Internet Explorer 10 puts Microsoft back in the game

A few months ago I posted an article entitled ‘Stop using Internet Explorer‘. I still stand by most of the points I made in that article, however since writing it IE 10 has been launched, something which has changed my stance on Microsoft’s browser.

Last Sunday, I went to the Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham. For this I owe thanks to British Gas, as they provided me with tickets to the sold out event. I will be posting more on the event soon.

When at the NEC, as a blogger I was invited to use Microsoft’s bloggers lounge, where I was made to feel very welcome by a friendly team of Microsoft employees. During my time there, I was given a (very impressive) demonstration of Surface by Robert Epstein, Senior Product Manager for Windows at Microsoft UK, who also demonstrated Internet Explorer 10.IE 10 LogoI didn’t think that the new IE would impress me, but it did. I was told how even Microsoft realised that IE was a little behind other browsers, and that when designing 10, they decided to completely start again. IE 10 isn’t just an update, it is a completely new browser.

Internet Explorer was one of the first browsers ever released, and was designed for a very different web to the one we use today. Internet Explorer 6 was initially released in 2001, and IE 7 in 2006. Firefox launched in 2004, and Chrome in 2008. That means that when IE 6 went live, neither Firefox or Chrome existed; probably why so many people (including myself) used it.

It is easy to point out how bad IE 6 is compared to other browsers. Today, it isn’t considered a very good browser, however when it was launched in 2001, it was, and that’s because compared to the competition at the time it really was.

Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft started again with Internet Explorer 10. They scrapped all that had gone before and built a completely new browser. Some aspects of the interface are the same, but that’s it really – oh, and you use it to access the web! ūüôā

I have now installed IE 10 on my Windows 7 desktop, and was blown away by how fast it is. From warm, Internet Explorer 10 (on Windows 7) opens faster than Firefox and Opera. The difference is marginal, however IE does come out on top – just. IE 10 and Chrome 26 seem to take the same amount of time.

Internet Explorer is the fastest browser on Windows 8. IE 10 is available on both the start screen (or ’tile’) version of Windows 8, and the Desktop version; however the two browser interfaces are very different. The Desktop version offers an interface similar to that seen on the Windows 7 version, whilst the start screen version has a clean, minimalistic interface, with the focus primarily on content.

Improvements

Design improvements and faster boot time are not the only areas Microsoft have improved. For starters, the overall speed of browsing is much faster, giving an experience similar to that which you can experience using Chrome: responsive, fast and slick. IE 10 is currently the fastest Windows 8 compatible browser.

Microsoft IE at the Gadget Show

The Internet Explorer section of Microsoft’s stand at the Gadget Show Live

In terms of compatibility, Microsoft have fixed most of IE 9’s issues, IE 10 now handles HTML5 much better than its predecessors. Having tested the blog, I can confirm that it now appears correctly in Internet Explorer. So you can now visit Technology Bloggers and see things how they should look correctly using Internet Explorer, just make sure you are using 10!

The new browser is fully touch compatible, and is even multi-touch compatible. Microsoft have created several websites, (and helped upgrade others) which are touch compatible, and designed to register multiple points of contact at once.

One website which is now touch compatible is games site Atari. Many of the games require more than one point of contact at a time, and having tried some of them myself, IE appears to handle it very well.

Another new feature which capitalises on the touch capabilities is flip ahead. To quote Microsoft:

“Flip ahead allows you to explore favorite websites like you would a magazine. By implementing flip ahead, you enable your users to flip through a news article or an online catalog, regardless of their actual location on the page. Visitors no longer need to click a Next button to go to the next page.”

I was shown a demonstration of how it works on MSN news, and it looks very promising; just find some empty space, drag your finger from right to left, and you load (or flip to) the next article. I feel that flip ahead has real potential for blogs and news sites, hence why we are currently working with Microsoft to make Technology Bloggers flip ahead compatible.

UPDATE: Technology Bloggers is now flip ahead compatible! You can flip forwards and backwards between articles. Currently it only works for posts, however we may look at implementing it on (date/category/tag) archives in the future.

