Yet again Microsoft miss the point

I can easily write a web page using standard HTML and CSS and have it display correctly on every major web browser… except Internet Explorer. I can even throw in some advanced code in the form of SVG, canvas and some CSS3 – relatively cutting-edge stuff – and have it display correctly on every major browser… except Internet Explorer.

Most browser vendors, you see, are proud of how well they implement the standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (the W3C, as they’re known). They’re proud of the fact that a web site written to these specs will work in their browser just as well as it will work in a competing browser. They understand that the days of “This page is best viewed with Netscape” are – or at least should be – long gone.

Microsoft, apparently, didn’t get the memo. They’re still proud of the fact that they can write web pages that only their browser can display. They’re still living in the world of “Best viewed with Netscape” only they’ve gone one further – “Only viewable with Internet Explorer”.

Microsoft Australia, you see, has created an online treasure hunt with a chance of winning $10,000 (that’s Australian dollars, so about £5,000) – but the page you need to track down is “a cleverly concealed webpage that only Internet Explorer 8 can view”. Furthermore, if you do visit the site using a non-IE browser, you’ll get an insulting comment about your choice of browser:

  • Visit with Firefox and it says: “you’ll never find it using old Firefox. (So get rid of it, or get lost.)”
  • Visit with Safari and you get told that your browser is “boring”
  • Visit with Chrome and it says: “you’ll never find it using that tarnished Chrome (So get rid of it, or get lost.)”
  • Opera gets off lightly – you just get told “you’ll never find it using that browser” – but that’s probably just a default if it doesn’t recognise your browser (which is itself an insult to Opera)

So well done Microsoft Australia. Not only are you actively encouraging browser-specific sites – something that everyone else has been trying to get away from for the past five years – but you also think that insulting your potential users is the best way to encourage adoption of your less-than-impressive browser.

Update, 19th June 1009: Okay, I know I can get a bit wordy sometimes. Mitchell Baker (Mozilla’s “Chief Lizard Wrangler”, or “Boss” to you and me) has a much more succinct and to-the-point post about this which is worth reading.