Category Archives: Uncategorized

Browser Wars: Why Internet Explorer 6 Still Exists

At CNet News today, the article What browser wars? The enterprise still loves IE 6 nicely sums all the reasons that Internet Explorer 6 is still in use in enterprise environments. The dominance of Internet Explorer 6 in the workplace is something I discussed a few days ago, supported by the pattern of higher weekday use of this browser during the work-week.

Limiting employees to a browser that is considered an ancient technology by Web developers poses an interesting dichotomy to companies. Internally, they are powering their internal applications with coal and steam, and turning the cogs of business with leather drive-belts. Externally, the customers get to see a site that is shiny, one that has all the gadgets of a rich-Internet application that require the computationally advanced capabilities of a modern browsers.

To some extent, the companies who use Internet Explorer 6 internally are saying to their employees that the Internet is simply another desktop application that they must use.

I am firm believer that the Web will be the home of many of the applications we use on a daily basis in the very near future [here and here]. My vision of this is that the Web application is designed to free the user, and lessen the workload for IT departments.

Most organizations continue to see the Internet as a negative, a threat to productivity, a necessary evil. So if they restrict their employees and provide them with a browser that doesn’t quite work properly on the Internet, they still have ultimate control.

I have had the benefit of working for organizations throughout my professional career that did (do) not limit my choice of browser or operating system, allowing me to find my own preference. I realize that this is rare in corporate Industrial Culture, and I consider myself lucky.

So, why is their still a need for Internet Explorer 6? Frankly, there is really no need for it in my opinion, and the CNet News article has a table from Forrester that supports that. That doesn’t mean that my browser idealism and utopian dream of “may the best browser win” will hold any sway over the IT decision makers in large organizations.

StatCounter still shows that during the week, Internet Explorer 6 holds 12% of the browser share in the US [here]. So, will this 12% of the browser world hold back the promise of the Internet for the rest of us?

Browser Wars: Internet Explorer 8.0 Released on Windows Update

While I was performing my standard Windows Update on my work virtual machine this morning, I wondered if the promised Internet Explorer 8.0 release to Windows Update had been dropped.

I switched to my test-bed, vanilla Windows XP virtual machine, ran Windows Update, and PING! Up it came. The masses of people who blindly do what Windows Update tells them to do will now be installing Internet Explorer 8 on their machines.

The interesting thing is that the only piece of software that Windows Update said was a critical Update was Internet Explorer 8.0. Given that it would be replacing Internet Explorer 7.0 on my virtual machine, how bad was Internet Explorer 7? Are they trying to push MSIE6 and MSIE7 out of the way ASAP?

Today should see a large number of new installs of Internet Explorer 8, either on purpose or inadvertently by those folks who install everything that Microsoft tells them to. I will be monitoring StatCounter’s GlobalStats over the next few days to see if there is a spike in, most notably, US installs of Internet Explorer 8.

Just as a sidebar, Internet Explorer 8, without the support of Windows Update, has increased from 3.5% to 6.28% of the browser share in the US (3.33% to 6.2% in North America; 2.65% to 4.4% Worldwide) in the April 1-28 2009 period. [Stats courtesy of StatCounter GlobalStats]

I can’t make a lot of comments about the quality of browsing experience in one version of Internet Explorer over another; I have been a dedicated Firefox user on Mac, and a Safari user on Windows (yes, that is weird) for a while. But the desire to move as many people as quickly as possible to a new browser speaks volumes to where Microsoft thinks the Web is going. And they realize that it is not going in the direction that its older browsers had been taking it.

Further Updates will follow.

UPDATE: A colleague forwarded me this article on the release of Internet Explorer 8 to Windows Update. Effectively, you still have to go through the Web interface and agree to download the new browser. It’s not being pushed down onto Windows users through the automatic update built into the OS, no doubt to placate the glacially-slow IT departments I mentioned here.

Browser Wars: The Unique Pattern Of MSIE 6.0

Internet Explorer 6.0, that infamous dinosaur from the dark ages of 2001, is still with us. And on occasion, I have hinted that this is the result of the biblically-slow pace of change in large corporate IT departments.

