Friday, October 03, 2003

31 Reasons to Avoid Internet Explorer

So you've run Windows Update, downloaded all the latest patches, set up a firewall, and are therefore safe from attack, right? Before patting yourself on the back, you might want to take a look at the link above; yes, that's right, there are 31 separate unfixed security holes in Internet Explorer as of the present time, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to fix them!

Actually, I exaggerate slightly, as there is an alternative to getting off the web altogether: junk IE, and go get yourself a real browser, like Mozilla 1.4, or Mozilla Firebird. Not only are these browsers devoid of the gargantuan security hassles that stem from Microsoft's "ActiveX" technology, but they also happen to be the most standards-compliant web browsers out there, bar none. "Standards compliance?" you ask, "what is it that I should give a damn about it?" Well, for one thing, it enables exciting new possibilities like MathML, or text-based mathematical markup, which you can see being put to effective use on sites like string theorist Jacques Distler's blog.1

MathML may not be a pressing need for everyone else out there, but the componentized approach to markup that XHTML 1.1 offers, and which Mozilla-based browsers support, means that private groups or individuals can come up with their own markup schemes and expect other people's browsers to support them flawlessly. Imagine, for instance, being able to look at and manipulate complicated molecules without having to download a plugin!2 Imagine being able to enjoy vector-based animation without having to deal with the annoyance of Macromedia Flash!3 Unfortunately, the road to this promised land will not be open until people begin to junk Microsoft's browser in large numbers. Internet Explorer is not only a bundle of security holes pretending to be a web browser, but also a tremendous obstacle in the way of technological progress. Spread the word - "Friends Don't Let Friends Use IE!"

1 - Provided you have a MathML-capable browser, of course.
2 - There is in fact already a Chemical Markup Language.
3 - The W3C's Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) standard permits precisely this.