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Hate IE with a Passion

There's no denial that HTML5 Gaming is going to be huge. It was a big topic at this year's GDC and there's an arcade machine running an HTML5 game currently at SXSW. I've been at Future of Mobile and onGameStart last year, giving some insight and showing off my Game Engine. HTML5 Gaming is here to stay.

In my talk at onGameStart I had a short section dedicated to Internet Explorer: I apologized to the one guy from Microsoft in the audience - then switched to a slide stating "Hate IE with a Passion" and a next one showing the IE logo with a speech bubble, proclaiming "Please kill me!", disgustingly set in Comic Sans because "IE doesn't deserve a better font".

The part about IE is 26 minutes in.

But wait, didn't I say in an earlier post that IE9 works great with my Game Engine?

IE9's smoothness on the other hand is remarkable. Of all browsers and systems I tested, IE9 subjectively produced the best results.

IE9 was a huge leap forward from IE8 and all the things that are implemented in IE9 work pretty well. There are some problems with

So where's the problem?

It's all the things that IE9 doesn't do. And I'm not talking about some nice to have features, but Microsoft's general attitude. They pretty much ensure that IE will always stay obsolete and be every developer's last choice. Here's how.

Auto Updates and Release Cycle

This is a big one. IE8 was released in March 2009, IE9 in March 2011 - two years later. There's no release date for IE10 yet, but it will take at least until March next year. Microsoft has finally decided to have some sort of auto update, but it will leave a lot of users behind. It will take years until all IE users have updated.

Compare this with the Chrome and Firefox guys: they release a new version every 6 weeks now. And the best thing - users don't even notice. Chrome's update mechanism is truly invisible to the average user. If you're doing some cutting edge web stuff, you no longer have to say "works in Chrome 17", but just "works in Chrome". Nobody cares about the version number, because everyone is always on the newest version, or at most two versions behind.

From a developers standpoint, this is invaluable. It brings us certainty. We can be sure that any feature that was added 12 weeks ago has now arrived for the vast majority of users.

Not so with IE. Paul Irish recently had a beautiful article about the clusterfuck that is Microsoft's lifecycle policy. It's just sad.

<Video> and <Audio> Codecs

Firefox, Chrome and Opera support the open source WebM and Ogg Theora video codecs and the open source Ogg Vorbis audio codec. IE supports none of these.

I know WebM is controversial, but damn, they are Microsoft. They should be able to come up with a solution that's good for the web: Buy the MPEG-LA and release all h264 patents in the public domain; improve WebM; invent a new, open video codec. Whatever, just do something.

With Ogg Vorbis I can't even think of single reason not to support it. Over the last few month I asked a few guys from Microsoft why they don't support Ogg Vorbis - nobody could give me an answer. Nobody knows. Maybe we are not complaining loud enough?

WebAudio, Fullscreen, Mouselock…

There are ongoing efforts to implement better audio APIs, fullscreen support, mouse lock (all desperately needed for games) and a whole bunch of other stuff. And browser vendors are working together to form a common standard - yet, Microsoft is curiously absent from these discussions.

Of course IE will support those features eventually. Maybe in version 11 or 12, after every other major browser made it clear that these are useful and important. Then it will take another 3-4 years for IE users to update. So we can safely use the fullscreen API for IE in about 6 years. Awesome.

Microsoft should spark those discussions instead of trying to catch up years later.

IE is slowing everyone down and makes your life as a developer more complicated. It actively prevents progress. Microsoft just looks at what everyone else does, implements the bare minimum they need in order to not be completely ignored and annoys us with a yearly update cycle and millions of users unable or unaware to update. This is not how the web works.

I wrote this post because I still care about IE - I still haven't given up completely.

What can you do? Force Microsoft to fix IE or let it die?

Hate IE with a passion!

Wednesday, March 14th 2012
— Dominic Szablewski, @phoboslab