Five Reasons not to "Upgrade" to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

Five Reasons not to "Upgrade" to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

Summary: Yes, Internet Explorer 9 is better than Internet Explorer 8, but there are better Web browser choices out there.


After a couple of weeks on tinkering with the newly released Internet Explorer (IE) 9, and a host of other Web browsers, I have to say that while 32-bit IE 9 is much better than any other version of IE to date, it's still not my first pick for a Web browser. Here's why.

1. Operating system incompatibilities

When it comes to desktop operating systems, IE 9 works only with Windows 7 and Vista. That's it. XP users? You're out of luck. There's no IE 9 for XP. Yes, according to NetMarketShare, the majority of Windows users are still running XP, 55%, to 23% running Windows 7 and 11% with Vista, but there's still no IE 9 for you.

Of course, Microsoft also doesn't support IE 9 on Mac OS X or Linux either. Indeed, Dean Hachamovitch, the head of Microsoft's IE's engineering group boasted of it at the SXSW (South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals). Hachamovitch is reported as saying, "Other browsers dilute their engineering investments across systems. Because we focus exclusively on one, IE can make the most of the Windows experience and the hardware."

Funny, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all seem to manage it pretty well. And, even if Microsoft wants to ignore Mac OS X and Linux, why not at least a version for XP anyway?

The answer, of course, is that Microsoft wants to sell you Windows 7, even if you don't need or want it.

2. Performance

Yes, IE 9 actually is the winner at the SunSpider JavaScript 0.91 benchmark, but a fuller suite of tests reveals that IE 9 actually loses to Chrome and even to the Firefox 4 release candidate on other benchmarks.

I've also been finding in my day-to-day use that Chrome just feels faster than IE9. As my good buddy Mary Jo Foley, who knows a thing or two about Microsoft, puts it, "I have to say, I think the Softies have some pretty stiff competition from Chrome, which I've been using increasingly as my browser of choice because of how quickly it loads pages. Yes, I know. I'm very old-school that way…."

The long and short of it is that IE 9, while much faster than its predecessors, isn't really faster than its browser rivals. All of which, again, will run on any desktop operating system you throw them at.

3. The 64-bit version of IE 9 is second-rate.

Of course, when I say that IE 9 is faster, I'm talking about the 32-bit version. The 64-bit model is a dog. It's several times slower than all the other browsers when it comes to JavaScript.

I've been told over and over again by Windows fan boys that no one would ever run the 64-bit version of IE. Funny, the IE 9 download process still insists that that 64-bit Windows users install the inferior 64-bit version and, they rather naturally, assume that they should run the 64-bit browser. That's when they write to me, and I point them at the article I wrote telling them how to run 32-bit IE 9 on 64-bit Windows. You can say all you want that 'normal' users won't try to run 64-bit IE, but they do, and they do it every day.

The far better question that those who bleed Microsoft blue should be asking is: "Why is Microsoft deliberately insisting that their 64-bit users install a second-rate version of their own flagship Web browser?" Wouldn't it make more sense to do what all the other Web browser developers do and make the 64-bit version an experimental, optional download? That way there would be no chance of any confusion and they could be sure that every IE 9 user would get the best possible experience. It seems pretty simple to me.

Page 2: [Security and Web Page Compatibility Woes] »

Security and Web Page Compatibility Woes

4. Lack of Security

Make no mistake about it, IE 9 is much more secure than any previous version of IE, but that doesn't mean it's as secure as its Web browser rivals. For example, these days when attacking Web-plug ins, such as Adobe Flash is every hacker's favorite new trick, IE 9 doesn't alert you if you're not running the latest plug-in, which Firefox does with Plug-in Check or automatically update them ala Chrome with its built-in PDF and Flash software. Better still, in Chrome, even if your plug-in gets hit by zero day attack, the most frequently attacked plug-ins, Adobe Flash Player and Reader, run in a sandbox so the attack can't get to your PC's operating system.

I also found one oddity in IE 9's Tracking Protection feature. This idea first proposed by Mozilla is that users should be able to set their browsers so advertisers can't track them as they go from site to site. It's a good idea and to Microsoft's credit they were the first to get it out the door, but... it seemed to me that if I was using two or more Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs)--Microsoft offers users five different TPLs-that when one list allowed a Web content or activity and another didn't, IE 9 would default to allowing the tracking activity to happen.

