February 15, 2010, 5:24 PM — I can't stand IE (Internet Explorer) 6. I'm in good company. Most people hate it. Even Microsoft can't find a kind word to say for the 8+ year old Web browser. While I've liked IE8 at first as a possible replacement, as I've continued to use it, I've found it's more trouble than it's worth.
First, though, as for why you should dump IE6, it's hopelessly outdated. Even though IE6 still has an amazing 20% of the market, it tends to be the most insecure of all the popular Web browsers and more and more companies like Google are planning on dropping support for it.
So why not IE8? Here's why.
Number one on my list is that as time has gone on, it's become all too clear that while IE8 isn't as insecure as IE6, all of the IE family come with security defective genes. No sooner than one bug is fixed, such as the one that China appears to have exploited than another pops up, such as the recent one that allows an attacker to read every file of your PC's file system.
That's bad old news, but I found another, new fun and annoying reason why I can no longer recommend IE8: its search engine lock-in.
I recently installed a fresh copy of 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. Along the way I was setting up IE8. IE8 comes with Bing, Microsoft's own 'search' engine as its default. Now, I think Bing sucks dead basketball shoes through rusty tailpipes but, OK, it's Microsoft's Web browser, so, of course they're going to use their own search engine.
When I went about trying to change it though, I found that IE8 was doing its darnedest to keep me from changing it to another useful engine. Instead of offering me a simple choice of search engines, as Firefox does, it moved me to an Add-on Gallery: Search Providers page. There, the first time I ran it, my choices included Wikipedia, the New York Times, and Hulu. Notice what's missing? Google, Yahoo!, or even AltaVista.
What the heck was this? I ran it again and this time the usual search suspects, except for AltaVista, showed up. Still this left a bad taste in my mouth.
I'm not sure what to make of this experience. Surely, Microsoft isn't foolish enough to try to hide its competition from end-users. They got blasted by the U.S. Courts for similar reasons for what they did to Netscape. While the U.S. has been ignoring Microsoft's sometimes questionable monopolistic actions, the European Commission is still keeping a close eye on Microsoft when it comes to Web browser.
Still, for me, this was just one more reason to avoid IE8. Whether it was deliberate or not, it was certainly an odd moment. And, in any case, IE, no matter what version you're running, is still too insecure for me. Instead, I suggest you try Chrome, Firefox, Opera, which seems to be faster than ever, or Safari. Whatever one you go with, it will be safer, probably faster, and not so inclined to make changing your default search provider an adventure.