Windows IE9, born handicapped

Angela Meadon, Online Editor, IT News Africa

Microsoft has officially launched its new Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). Despite being newly hatched, IE9 has already met with serious criticism.

Microsoft is marketing IE9 as a fast, secure and beautiful browser for the “prosumer” who wants to experience the best of HTML5. IE9 draws on the computer’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to render web pages, this will make browser-based games, such as Farmville, run much more smoothly. Unfortunately for IE9, FutureMark’s Peacekeeper benchmark still puts the browser way behind Google Chrome.

This new offering from Microsoft is a visually pleasing way to use the internet, but it is massively flawed. IE9 is restricted to Windows operating systems only, and to make its potential market share even smaller, it can only be used on machines using Vista and Windows 7. “Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) will excite web developers and ‘prosumers’… but we consider it to be a non-event for the vast majority of corporate IT managers and their users.” Said Richard Edwards, principal analyst at Ovum.

“This is largely because IE9 does not run on Windows XP – the operating system running on 67% of corporate desktops,” Edwards said. “Organisations with public-facing websites will probably try and encourage consumers to use the more capable, web standards compliant IE9 in order to make life easier for their web developers and to wow them with a richer experience, but non-technical users will probably wait until Microsoft pushes the browser out in a Windows service pack.”

According to current OS market numbers, Windows XP still has more than half of the market, and the combined share of Windows 7 and Windows Vista PCs is less than the 35 percent share that IE8 has now.

IE9 has also been further criticised for flaws in the anti-tracking tool built into the software. The multiple Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs) which IE9 uses may leave the user with a false sense of security. A Stanford University study warns that the rules set (for allow or deny) become conflicted when multiple TPLs are used, which leads to any “allow” instruction overruling any “deny”.

“The issue here is that if a user installs TPLs that have ‘allows’ for web content that should be blocked, they leave themselves vulnerable to being tracked,” said Jonathan Mayer, lead researcher on Stanford University’s Do Not Track project.

Patches and updates will surely be released which address these issues, but I’m not ready to uninstall Chrome yet.

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The browser was released with a survey revealing fresh insights into the Web surfing habits of consumers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The survey found that consumers are not generally happy with the state of the web. A staggering 92% of respondents believe that today’s websites could do better, while 65% view the internet as a mixed bag in terms of the quality of websites.

According to the research, more than two-thirds (69%) of consumers cite security and viruses as their biggest concern when surfing online, followed by speed, ease of use and privacy. Surprisingly, however, the poll found an alarming amount of reckless behaviour among consumers that is putting their safety at risk, with one in three (32%) admitting to downloading files they know are suspicious-looking. South Africans (21%) are most unlikely to download an unsafe item followed by Dutch (13%).

A full 60% of respondents worry about someone seeing the sites they’re visiting online, making privacy a major concern. Intriguingly, consumers in general were most concerned about people outside of their homes accessing their online history, with 68% citing strangers as the top concern, followed by 42% who said search engines.

That doesn’t mean there are no secrets between loved ones. Men are the more covert of the sexes, with 36% of men indicating concern about their partners seeing all their online activities, compared with just 25% of women. In terms of the sites men would like to keep under wraps, online banking (62%) led, followed closely by porn sites (60%). One in five (20%) men fear their gambling habits being exposed.

Although you might think women are more inclined to go on secret online shopping sprees, you may want to reconsider, as 36% of men are keen to keep their online shopping discreet, compared with just 32% of women. 34% of women are concerned about someone seeing the porn sites they have visited.

Poll findings underscored the overall importance of speed; 24% of respondents indicated that they are not willing to wait for anything when surfing the web.

Parents would be wise to keep a close eye on what their kids are doing online, since 14- to 17-year-olds were found to be the most reckless when browsing. 57% put themselves at risk of cyber-attacks by downloading files they knew were suspicious-looking.

The survey was conducted via Microsoft MSN in 19 EMEA markets, including Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey and UK. There were 11551 respondents across all markets.

By Angela Meadon