Last night I spent an hour or two visiting unfamiliar websites while researching a topic for an upcoming column. In the process, I discovered a new and exceedingly obnoxious trend: Some members of the Firefox community have decided that you shouldn’t be allowed to view their sites correctly – or, in some cases, at all – unless you’re using the One True Browser.
On at least three sites I visited last night, the home page has been coded so that it looks different if you visit using Internet Explorer. Specifically, the top of the page – a region approximately 180 pixels deep, occupying the full width of the page – is taken over by a large banner that reads: “We see you’re using Internet Explorer. Try Firefox, you’ll like it better.” That’s followed by a bulleted list of the advantages of Firefox, and a big bold arrow pointing to a button where the hapless visitor can download Firefox with the Google toolbar.
This is bullshit.
I’ve already got Firefox installed on this computer, and I use it more than half the time. But for this project I’m using Internet Explorer. In this case, the web designer says he wants me to have a better browsing experience, so he has deliberately created a degraded and obnoxious browsing experience for me. What’s wrong with that picture?
And despite the altruistic language, let’s be clear – this is about money. If I click that button and download the software, the website owner gets paid by Google. In fact, this is worse than a pop-up ad, because I can’t get rid of it. Every time I visit that site, the obnoxious oversize banner appears, telling me how stupid I am and how smart the website designer is.
This campaign is being run by a site called Explorer Destroyer, which offers three versions of its punish-IE-users code. The one I ran into is the Gentle Encouragement version. There’s also a Semi-serious version, which forces the user to view a splash page before seeing the site, and a Dead Serious version, which completely blocks the site from viewing by any browser that uses the IE user agent. (You can see a demo here.)
I thought the open source movement was about giving people options and about adhering to standards. Hey, Asa, here’s a question for you: Does the Firefox community really advocate designing websites so that they’re deliberately broken if you view them in any browser other than Firefox? What would the community say if Microsoft did the same?