Reader rabid: Love, hate, and IE8

The residents of Cringeville weigh in on Internet Explorer 8, for good and ill. Cringely ducks the brickbats and gathers up the bouquets

My post about problems with IE8 ("Thinking about upgrading to IE8? Think twice") inspired passionate responses from folks on both sides of the fence, including some who wanted to tear the fence down and come after me with fondue forks and Bic lighters.

Moments after I posted my screed, the Microsoft fanboys came out like mosquitos after the first spring rain. I and/or InfoWorld was called "an idiot," "moron," "liar and not to be trusted," and "the Fox News of IT Journalism."

[ Find out how Microsoft is pushing the IE8 upgrade -- and Cringely's take on it | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Welcome to the Conversational Web. Don't forget to wear your Kevlar undies.

The e-mails I received, however, were mostly the opposite -- about two to one against IE8. Many people had problems with plug-ins and Web site display (yes, even in "compatibility mode") and several had downgraded back to IE7 -- or wished they could. Like this one from reader D. L.:

About 8 months ago MSN prompted me to change to IE8. Actually it wouldn’t let me off the screen until I said "OK"; at that time it was a beta product. I lost the ability to actually get my MSN mail on the computer and if I did get into the Hotmail portion of the site I couldn’t open up any of my email without “error on page.” I cannot access Facebook, certain business related Web sites including Dun & Bradstreet do not support IE8 so therefore do not work.... IE8 has been a nightmare to use. I have been onto the Microsoft Web site to try and downgrade, when I go through the install of IE7, it tells me at the end that a new version is already installed that it cannot downgrade....I just want my IE7 back.

It wasn't all bad news. T. S. counters with the following:

No tales of woe here. I’ve done about 30 IE upgrades so far over a half dozen laptops no problems so far. The majority have been on systems running XP some XP-64 and a few Vista. As far as the comment about people needing to update Flash or Java well there are good security reasons even the average person should try to keep those plug-in up to date if more people would keep them up to date there would be a lot fewer exploited systems in the world.

Of course, you don't have to upgrade to IE8 if you don't want to. Right? Well, not necessarily.

As Windows Secrets' Scott Spanbauer reports, even some folks who've set Windows Update to not install patches without their explicit approval found themselves on the wrong end of an IE8 or other updates they didn't want.

Windows XP and Vista have started installing updates at shutdown, in certain cases, without displaying a warning or requesting permission, according to reports by several readers. The forced-install behavior has been witnessed at least three times by Windows Secrets editors, but Microsoft says its procedure for Automatic Updates hasn't changed in the last 10 months.

Microsoft can't explain why this might be happening, though Spanbauer theorizes it may have something to do with the record number of updates MSFT issued earlier this month, which overwhelmed the company's servers. This may have caused some updates to not fully download, which in the past has caused problems with update notifications. As S.S. notes:

At this point, I'm unable to make the behavior reproducible or demonstrate the exact conditions under which forced installs occur. Until a better explanation of the aberrant update behavior is provided, however, I'm calling it an unpatched bug.

At this point, my thoughts on Microsoft browsers are well known (and alternately loathed or lauded). But what bugs me isn't IE8's security holes -- it's the performance suck. I've never gotten a Microsoft browser to perform as nimbly as Firefox or Chrome; opening more than a handful of tabs turns my computer into a mastodon stuck in the tar pits. And I'm not alone. Reader Charlene says:

I’m about to switch back to IE7 on one of my computers. It's an older computer with only 1GB of memory. IE8 creates a separate process for EACH tab. After opening my normal 5 windows with 6-12 tabs each... oops, didn’t get to the 4th window. IE8 hung. Have to reboot... Now I have to turn OFF the computer because it won’t shut down on its own.

Exactly. Of course, your mileage may vary. But one of my favorite definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time. I've had the same experience with every Microsoft browser since IE3.

I may occasionally go a little crazy, but I'm not nuts.

OK, have at it. Tell me all about your deep love or loathing of Microsoft -- good, bad, ugly, or indifferent -- by posting below or dropping me a note:

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.