Issues

Okay, IE 10 is much better than previous versions, but it isn’t 100% problem free. The major issues surrounding the new browser involve bugs. Lots of software experiences the issue of bugs, however IE seems to have a reputation for them!

One of the bugs IE is facing media scrutiny for is issue of the Windows 7 version of the browser being incompatible with many hybrid graphics cards. Another reported bug seems to link installing IE to disabling the Aero interface on Windows 7. I haven’t experienced either problem myself, however if you search for the issues, there are quite a few people claiming to have problems.

When I started using the browser I felt that there wasn’t much room for tabs – on Windows 7. Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera all have a separate area for your tabs, however IE tries to squash them in next to the URL bar. You can increase the room available to tabs, but you loose URL box space. It is possible to put the tabs on a separate row, but doesn’t come as default; just right click on the headers and from the menu select ‘Show tabs on a separate row’. I would personally prefer tabs to be on a separate row by default.

Conclusions

Don’t touch any version of Internet Explorer that is below 10. On Windows 7, IE 10 seems very promising, and you should seriously consider it as a browser, it seems fast, safe and sleek. I am still using Firefox, however were I using a Windows 8 powered Surface, I think I would be using Internet Explore; but I don’t have a Surface, so I can’t be sure.

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Internet Explorer 10 is a completely new browser, that has put Microsoft right back in the browser war.

Where will it go from here, will IE start to steal back dissident users?

Watch this space.

Is there really that much diversity on the internet?

The internet is big right? Okay it is massive. With that massiveness one naturally associates extreme diversity. Don’t get me wrong, across the entire internet, there is amazing variation, with billions of people adding their spin to the net.

What I am going to investigate in this post though is how diverse the ‘main’ internet is. What I mean by that is the internet that we use every day. How diverse is the most regularly used/visited content? Is there really as much choice as we think, or is the majority of the internet dominated by a few firms?


In order to go about this research I am going to use Alexa, who gather statistics on websites traffic. For most sites, the data isn’t that accurate, however for really busy sites, the numbers are so great, the reliability of the data is much higher, hence why I can use it.

Alexa's Logo

Google

According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited site on the web. How could it not be? Alexa estimates that 50% of all internet users visited Google.com in the last three months. Second on the list for most visited sites is Facebook, which is trailing with just 45% of internet users visiting the site.

Remember however that is just Google.com, Google has a massive monopoly over the internet. In the 100 most visited sites on the web, 18 of the sites are owned by Google – 16 localised sites, Google.com and GoogleUserContent.com (the site you see when there is an error finding/displaying a page).

Google undoubtedly has reduced diversity on the internet, having such a monopoly on the sites we all visit. The thing is, it isn’t just 18 sites. Google also owns YouTube and (the third most visited site on the net) Blogspot which is ranked 10th, Blogger at 47 (Blogger and Blogspot are now one) and Blogspot.in (India) ranked 73. That means 21 of the most visited sites on the net belong to Google, meaning it owns more than one fifth of the ‘main’ internet.

Googlite Logo

Google’s dominance on the web suggests that a lot of us are Googlites!

Can you call the internet diverse, when in the top one hundred sites, one firm owns more than a fifth of all sites? Maybe, what does the rest of the field look like?

Microsoft

Unsurprisingly, the company that is arguable Google’s main rival is in second place. Yahoo and Microsoft are currently in a ‘Search Alliance’ therefore restricting competition, so I am going to count them in the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences. Here is the list of sites that¬†Microsoft owns/influences which are top 100 websites:

  • Yahoo.com – Ranked 3rd
  • Live.com – Ranked 7th
  • Yahoo.co.jp – Ranked 16th
  • MSN.com – Ranked 17th
  • Bing.com – Ranked 29th
  • Microsoft.com – Ranked 30th – ironic how it is lower many of the other sites it owns!
  • Flickr.com – Ranked 53rd and Yahoo owned

Therefore Microsoft own/influence 7 of the top 100 sites. Add that to Google’s 21, and 28 of the top sites on the net are owned by two firms. More than a quarter.

