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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 = ssslllllooooooooooowwwwwwwww

When I heard that the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 Preview was available for public use by regular folks like you and me, I immediately decided to download it and take it for a test drive. I'd heard mostly good things about IE7, but my prime motivation for the upgrade-besides curiousity-was simply that IE continues to be closely integrated with Windows and IE6 is a huge security risk of an outdated program.

You can't download IE7 unless you validate your genuine copy of Windows. After doing so, the installation progressed smoothly, and (an important point) it also is easy to roll back to IE6 if you have problems; your copy of IE6 will simply be restored if you remove IE7.

To my surprise, there's actually a lot to like in IE7. They've really cleaned up the interface, making it more simple and ergonomic. In my view, it's actually a bit cleaner than Firefox's interface. For the first time ever, I think, you could probably get away with simply removing the command menu and sticking with the interface buttons for most daily browsing tasks. IE7 provides a lot of new features compared to IE6, although that just brings it up to about Firefox 1 functionality. It includes a built-in search bar, tabbed browsing, and RSS feed detection. Microsoft is currently giving the appearance of playing nice (good for them!), and you can actually add more search engines to the search bar and change your default search engine to a non-Microsoft product easily. It also provides some functionality that Firefox doesn't currently provide (but will in Firefox 2.0), like phishing detectors and a view all-pages-at-once button.

The RSS feed detection is actually the biggest difference between IE7 and Firefox: Firefox uses live bookmarks that appear in a special toolbar. IE7 has a special drop down RSS feed monitor sidebar-ish window that notifies you when new posts or articles are published, and then takes you to a special reader page with articles and article summaries that is reformatted to resemble the Windows Live interface. It's an interesting concept, to be sure; I'm not sure if it's my cup of tea, but I can also see how this method of feed-reading might have some advantages over Firefox live bookmarks or services like Google Reader.

However, there's one important difference between Firefox and IE7, and that's speed. In my experience, a fresh install of Firefox is pretty fast out of the gate; if you do a few simple tweaks, it moves at warp speed; and if you add in the Google Web Accelerator, it jumps to plaid. Not so with IE7. Despite the fact that it has been in Beta for at least a year, IE7 redefines the word slow in a way that I never thought possible, because when I say slow, I don't mean just a little slow. No, I mean that it's molasses-in-February, elderly-driver-on-the-turnpike, Enterprise-trapped-in-the-fifth-dimension, American-space-progress-since-1972 slow. In page by page comparisons, IE7 was consistently slower than Firefox, usually taking upwards of half a minute to load new pages, and often longer. I'm pretty sure that it's an IE issue (not a connection issue), because both Netscape and Firefox work just fine. My first thought was that IE7 and the Google Web Accelerator (which simultaneously works for both IE and Firefox) weren't getting along, but the same trend held when the GWA was deactivated. They clearly have some serious optimization work to do before IE7 is ready for general release.

I really can't recommend installing or using IE7 until they speed it up. If you're tech-saavy, stick with Firefox; if you want a glitzy interface along with dual Firefox and IE rendering, go with Netscape 8.1.

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  1. Actually, if you don't like the Firefox main theme, just go download another theme, there are quite abit of themes that make it more streamlined..

  2. Besides firefox will soon be getting a major update too. Oh, and that was another great post.


  3. compuguy1088 raises a good point...no matter what MS does with IE7, Firefox's extensibility and customizability will keep it gaining market share. Definitely the best browser out there.

  4. somebody help me!!

    i was using ie6 and firefox(ff mostly)... thot i'll give IE another chance and installed IE7 beta... knew within mins that it sucks(!!grrrr grr) and uninstalled it...

    now i can open IE6 alright, but whenever i try to open a site, it opens it in Firefox :O... now i cant use IE even if i want to. I use IE for certain very specific tasks and I want IE6 back... what do i do??

    i tried uninstalling FF, but now when i try to open a site, it gives me an error message box which says "Application not found" ..


  5. Interesting problem. It sounds as if Firefox is set to be your default web browser; you should check and see if this is the case. If you've uninstalled IE7, you can probably do this by going to the Windows XP Control Panel, opening the "Internet Options" control panel, and checking the settings on the Programs tab.

    [Disclaimer: The preceding steps worked on a specific and unique personal computer hardware configuration, using Windows XP Service Pack 2. The results achieved with your own computer and software setup may be different. Don't blame us if you accidentally reformat your hard drive.]