It turns out I was right. According to research by Which? Computing, and later confirmed by researchers at Stanford University and Microsoft, IE 9 does indeed defaults to allowing tracking behavior when there's a rules conflict. In an interview, Hachamovitch said "The primary consumer role here is choosing a list author they trust. Auditing any such list requires privacy expertise as well as technical acumen. Propping up more check-boxes is unlikely to actually help consumers.'" In short, even though you can try to combine lists for added security, Microsoft would rather you stick with one and, at this time, they don't plan on changing this.

So, sure IE 9 is safer, but it you really want to be safe, Chrome and Firefox appear to be the better choices.

5. Lack of Compatibility

I'll let Ed Bott, ZDNet's resident Windows tech expert say it for me, "I've spent hours studying the different signals that websites and Internet Explorer can exchange with one another, and I came away with a splitting headache. More importantly, even after reading that I've found multiple sites that simply won't display quite right in IE 9. On one page hosted at, the only way to get text to wrap properly was to press F12 and use the Developer Tools to send a different User-Agent string to the site."

I don't need headaches. Sure, I know some of you are stuck in IE6 only Web application hell, but at least there are answers for that such as Browsium just released UniBrows, Unibrows enables you to run an IE6 instance within newer, more secure, versions of IE. That's a neat trick. But when comes to ordinary Web-browsing I got sick and tired of bad browsing experiences in the 90s, I don't need to revisit them today.

In addition, despite all of Microsoft's noise about supporting H.264 in the HTML 5 video standards wars, IE 9 actually does a lousy job of supporting HTML 5. In the HTML 5 Web page test, IE 9 comes behind all the other modern Web browsers.

So, do you want a great Web browser for your Windows machine, or any other system, I recommend Chrome 10. Firefox 4 also looks like its worth considering. But, IE 9? The best I can say is that if you absolutely insist on running a Microsoft browser, and you're not running XP and you're sure you're running the 32-bit version then yes, it's an acceptable choice.

Topics: Processors, Browser, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows

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  • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

    I can't tell if I am running the 32 or 64 bit version of IE9 on my 64bit Vista machine. How can I find out? When I downloaded and installed, two options are there to choose: IE or IE (64bit). I opened just the IE.
    • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

      @geezaflip Then, you're running the 32-bit version and all is well.

      • Unfortuneatly Mr. Vaughan-Nichols, you can not be trusted

        @sjvn@... <br>Your continued pushing of Chrome, even after you where caught in the act of "fudging the numbers" would indicate that you will find any reason you can to push Google's browser.<br><br>I feel that even knowing that you are doing your readers a disservice, you will continue to promote Chrome, no matter what it costs your readers.
        Tim Cook
      • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        I?ve been told over and over again
        I checked your Bio and I do not see what qualifies you to an IT technology, IE specifically, blogger. The stuff in your Bio is so old that I do not even understand how you manage to grasp the concept of the today's technology. is biased
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @ sjvn@...<br><br>Odd that you bash Microsoft for making the 32-bit version of IE the default and optimising performance on it. Are you aware that Chrome for Windows is only 32-bit, and the same for Firefox? Are you going to start prefixing every reference to Chrome or Firefox with '32-bit'?<br><br>Your comment about 'other browsers' being able to do fine supporting multiple platforms is also rather weak, considering that IE is the first browser to ship with full hardware acceleration, and that the browsers that do support XP won't offer full acceleration on it. Most probably won't support full acceleration on non-Windows platforms either (even those that offer the API plumbing). In short, they're likely to offer a degraded experience to XP and non-Windows users, whereas Microsoft are focusing on offering a uniformly good experience.<br><br>On the whole, this is a fairly useless article, filled with biased ranting and unlikely to be of value to anyone who's seriously considering which browser to use on Windows 7 (or Vista) -- just the sort of thing I'd expect given the by-line, I'm afraid.
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @sjvn@... What kind of machine and Internet band u talking about? Afeter CCleaner, all the brousers opem pages fast, with or without flash.
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @Mister Spock
        This is not the first time a blogger got caught fudging the numbers. Granted it is the first time someone that is not heavily in favor of Microsoft has done it. I believe the worst offender no longer submits his hack work, for your viewing pleasure.
      • IE 9 / other platforms

        @WilErz ... your arguement about "other browsers" is worse than our article writer's statement ... *You* say other browsers, then extol microsoft's hardware accelleration being the first.. just because its first doesn't change the fact that IE x ~ 9 has never been designed to run on another OS ... screw the hardware accelleration ... how about ie6, ie7, ie 8 ... all versions that Microsoft could have run on another OS if they wanted to design the program to run under those other os's ... microsoft chose *not* to make this program run on other platforms because they don't care about users using microsoft's program except on the microsoft platform.