I am starting to think the ‘main’ internet is not as diverse as one may first assume.

Amazon

Next on the list of internet giants comes Amazon. Amazon.com is ranked 10th, whilst Amazon Germany (Amazon.de) is ranked 91st and Amazon Japan (Amazon.co.jp) is 95th. Amazon also owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) which is the 50th most visited site. Amazon owns 4 of the top 100 sites.

Amazon's Logo32 sites gone.

Alibaba Group

The Alibaba Group is a privately owned Chinese business, which owns Alibaba.com,¬†Tmall (tmall.com), Taobao (Taobao.com) and Sogou.com. The group therefore account for four of the sites that make up what I am calling the ‘main internet’.

36 sites taken by just 4 companies. How diverse is our internet?

eBay

Next we come to eBay.com which sits 23rd on the list of top 100 sites. eBay International AG (ebay.de) is in 80th place, followed by eBay UK (ebay.co.uk) in 86th. eBay also owns PayPal (paypal.com) which is ranked 46th.

eBay steals another 4 sites, leaving just 60 of our hundred left, and so far only 5 firms are involved.

Time Warner

CNN (cnn.com) AOL (aol.co.uk) and The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) are all sites owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the sixth business involved now, leaving just 57 sites.

WordPress

The blogging platform WordPress (wordpress.com) is ranked 19th, and its brother, which allows users to host the content management system on their own site (wordpress.org) is ranked 83rd.

The Official WordPress LogoThere goes another two sites, meaning just 55 left, and only seven players so far.

Twitter

Ranked number 8 on the list is Twitter, however its URL shortener (t.co) is ranked 31st, meaning Twitter is also one of the big players in the top 100 sites, arguably with some form of domination over the internet.

Twitter's Logo47 sites of the top 100 accounted for and a mere eight organisations involved.

The Rest

Of the final 53 sites, 5 are adult only sites leaving 48 sites – although many of these either are a part of, or are a much bigger group.

Some familiar faces appear in the other 48 sites, Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (6th), LinkedIn (11th), Apple (34th), Tumblr (37th),  Pinterest (47th), BBC Online (48th), Ask (54th), AVG (62nd),  Adobe Systems Incorporated (67th), About.com (81st), ESPN (82nd),  Go Daddy (85th), Netflix (89th),  The Pirate Bay (92nd) and CNET (97th).

Remove these very well known, well established, and massive brands, and we are left with 32 sites – less than a third. Of the remaining sites, around half are Chinese, showing the growing influence and usage of the internet in China.

My Verdict

In this post I have established that of the sites we visit most regularly, 47 are owned by just eight organisations. Does that really represent the freedom that we all believe the internet offers?

I was surprised by the type of content, and the limited number of different sites that there are in the global top 100. It would seem that the most visited sites consist of search engines, social media sites and news websites. Interesting statistics.

So, what is your verdict on how diverse the internet we use everyday is? I personally am not quite as convinced as I was before writing this article that the internet is quite as free and diverse as we all believe.

Please note these rankings are changing all the time, and all content was correct according to Alexa.com at the time of writing – the 6th of July 2012.

Why do we stick by Google and Apple but not Microsoft?

Apple’s Ads

I image that you have probably seen the Apple ads which are based around the two characters: Mac man and PC man. They have been released in various different countries with different actors playing PC and Mac.

The campaign which was known as the ‘Get a Mac campaign‘ was broadcast in North-America, the UK and in Japan, as well as on the web. In the USA Mac was played by Justin Long, whilst PC was played by John Hodgman. In the UK, comedy duo David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb (Mac) took the role.

Not sure what I am on about? Check out the video below:

If you enjoyed that you can find a whole host of similar ads in this Get A Mac Ad Campaign Collection YouTube video.

The UK Get a Mac campaign

Robert Webb and David Mitchell as Mac and PC

Apple have now removed the ads from their site, but they can still be found all over the internet. If you do a YouTube search for ‘Get A Mac’ or ‘Mac vs PC’ you get hundreds of results.