Well, now I have proof of this.

Using data from our good friends at StatCounter, this graph leaped from the screen and nearly exploded my mind.

statCounter-USA- APRIL1-262009

The pattern in the data is clear, if you are paying attention, which I haven’t been. The dips that appear in the Internet Explorer stats occur on weekends.

That means that many of the Internet Explorer 6.0 users are only using it because it is forced on them by their IT departments.

Why?

Dear IT professionals of the world: Internet Explorer 6.0 is an exploit waiting to happen and a barrier to inventive Web development. Please upgrade. Thank you.

Browser Wars: StatCounter Data for Europe

In the previous installment in this series, I looked at the browser share in North America. Across the water in Europe, the browser distribution metrics show the unique flavor that this continent brings to this fluid arena.

In Europe, MSIE7 and Firefox 3 are effectively tied for the lead as the most dominant browser, followed distantly by MSIE6. As in North America, MSIE8 has substantially increased it’s market share since its March 19 2009 release, but it has not caught up to Europe’s favorite son, Opera 9.6.

browser-wars-eu-mar1-apr172009-line

What is clear is that MSIE8′s gain is MSIE7′s loss. Comparing March 1-19 with April 1-19, the shift away from MSIE7 is almost equal to the shift to MSIE8, meaning that people that are upgrading to MSIE8 in Europe are doing so, in the most part, directly from MSIE7.

There is little or no change to the MSIE6 install base, indicating that this is an entrenched population, likely in large corporations or government agencies.

browser-wars-eu-mar1-192009-bar

browser-wars-eu-apr1-172009-bar

Like in North America, the big factor to watch is how quickly the MSIE6 population decreases. Europe already has an entrenched population of alternative browser users, mostly with Firefox 3. When Opera 10 and Firefox 3.1 are released, it is likely that these people will move directly to these browsers.

What remains to be seen is how the strong anti-Microsoft sentiment in Europe affects the adoption of MSIE8.

On the persistence of family – William A Kinnear

The call came this morning.

It really wasn’t unexpected. Whenever I get one of those rare calls from my mother, I half expected the reason was to tell me that he had passed. It’s that aching feeling of tension that the ringing phone was going to tell me that he was gone.

My grandfather and I were from very different worlds. He spent too much of his life underground. His knees, shoulders, hearing all showed that.

His world was experienced through the muscles, the bones. His world was wrenched from the earth, shaped by his hands, pulled from the grime of machines. It was a world of men, a world that is as incomprehensible to me as mine was to him.

I knew he was a ladies man. You know the one: Dashing, attractive with a strong temper and a brooding, unpredictable temperament. The man of mystery that all ladies ask about.

He was faithful to one woman, my grandmother, until the day she died. Their relationship was a war between personalities, that explosive combination of friction and passion that made it one of the strongest bonds I have ever seen.

He mourned her until the day he died. Whenever I visited, the discussion eventually drifted around to his Nettie. That distant look came over his failing blue eyes, the panorama of memory clearly playing on his face.

My grandfather and I shared one thing: The powerful mood swings that were fueled by the same catastrophic failure of our brains to handle the world in a reasonable way.

I found peace through medication. Grandpa started with the numbing power of rye to help take the edge of his mental anguish. And when he was forced to make a choice between the drink and his life, he chose his life and left the drink behind.

He took the restless energy that drove him to drink and channeled it into the furniture he restored.

People from far and wide brought him pieces that were lost, beaten, destroyed. In his hands, their inner beauty was exposed.

Each piece of furniture was a piece of his life that he was atoning for. A mistake that he was trying to repair. A memory he was sharing. Those memories are scattered now, among family, friends, strangers. And with each memory shared, he ensured that he would live on.

His best gift to me was to help me realize that the mistakes of youth can be restored, repaired, but memory reminds us that they can never be undone.

I miss you grandpa. Travel in peace.

William A. Kinnear – 1919-2009.

MSIE6 Euthanized. Rejoicing Among Web Developers Begins.