        Personally I find it offensive that security people extol chrome when they over look one of the most base security protections possible, the Status Bar ... where is it on Chrome? Why isn't it there by default? ... hover over *ANY* URL in a web page.. and that status bar in IE and FF will show you what the *REAL* URL is at that link. A "on hover" isn't valid, because in HTML you can script those.

        Just because people don't tend to think about it, and think of screen realestate more... doesn't mean the feature should disappear like it never had purpose..
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @ TG2

        Were you trying to make a point or just ranting aimlessly?

        Microsoft got full hardware acceleration out the door first, and one of the reasons for that is that they only support one OS (current versions of Windows), which reduces resource requirements (including time). Vaughan-Nichols seems to have missed this obvious point in arguing that there's no benefit from focusing on a specific OS.

        Software that targets a single platform typically takes fewer resources to develop than software that targets multiple platforms, and also tends to be better suited to the platform it targets. There's no mystery as to why that's the case.
      • This is one weak article.


        There isn't a single point to this article that holds water.

        1. Operating system incompatibilities? IE9 is optimized to leverage hardware acceleration and WPF/Silverlight features in modern versions of Windows. Should the user experience of the fastest-growing segment of users be compromised to support niche OSes? I don't think so. And, in spite of what SJVN says, XP is headed for niche status. The XP user share figure cited is a snapshot of a dramatically declining user base and includes massive pirate XP markets in Asia, eastern Europe, and elsewhere, not exactly a priority target for developers. XP is distinctly a minority of Windows installations in western Europe and North America (less than a third in some market segments). If someone wants to plant their feet on a dated-when-it-was-released version of Windows and watch the world pass by, there is no cause for complaint when the world passes them by.

        It's also more than a little disingenuous for SJVN to be advocating XP while claiming to be concerned about security of Windows and browsers. XP is the version of Windows that contains the "insecure by design" features that SJVN loves to generalize to all versions of Windows. XP is the great straw man of Windows bashers, and it appears that this sudden affection for XP is informed by a desire to keep that straw man in play.

        2. Performance? Here's the summary in the article SJVN links to: "So, what?s the conclusion? Simple, IE9 64-bit is shockingly bad, and all the other browsers are, on the whole, pretty evenly matched." Hardly indicative of a performance issue that would deter use of IE9.

        3. IE9 64-bit performance? Not an issue unless you specifically set out to use a non-default version of IE9, which nobody has a reason to do.

        4. Security? In spite of what SJVN claims, sandboxing is common to FF, Chrome, and IE9, and plug-ins are checked for updates in IE9 (as pointed out elsewhere in this thread). Granted, there are rough edges to the TPL feature, but that is a relatively minor concern. And which browser was the easiest to hit at CanSecWest? Safari. No mention of that in the article. FF and Chrome weren't tested.

        5. Site compatibility? An issue with *all* browsers, and at least IE9 offers the option of compatibility view.

        IE hasn't won me over from FF yet, but with IE9 it at least deserves a chance.

        SJVN should avoid this sort of subjective nonsense he engages in on all things Microsoft and stick to what he knows about.
        Lester Young
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @sjvn@... as a web developer, I find Chrome to be a total POS. As far as the 23/64 bit thing, untill Adobe gets off it's backside and puts out a 64 bit version of flash, it's kinda moot since nobody will be using the 64 bit browser anyway. ANd least it has a 64 bit version...more than can be said about it's brethren in the browser market. It can be slower than molasses in January and really doesn't mean a thing if it isn't being used. I do have to much does Google pay you to tout Chrome, even though it is a complete POS? ZDNet used to be a trusted technology news source until they started hiring fan bois like you...

        Seriouosly, If i have Win 7 or Win VIsta, why does it matter if IE 9 works on Mac or *nix or Win XP? What's next, you are going to bitch that it doesn't work on Win 3.11? I can give a rat's backside what other machines it works on or not. it work on my machine...who cares? Why is that an issue? Konqueror doesn't work on the PC...does that automatically make it a crappy browser? Safari works on all platforms and is a complete POS as well. What does platform compatibility have to do with why I would want to upgrade or not?
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        OMG. I agree with Chrome because it is still faster than internet explorer but how many have Mozilla paid to make an advertisement for such a lame duck and FF4 is the slowest browser in any tests.
        There is also opera and safari which could be considered and IE9 isn't so bad either.

