Microsoft no longer has to offer EU Windows users a choice of browsers. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer has improved and Microsoft is working on a new browser. Nevertheless, we’ll show you how to install your favorite browser without touching Internet Explorer.
In 2009, the European Commission passed a directive, which prevented Microsoft from bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Over the years, Internet Explorer lost significant market shares.
Last month, the European Commission has decided to release Microsoft from its obligations, allowing the software giants the opportunity to focus its energies into Internet Explorer promotion however it sees fit. Has the EU directive worked, and will we see Internet Explorer return to the top of the rankings as the most popular browser used to download Google Chrome?
The Browser Ballot
The Microsoft Browser Ballot was a website offered to new Windows users advising them of 11 alternative browser choices to its eternally popular, pre-installed Internet Explorer software.
Implemented in 2009, the browser ballot was designed to reign in what was seen as a rampant browser monopoly as Microsoft forced Internet Explorer into users computers, many of whom were unaware that alternatives even existed. Despite already dwindling support for Internet Explorer, 2010 saw the launch of BrowserChoice.eu, designed to popup on systems where IE was still the default browser. The EU directive dictated that the popup should offer two tiers of alternative browser options to be displayed in a random order:
BrowserChoice.eu Options – March 2010
- Tier 1: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari
- Tier 2: Avant Browser, Flock, GreenBrowser, K-Meleon, Maxathon, Sleipnir, Slim Browser
BrowserChoice.eu Options – September 2014
- Tier 1: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Maxthon
- Tier 2: K-Meleon, Lunascape, SRWare Iron, Comodo Dragon, Sleipnir
Visitors to BrowserChoice.eu are now met with the following message:
This website was created by Microsoft in accordance with a decision issued by the European Commission in December 2009. The obligations imposed by the decision have now expired and Microsoft will no longer maintain this website. Microsoft encourages customers who want more information about web browsers or want to download another browser to do so by visiting the websites of web browser vendors directly.
Logically, we will now see Internet Explorer usage rise again as Microsoft can exclusively promote its own software however it deems appropriate. Though as more and more users are now aware of the alternatives, perhaps the EU directive could be considered a success? This could also have contributed to European Union reasoning in letting the directive drop at this time.
Is IE11 Actually Worth Using?
Whilst this is a thoroughly unscientific methodology, using Google auto-complete to ascertain what potential IE users are searching for, sheds some light on the current collective mindset:
Safety has always been a concern for Internet Explorer. Having the largest market share comes with its caveats and indeed, Internet Explorer is a sustained target for many varieties of malware – though this isn’t as much as an issue in the past as Google Chrome now tops the pile and Microsoft have vastly improved IE security all-round.
But it wasn’t only security issues affecting previous iterations of Internet Explorer. IE11 arrived on our desktops in October 2013, with Microsoft claiming a 9% performance improvement over IE10. Graphically intensive sites are now rendered using the GPU rather than the traditional CPU, providing a further boost to browser performance.
Websites look excellent. InPrivate browsing and browser history delete are easier to access. The SmartScreen Filter checks websites against a current threat list and advises on best practices for users. IE attempts to pre-load pages it thinks you might click – though the algorithm only loads when it is certain of your choice.
In addition, side-by-side browsing, pinned live web tiles and the introduction of F12 Developer Tools to aid web development, debugging and optimisation complete a browser ready to compete with its contemporaries.
It is also worth considering that IE11 has been built with the touch-enabled Windows 8 hardware in mind, so if you have the technology, it is worth giving it a try.
What’s In Store With IE12?
Who knows? Probably nothing like the above though. There are currently a number of speculative strands of thought surrounding IE12, product features and an intriguing project codenamed Spartan.
Let’s look at that codename, Spartan. Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet speculates that Spartan is not the name for IE12, but is rather the functional name for a new, lightweight browser that will arrive in a Windows 10 Technical Preview sometime next year – perhaps in the next big Windows 10 feature update on January 21st, 2015.
The Spartan browser could work in two ways:
- User requests old, resource heavy site, or site requiring compatability mode. Full version of IE12 loads.
- User requests new, low resource site. IE Spartan loads, using less overall computing power.
The name Internet Explorer is consistently associated with an inferior product. It is ingrained in our very computing psyche, since the days of IE6, 7 and 8. So it would make absolute sense that Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, would attempt to move away from past browser foibles and focus on delivering a powerful, contemporary browser solution.
And a contemporary IE will potentially be very different from the IE of OS’s past. Expect IE12, in whatever format, to sit within the current Windows aesthetic – clean lines, flat design, with support for more plugins and, key to winning back Chrome and Mozilla users, support for extensions, with a shift from forcing potential web-application and extension developers from working in the C++/COM languages favoured by Internet Explorer.
Remember that after January 12th, 2016, ‘only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support’ – meaning that those users for some reason desperately clinging onto IE8, 9 and 10 on Windows 7 will be cut off from updates, forcing a migration to a supported version.
Avoid Using IE To Install Your Favourite Alternative Browsers
The old technology adage goes ‘Internet Explorer is the number one browser to download [insert alternative browser here].’ In years gone past, this was completely true. Chrome now outstrips IE usage and for many users booting up a fresh install, avoiding any interaction with the built-in Windows browser comes as part of the process. Luckily for those users there are a number of methods for achieving exactly this.
- Before a clean install download your required alternative browser directly from the developer. Load it onto a USB drive. Install as required. It is always worth keeping a backup USB drive with your favourite software on, as well as the key drivers for your system and any others you frequent. It’s a massive time-saver and saves you have to load up IE.
- Use a direct FTP service. If you have loaded your drivers for a fresh install and you internet adapter is working, or if you are lacking a browser option for another reason, these FTP methods can be extremely handy:
- Consider a completely different operating system.
The urge to avoid any incarnation of IE like the plague still runs deep. It doesn’t have be that way. IE is stronger, faster and more secure than ever – but still doesn’t entirely compare to its direct market competitors. This writer is prepared to be converted by IE12 when it hits our desktops – perhaps you should too.
Will you consider a newer, flashier Internet Explorer? What would make you convert? Do you think IE is held back by its troublesome past? Let us know below!