It’s official. According to the IE Dev Blog at MSDN, MSIE8 will be the direct upgrade path via Windows Update in the third week of April. [here]

I discussed the slow decrease in MSIE6 browser share earlier today, but it is not occurring fast enough for my liking. It is a browser from what seems like a generation ago.

To give you some idea of why MSIE6 should gently euthanized, when it was a shiny new browser:

  • Facebook, MySpace, GMail, and YouTube did not exist
  • You could count the number of bloggers (remember them?) on one hand
  • UserLand was the primary blogging tool. Or a text editor.
  • Scoble didn’t work for Microsoft
  • Excite and AltaVista were still viable search engines

Is it too early to write a redirect rule to direct MSIE6 users to a page telling them to upgrade to view content?

[Image courtesy of CreativeBits]

Browser Wars: StatCounter Data for North America

Tracking browser penetration and market share has become a new obsession with me. With 2009 shaping up to be the year of the browser container, the choices that people make will affect the development of Web technologies for the next few years.

So far, the only new player to come out of the gate as a production release is MSIE8. Since March 19, MSIE8 has seen a slow and steady increase in market share, at least in North America. This has occurred, as I have noted previously, without the support of Windows Update, which will drive millions of users to automatically upgrade their systems.

NA-browser stats-MAR15-APR132009

What can be seen in this data from StatCounter is that MSIE8 is finally (Thank [insert deity or supernatural object here]!) taking market share away from MSIE6. As the corporate browser of choice (mainly because IT departments don’t have the resources or initiative to sign-off on MSIE7), MSIE6 is the default platform that all developers are forced to lower their standards to.

One can hope that IT departments will allow their customer base to make the leap directly to MSIE8 from MSIE6. We can all celebrate now, as the StatCounter data now shows that MSIE6 has dropped below 10% market share.

NA-browser stats-APR1-132009

What is more interesting is that Firefox 3.0 made a serious encroachment into MSIE7 near the end of March. I am not aware of what may have caused this, and would be interested to hear if the StatCounter team has any insight into why this may have occurred.

Scaling Web Analytics – Considerations for Consumers

A comment on my Hit Tracking with PHP and MySQL post raised some interesting questions about what a consumer of Web analytics data needs to consider when selecting providers for their sites.

Most folks are familiar with the model of Web analytics vendors: You place their JS tag on your page which makes a call back to their centralized system with all of the data that can be collected about the visitor who has just come to your site.

There are three items that you, the consumer of this third-party service, need to get straight answers about.

Performance of the Tag

Visitors to your site do not know which components you are responsible for and which you have farmed out to vendors and services. In their mind, all content is your content. This means that the performance of the Web analytics tag, which if not placed correctly on the page can affect the rendering of the content, is a critical factor in selecting a vendor.

To my knowledge, none of the Web analytics vendors used by most people blog and social media firms (StatCounter, GetClicky, Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.) freely share response time and error rate metrics of their tag infrastructure with the world as measured by a third party.

Is the tag delivered from a central location, or does the provider use a CDN? Is the data delivered asynchronously or synchronously?

The download performance of the tag is not the only concern. Ask them to provide data on the average processing time that they see when a client parses and processes the code. How does this processing time vary from browser to browser, between OSs? What steps are they taking to ensure that the tag does not affect the perceived performance of your page?

Ask for this data. Ask that the measurement data be collected by an impartial third party. Demand that this data be freely available to you before you make a decision on purchasing their service.

Size of the Tag

All of these services rely on a JS tag to collect and deliver the data to their data warehouse. Ask the provider to tell you how large this tag is, and what steps they have taken to reduce its size so that it has a limited effect on the download of your content.

Have they minified the tag? Is it delivered using HTTP compression to further reduce the size? Are ways to reduce the size of the tag always under considerations?

Data Storage

Analyzing data takes a couple of forms: daily operational views to spot changes or issues; and long-term trending to find larger patterns and major shifts in your visitors. As a result, data needs to be available with a substantial degree of detail while still providing aggregated data that allows larger patterns to be easily discovered.

