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Why My Site Is Not Best Viewed
With MS Internet Explorer

    Some people ask me, for example, why don't I arrange my site so that I can win awards making it compatible with MS Internet Explorer, and only recommend Mozilla-Firefox as the browser with which you can see this site.  Well, there are many proprietary browsers like Netscape or  Opera, for example, which are very good to view my site. However, though I confess they are very efficient and a LOT better than Internet Explorer, and that also Opera is the fastest browser around, Opera and Netscape are not free software.  The word "free" meaning here "freedom", not price.  Yes, they are both available gratis (at zero-cost), however they are not "free" in the sense that users are not free to look at the source code, they are not free to change them nor free to modify them.

    There are also many other browsers which are very good to view this site like:  Epiphany, Galeon, Konqueror, among others.  These are free software, but they are only available for GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, and other operative systems derived from Unix.  However, they are not available for MS Windows.

    On the other hand Firefox is both free software and available for Windows operative system.  It is nothing but extremely high quality programs available to the public for all to see, use, modify and adapt to their needs.  Computer experts have praised both Mozilla (the code basis for Firefox) and Firefox for their high efficiency, their quality of portrayal of web pages, among many other reasons.  It has convinced them to the point of having turned them into their default browser, even those who are ardent critics of free software and open source software.  You can see these web pages as examples of what I'm saying:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,724999,00.asp
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/news/20030601.html
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/leon/2002/03/12/mozilla/

    Firefox has tabbed browsing, pop-up blockers, support for many image formats, more efficient navigating, more efficient printing of web pages.  In Firefox, you can use the search bar to also make a search in Google, or Yahoo, or CreativeCommons search engine, etc.  Firefox has a different bar with which you can also make a search in Google, but also if you need to find key words in a page, it can help you do it using the "Find" feature (Ctrl+F).

    I may add that Mozilla-Thunderbird, a mail client, has mechanisms that let them filter Junk Mail.  The user can indicate at the beginning more or less which e-mails are Junk Mail, and through a kind of "learning" algorithm, Mozilla and Mozilla-Thunderbird begin directing Junk e-mail directly to the Junk Basket which the user can be free to empty.  This is one of the reasons why the free software and open source critic John N. Dvorak has stated in PC Magazine and also in TechTV that Mozilla is his default mail client, it is clearly far better than Microsoft Outlook.  Also notice in his article the attitude  of the service given by Mozilla Foundation, they don't presuppose that the client is criticizing Mozilla in bad faith, but it takes the opportunity to  listen to the criticisms to make a better program.

    Yes!  The level of competency of Mozilla.org is so high, that even in service it offers a great alternative.  People can use Bugzilla, an instrument in the Web to report bugs, and in this way the bugs are very easily fixed.  I will quote Michael Jennings about it:

On Sunday, December 8, 2002, the author found a very minor defect in version 1.2 of the Mozilla [mozilla.org] internet browser. Mozilla is entirely free software and the author's favorite browser. When testing fragments of HTML pages (not full web pages), the first line would sometimes be displayed in an incorrect font. This was a very minor defect, but it caused minor problems for the author because he often tests complicated HTML fragments to check how they look.

At 9:01 AM on Sunday, the author of this article used Bugzilla [mozilla.org], Mozilla's defect reporting web site, to report the defect. At 9:10 AM, 9 minutes later (9 minutes on a Sunday!), the author received an email saying that the defect had been already been fixed in version 1.2.1 of Mozilla. The author had not yet installed the new version because it had been reported that it only fixed one defect that the author had not experienced.

Recall from the section above that, on December 9, 2002, Microsoft's browser had 19 known unpatched security vulnerabilities, some of them extremely serious. Mozilla has none. This is different than would be expected, by a wide margin. In one case, you pay money for the product (The Internet Explorer browser is part of Windows XP.) and the service, and you get a poor product and poor service. In another case, the product and service are entirely free, and both are superb. The skepticism experienced by the average businessperson when someone says, "The product from the big company is poor quality; the free product is better", slows the acceptance of open source software (Jennings)

    To promote Firefox and Thunderbird, is to promote freedom:   the freedom to cooperate and share, the freedom to copy software to share with other people, to modify the software according to your needs, to not be restricted by the will of big software companies.  I promote anything that gives freedom to the users.

    However, Firefox is not the subject of this page.  The subject is why do I make my site not best viewed with MS Internet Explorer.  Well, people might believe I have no reason to do so because more than 90% of PC's in the world have MS Internet Explorer.  Why wouldn't I try to adapt my site to 90% of PC's out there?   Well, as in everything, what Microsoft has done is practically use that browser to abuse consumers.  Not only Internet Explorer lacks the high quality of both proprietary and free browsers that compete with it, but also tries to integrate it to Windows, which will make it become more dominant in the market.

    Recently Microsoft announced that it would not make further standalone versions of MS Internet Explorer, it will be integrated into the next Windows release (Longhorn).  This came almost at the same time there was an announcement about an unfortunate settlement between Microsoft and AOL, in which AOL decided to not continue supporting Netscape (click here for more information), a decision which creates a bad scenario for browser competition.  Also Microsoft announced that it will not continue supporting Internet Explorer for Mac (Apple) Computers (click here for more information).  It even plans to use an MSNBot, that could represent a threat to competing search engines such as Google (click here for more information).   Also IE tries its best to avoid being compatible with the World Wide Web Consortium standards.