        The HTML5 Test you mentioned is also a fake test. IE9 the final Version and even RC supports more than 130 point but nobody ever took a closer look. WebM support is also present in IE9 and drag an drop. On the other hand Video codecs are not in war. W3C haven't specified any codec for HTML 5 and won't ever do, but the created a fall back scenarios if a codec is not supported.

        Microsoft have made the wise decision not to implement every draft specification of HTML5.

        The quality of this article is the same as "5 Things why you should buy milk in bottles than in glass"
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @ Lester Young

        'SJVN should avoid this sort of subjective nonsense he engages in on all things Microsoft and stick to what he knows about.'

        I'm not entirely convinced that the latest tips and tricks for using WordStar on your CP/M-80 machine would attract enough readers to keep his blog going. ;)
      • Don't Forget...

        @Lester Young
        Don't forget the fact that IE 9 was NOT vulnerable to the blended 3 way exploit used to take IE 8 down at the recent Pwn2Own. It would seem to be more secure than previous versions. Yet another FAIL on SJVN's post.

        I dunno... Reading a tips and tricks thing on Wordstar for CP/M would be quite a retro blast from the past for those of us who cut our word processing teeth using it. Color me nostalgic...

        Seriously... You've come up with 5 nonsequitor "reasons" not to upgrade.

        1.) So it doesn't support XP, nor Linux or OSX. Odds are if you use Linux or OSX, you're not likely to want anything Microsoft on your system anyhow. XP is now in the process of being retired. There is no further development for it. So what's next? A petition to get Microsoft to create a version of IE 9 for Win 98? or Win 95? Ah heck - let's shoot for the moon - Windows 3.11..

        You DO realize that there's more to making IE work than just dropping the executable on the system. There are dependencies on the graphics engine as well as other Windows Subsystems that make it difficult, if not impossible to implement on XP.

        2.) If I were to have a Mac or Linux box, I'd no doubt use a browser that was designed to work for those OS's. Performance - eh. Most of what I do is snappy enough on my Windows box with IE 8.

        3.) Face it. We're still living in a 32 bit legacy world. 99% of plugins and the like are still 32 bit. They won't work with the 64 bit version. And your point is? 99% of people use the 32 bit version of IE regardless of the version.

        4.) As I pointed out above, It took 3 exploits in combination to take down IE 8 at Pwn2Own 2011. MS later reported that the attack would NOT have taken down IE 9. Seems to me that it IS more secure than previous versions. On that same note, Adobe products have a utility that checks to see if there's a new version every time you boot Windows. Unless you're one of those people who leave their systems on for weeks at a time, it's not an issue.

        5.) You want IE to be standards compliant. Ok. So Microsoft made it standards compliant.

        IE 9 is a fairly radical rewrite of the browser. There's bound to be growing pains.
    • Simple, look at a site with Flash

      @geezaflip Flash won't run on 64bit browsers.
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @wackoae Adobe has an experimental 64-bit Flash player at works with IE9.
        Spatha Spatula
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        It is simply a falsehood to claim that there are "better browsers".

        IE9 is the fastest web browser currently available, and has the best compliance with web standards including HTML5:

        IE9 is also the most secure web browser. What more do you want?

        I note that the blogger has "Operating system incompatibilities" at the top of his list. THat's deliberately negative language. It's not incompatible. IE9 is specificly designed for the newest Windows operating system. Unlike Google and others, Microsoft is not chasing usage stats to wield and doe snot participate in the "browser wars" -- they are concerned only with providing their users with a superior experience, and IE9 certainly delivers that.

        Top marks for a headline that will attract much linking and sharing. This article will of course be particularly popular with people having anti-MS bias, and above all within MS's competitors and among their ever vocal fan communities.
        Tim Acheson
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @Tim Acheson "doe snot"... eww!
      • RE: Five Reasons not to 'Upgrade' to Windows' Internet Explorer 9

        @Tim Acheson<br><i>I note that the blogger has "Operating system incompatibilities" at the top of his list. THat's deliberately negative language. It's not incompatible. IE9 is specificly designed for the newest Windows operating system.</i><br><br>So are you willing to admit that IE 9 is just another hook to advance the Windows lock-in? I mean Microsoft is only a Multi-National, Multi-Billion dollar, Mega-Corporation. They need all those users to upgrade to save the world, from bad software. What would be great is if those mis-guided users of Linux and Mac OS X would dump their current software and join in the Windows Save the puppies campaign. ;)