The interesting thing is, Mac only own about 7% of the computing market at the moment, that’s only around 2% up on four years ago.

Windows however owns more than 90% of the computing market, meaning that most of us have a Microsoft PC.

So why is is then that if you scroll down past almost any of the Mac vs PC ads on YouTube you see that the ratio of likes to dislikes is usually around 5:1. This means that if 1,000 people like the ad, just 200 dislike it. So despite most of us choosing to use a PC, we seem to support Apple, rather than Microsoft.

The Battle of the Giants

The computing industry was once dominated by the Apple-Microsoft rivalry, however in the last 5 years, Google has become a serious contender, making it a three way battle. Google is not only a more viable contender because of its new chrome operating system, but also because its search and other services are so popular.

Google has the most websites within the top 100 most visited online of any company in the world. Google.com, Google.co.in, Google.de, Google.com.hk, Google.co.jp and Google.co.uk all ranking among the top 25 most visited sites on the net. Google hold 6 of the 25 most visited sites, whilst Microsoft have just one (MSN.com) and Apple don’t have any.

Microsoft’s Ads

Microsoft have recently tried to mimic Apple’s hugely successful ads, but in order to attack Google. Google is one of Microsoft’s biggest competitors, if not its biggest, so after being ‘slagged off’ in Apple’s ads, it would appear that Microsoft hoped to produce the same effect, but this time with Google in the loosing position.

Below I have included one of their ads, entitled Googlighting.

UPDATE: Seems like Microsoft realised the ad didn’t quite work… it’s been taken down from their official YouTube channel, however there are a few others still hosting it if you search around.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like that ad. I think it looks like more of a pathetic dig at Google, rather than a cleverly designed way to boost one companies brand, whilst demoting the competitions – as Apple’s ads did.

It turns out I am not the only one who didn’t find that ad all that amusing, the ad is published on Microsoft’s own YouTube Channel, and yet has received just¬†5,117 likes, but a staggering 12,734 dislikes. That is a 5:13 ratio against Microsoft’s ad.

So we will stand by Apple when they attack Microsoft, but when Microsoft try to attack Google, we stand by Google. Why? Is it because we see Apple and Google as two trendy, current companies, and Microsoft as an outdated one, which we are loyal to out of convenience not choice? I like Windows 7, but I don’t like Bing, Google has to win for me. iPad vs a Windows tablet, iPhone vs Windows phone, I think I would prefer the iDevice.

Google’s Ads

I thought I should give Google’s ads a mention too. Google hasn’t yet (to the best of my knowledge) made any ads aimed at attacking the competition. Google show very few ads on television, and largely rely on their online dominance to help them promote their products.

Something I have found about both Google and Apple’s ads is that they often appear to be very well thought out, and the more modern ones are often extremely well recorded/directed and are very clean. Microsoft’s ads aren’t quite so chic, so is that where their downfall lies?

Who Do You Stick By?

Personally, I would rather say that I am a Googlite, or loyal to Apple, than say I am loyal to Microsoft.

UPDATE: I’m not so sure that I am loyal to Google or Apple anymore – and haven’t developed any more a loyalty to any other competitor either. Use the service which provides the best solution to your needs at the time.

Even though I am annoyed at Google, as it hit Technology Bloggers in the Penguin update quite badly, and as far as I am aware (and I have asked in the Webmaster Central forums) we, as a blog have done nothing wrong. In fact we have been doing what Google want, creating great, original content, look at some of the articles Jonny is producing to see awesome, original content, all our writers do, but he is really outstanding at the moment.

“We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.” – Google Webmasters Central Blog

I am sure we will soon recover, and will continue to strive to be an outstanding blog. Despite being (unfairly) hit, I am still loyal to Google, I believe that in the most part it is a very good, ethical company.

UPDATE: I am not quite so loyal to Google anymore, and am less convinced that it is all that ethical. A new philosophy: choose the best device/search engine/browser etc. for the time, loyalty doesn’t seem to pay dividends in the world of technology.

What about you though? Who do you stick by? Anyone, or everyone?