    Some think that this strategy will backfire against Microsoft, but there is also the fear that through this, Microsoft will create a monopoly lockup, and once that is established, it will pervert the HTTP protocol and HTML language to make it more compatible with MS Internet Explorer (or the browser in Longhorn) to drive the rival browser companies out of the market.

    Since Windows is practically in every PC desktop or workstation, definitely the integration of the browser to the operative system will oblige those who have Mac Computers and depend on MS Internet Explorer for certain activities to buy PC's with Windows.  They won't see a need for alternatives.

    Right now MS Internet Explorer compared to all other browsers available, both free and proprietary, is probably the most incompetent.  It is a serious risk for users, serious security vulnerabilities are discovered every month and availability of patches to them often delay considerably.  It is incredible that a multi million dollar company is not able to correct these vulnerabilities on time, while Mozilla, which is available gratis, offers much less security risks.  MS IE has no tabbed browsing, so you have to open different windows to be able to browse two or more sites at the same time.  It offers no pop-up blocker, and this makes people think that the only way to solve the pop-up problem is to buy certain software to block pop-up ads.   However, with Firefox, pop-up blocking is made easy, and it is gratis, no cost whatsoever.  Microsoft, late as always, says that it will include some of these features in the furture Windows Browser (IE Security Pack 2).

    Also Microsoft has a war with the free software and open source software communities, and this has affected the quality of Internet Explorer for the worse.  For example, the free software and open source communities have raised serious concerns about software patents (click here for more information about the subject).  There is a very popular graphic format known as Graphic Interface Format (GIF), which has two very known qualities.  One of them is animation, the other one is supporting transparencies.  GIF practically is the way an image is compressed with the Lempel-Ziv-Welch Compression Algorithm which is patented software.  The problem with software patents is that they can't be used by the free software and open source communities either to develop images freely nor commercially without the risk of being sued.  Therefore, the free software movement tried other alternatives, it began using a new format called Portable Network Graphics (PNG), which can support alpha transparencies, and the Multiple-image Network Graphics (MNG)  for animation.  Both of them are not patented and are free software formats, so they can be used by everyone.

    I wish to point out that MS Internet Explorer, for a long time, did not offer support for PNG's, and now it does, but with some limitations, one of them is not supporting PNG's alpha transparencies.  Practically all browsers in the market with the exception of MS Internet Explorer offer adequate support for PNG's.  This dumb attitude by Microsoft, instead of encouraging to make their technology better, just because of a pitiful war against free software and open source, made Internet Explorer lack quality.  Microsoft's earning depends in great measure, not in quality, but in quantity.  It is confident that the fact that more than 90% of PC users will keep using Internet Explorer and won't make a move to alternative browsers.

    And that is the deep problem that I have with Internet Explorer concerning my site.  First of all, I wish to share the graphics I create with the rest of the world, and most of you will notice that my graphics are covered under a license created by Creative Commons permits others to copy the graphics, to use and to modify them, for commercial or non-commercial purposes, just as long as they are covered by the same license (the graphics are "copylefted").   Therefore I cannot use GIFs to share with other people because they are covered by a patent.  Yes, it is true that the patent covering the LZW Compression algorithm has expired in the United States, but this is not so in many places in Europe, Japan, Canada and some other countries (for more information go to Burnallgifs.org).  Therefore, I choose PNGs to be able to share graphics with the rest of the world, specially when I need the alpha trasparencies.

    For example, in the Theology section of my site, I use transparencies in PNG's, and these are not portrayed correctly in MS Internet Explorer.  I invite the reader to use Internet Explorer to access this section of my site  http://prosario-2000.0catch.com/Theology/theology_e.htm .  Compare what you see, with how it should really look like as portrayed in this picture.

    Today there is a petition to ask Microsoft to offer proper support for PNGs, but I doubt that with the recent decisions made by Microsoft, it will offer proper PNG support any time soon.  Some people may regard my choosing of PNGs and its transparencies as a limitation to the proper display of images in my site.  But let's look at it from another point of view.  Why not take the opportunity to install an alternative browser that DOES work with this and any other site?  Why not download a software, that not only respects people's freedoms, but also offers high quality?  Why not install a software that could break this continuous process by Microsoft to monopolize the web?  My site offers an opportunity for users to install a software that would actually be more advanced than Internet Explorer:  Firefox. (Besides, any browser is far more advanced than Internet Explorer!).  If they can't download it, they can buy it for a small amount of money ($5.95) for the cost of the CD and shipping.  I assure everyone that none of you will regret it.

    As for Microsoft, all I can say is that I can't continue tolerating such bad software, and I refuse to adapt my site to such an inefficient browser.  I think it is time to move ahead, and if Microsoft wants to continue being behind in software technology, so be it; it's their problem.  I choose to be free to share information with everyone.  Also, if this costs me few awards, then so be it.  Some awards require that pages have to be seen clearly in MS Internet Explorer and Netscape, but obviously in this case I can't comply completely with their wishes.

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©  Copyright 2004 Pedro Rosario Barbosa

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