How long does your provider store detailed data? What is the data expiry policy? Can you extract the data and import it into your own database?

Summary

Web analytics is key to determining what works and doesn’t work on your site. It tells who, where and how people are accessing your content. But without a Web analytics partner/vendor that provides performance and support, you may be left more in the cold than if you were just looking at your raw Web logs.

IPV4 and Registrar Data – April 10 2009

From my IPV4 database, here are the the Registrar and Country statistics as of April 10 2009.

Since the last update, ARIN has crossed the 1.6B IPV4 address boundary, adding nearly 5M IPV4 Addresses. APNIC matched this growth by adding an additional 5M new addresses of its own.

Registrar      Number of IPV4 Adresses
---------      -----------------------
arin                    1,600,640,000
ripencc                   564,850,616
apnic                     528,362,496
lacnic                     79,931,136
afrinic                    21,526,272

The majority of the growth in APNIC continues to be driven by China, which added an additional 4M IPV4 addresses since March 14.

Country                                     Number of IPV4 Adresses
------------------------------------------  -----------------------
UNITED STATES                                            1472741888
CHINA                                                     191119104
JAPAN                                                     152412672
EUROPEAN UNION                                            114155680
GERMANY                                                    85174424
CANADA                                                     75846144
KOREA, REPUBLIC OF                                         72142592
UNITED KINGDOM                                             70675288
FRANCE                                                     68370880
AUSTRALIA                                                  36573184
ITALY                                                      32202432
BRAZIL                                                     29754880
TAIWAN, PROVINCE OF CHINA                                  24680704
RUSSIAN FEDERATION                                         24529224
SPAIN                                                      21794976
MEXICO                                                     21504000
NETHERLANDS                                                21290792
SWEDEN                                                     18982304
INDIA                                                      18285568
SOUTH AFRICA                                               14009344
POLAND                                                     13869704
TURKEY                                                     10417600
DENMARK                                                     9281632
FINLAND                                                     8932864
ROMANIA                                                     8640512
SWITZERLAND                                                 8249320
HONG KONG                                                   8206848
NORWAY                                                      7425584
AUSTRIA                                                     7290592
ARGENTINA                                                   7239424
INDONESIA                                                   6997248
VIETNAM                                                     6707456
BELGIUM                                                     6412416
NEW ZEALAND                                                 6115072
CZECH REPUBLIC                                              6040960
UKRAINE                                                     5507904
THAILAND                                                    4743936
CHILE                                                       4731136
PORTUGAL                                                    4473952
SINGAPORE                                                   4410880
COLOMBIA                                                    4261632
IRELAND                                                     4203680
MALAYSIA                                                    4147456
PHILIPPINES                                                 4070656
ISRAEL                                                      3949760
GREECE                                                      3834624
HUNGARY                                                     3716480
VENEZUELA                                                   3693056
BULGARIA                                                    3334912
EGYPT                                                       2731008
SAUDI ARABIA                                                2703616
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES                                        2286848
LITHUANIA                                                   2009216
IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF                                   1894400
PERU                                                        1715968
PAKISTAN                                                    1637632
CROATIA                                                     1623136
SLOVAKIA                                                    1611520
COSTA RICA                                                  1502208
LATVIA                                                      1384448
SLOVENIA                                                    1277952
PANAMA                                                      1130240
MONTENEGRO                                                  1083648
ESTONIA                                                     1021464

As China’s Internet growth continues, the number of addresses assigned to ISPs in that nation will continue to grow. However, it is unlikely that China will equal or exceed the US mainly due to the movement to mobile devices, which will be managed using private IP space rather than public IPs.

Why Chrome 2.0 Dev was Deleted

I deleted Chrome 2.0 from my system on Friday for one very powerful reason: When it is installed, it makes itself the default browser.

Its performance gains and light weight were impressive. But its invasion of my system was uncalled for.

No matter which browser you set to be the default browser, Chrome 2.0 prevents that browser from regaining control. If you click a link in another program, Chrome launches, even if you set MSIE or Firefox or Safari as the default browser.

I thought that kind of behavior was behind browser manufacturers.