and others. They all have their good points, but Safari wins out overall. If Safari is going to be a suitable replacement for MSIE, Apple is going to have to either change the identifier to pretend it is IE or they are going to have to market the hell out of Safari to get the name known out there as a major player AND they are going to have to beef up a lot of the compatibility issues before they finalize it as a 1.0 release. There’s also the issue of browser plugins, but that’s another story.

June 16, 2003