For those who don't live in the catchment area of the European Union, you're quite lucky. After spending a year of my academic career in a room for an hour each week with a bunch of highly politicised, fanatical and activist type students, constantly debating the point, need and will of the European Union, I've sided with the lesser opinion.
For the fact that the European Commission "welcomed" (and had absolutely no part in forcing Microsoft to do so) the modular setup of Windows 7, enabling users to pick and choose their browser, but also removes Internet Explorer from all copies of Windows 7 sold in Europe, made my mind up: yes, the EU really is important in some respects.
My good friend Bryant Zadegan made my eyes pop out the sides of my head (everyone knows I'm secretly a giant rabbit in disguise) when he tweeted the other day, annoyed that Firefox was a "bloated sack of crap". Although to some extent I can see his point, considering newer versions of Firefox are built upon previous distributions of the software, but it just does not compare to the bulky, heavyweight champion of the millennium, Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer is the Guinness of the browser/beer world. Internet Explorer is a stodgy, chunky beefcake which athletes chow down upon before they throw a shot put across a field. Internet Explorer is the fat kid in the corner of the school gym that nobody wants to pick because they'll slow them down, the kid that everybody teases, but still ends up being used "just to make up numbers". Internet Explorer is an embarrassment to the browser world; and quite frankly, we now live in a day and age which as the default, in-built browser into the world's most "popular" (which in itself is a phrase not often associated with Microsoft often) operating system that it feels like it is thrust upon you just as a Kalashnikov would be, in your face, in a poverty stricken post-communistic country.
The one thing that threw me over the edge? Tabs. Because Microsoft were late to the game, with only implementing tabs into Internet Explorer 7, it seems they haven't quite understood how the system works. Firefox, pretty much from the word go, used tabs and the entire engine has supported it. It's like giving someone born with one arm missing a new arm when they're 50, no physiotherapy and expecting them just to "get on with things".
It takes me between 5-12 seconds to load a new tab. I've tried Ed Bott's trick of speeding up Internet Explorer, but if I'm honest, it does bugger all. Registering a new DLL into the system, one which is there already and should be implemented by Internet Explorer, isn't going to change a damn thing - even I know that. Even when it loads about:blank into my new tab, it still crawls to load it. By this time I'm ripping out my hair and screaming at the screen.
Update: seeing as some of you are in a hating mood and decided to find any potential weakness in my opinion back at me, I took liberty in recording opening tabs in Internet Explorer on my machine. Using ScreenToaster, I recorded opening a new tab with the clock in the corner just to show accurate timing. Also this way, I get to upload it straight to YouTube without editing and the watermark reflects this so I cannot tamper with it. It takes approximately 7 seconds in this instance, within my aforementioned timeframe, although I have previously counted longer. I won't bother trying to get it to that state again - believe it or not, I do have a life beyond this office.
Performance. I know people keep going on about performance and quite frankly, it's getting a little tiresome, but it's still a valid point nonetheless. Personally, I'd like to see an application working within one process, so if anything goes wrong - the whole thing closes. But with Firefox's technique of restoring your tabs for you if a crash occurs, this is fine.
Internet Explorer, however, seems to keep multiple processes going just in case there is a crash, as if it is preempting a crash. Firefox has contingency plans in place in case there is a crash, yet Internet Explorer seems to expect it to happen. What sort of guideline is that to go by? "Yeah, it's an unstable application, so let's make sure that it crashes well without actually fixing the problem." Score.
Take a look at this:
Firefox uses 148.4MB in memory on my computer in one process. Internet Explorer, on the other hand, opens multiple processes determined by how many tabs or windows are open, and uses 147.4MB. So even though Firefox uses an extra megabyte in memory, there is an explanation for this.
At the time of the screenshot, Internet Explorer had five tabs open in one window. Firefox had eighteen tabs spread across four windows. It is clear to me that Firefox in this case manages memory far better than Windows' in-built browser.
Microsoft's ego is stretched thinly nowadays and has already taken a massive hit with the European Commission's decision to rip out a "vital" part of Windows 7 and sell it to the masses as a separate product, Windows 7 E. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, as usual, disagrees with me but give him credit, he has been around for a bit longer than me.
On the face of it, Internet Explorer is just another browser, but it's time to stop drip feeding it, it's time to stop replacing its internal organs when one fails, and it's time to wean it off its nasty oxygen habit. Internet Explorer is old, pathetic, tiring to even look at, and depressing. Microsoft, let it die. (Failing that, just do what you did with OneCare: strip it down, funk it up and start all over again.)
Don't boycott Opera, boycott Internet Explorer. Buy Windows 7 E if you can, or if you don't want to or live in a non-European country, please for the love of God, remove Internet Explorer from your Windows 7 machine.