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Okay, maybe Internet Explorer 8 isn't all that bad

I have IE8 installed on both my desktop and laptop because I'm a Windows user, and it's been a longstanding complaint since Windows 98 days that there's no way to uninstall IE out of Windows - that is unless you're a UK user which does have an IE-free version.

It's really easy to complain about IE when comparing it to other browsers, however as time goes on, IE is starting to suck less and less.

Just for kicks I launched IE8 and did some stuff I normally do. Use Yahoo! Mail, do some searching, read Reddit, Wikipedia, etc. My normal shtick.

The fact of the matter is that IE8 really isn't that bad. In fact it's not bad at all. If you use IE8 in "stock" form, meaning no toolbars and nothing which would dig its meat hooks into it (like, say, every security suite out there for Windows), IE8 is a good browser.

What makes IE8 suck isn't the browser itself but rather the mountains of crap other third-party programs stuff into it. When you eliminate all the crap and are left with nothing but the browser itself, Java and Flash, it works fine.

To give you a tiny example of what I mean by crap, look at Xmarks. Yeah, that Xmarks, as in the oh-so favorite bookmark/favorite-saver out there. It does put crap into IE that you don't need. The crap I'm referring to is the "Discovery" service Xmarks has. And did you know it puts that crap into Firefox, too? Yep. Sure, you can disable it, but how many people would know to do that? Not many.

Bear in mind this is just Xmarks I'm talking about here. Never mind toolbars, security suites that put useless "enhancements" into IE, instant messenger programs that dig into IE with their own meat hooks, etc. The list goes on and on.

When you take into consideration all the crap that so many programs stuff into IE, it's no wonder so many people hate it. It's like I said, take all that garbage out and IE runs like it's supposed to - as in normally, speedy and proper.

What made competing web browsers great isn't so great anymore

Let's take a look at the other choices and why they suck now.

Mozilla Firefox

When introduced originally, this browser was an absolute godsend because IE6, the current IE of the time, was a nightmare to use. IE6 was so bad in the mid-2000s that you literally could not browse normally without some rogue script compromising the browser. Seriously, it was bad times back then.

I dumped IE6 so fast for Firefox that it wasn't even funny. I was such a happy Internet user after that.

But then came Firefox 2.

Okay.. now this browser isn't as speedy as it used to be. Why is it taking up over 150,000k of memory just sitting there? What the hell is this crap? Oh well, I'll still use it because it's still better than IE.

Then came Firefox 3.

Well, all those cool add-ons I had for FF 2 just broke. Sigh.. But that's okay, it's still better than IE. Wait a second, it's using more memory than FF 2 did? OH, COME ON.

Then came Firefox 3.5.

Same memory munching as before. A bunch of add-ons broke again. And now the browser is crashing even though I have barely anything loaded? Geez, this makes FF 2 look like a dream compared to this crap.

And that's where we are right now with Firefox. It's only a shadow of its former self. Now it's a big fat pig of an app where you'd be lucky to run it for 20 minutes without it chomping up 150,000k of memory just.. doing nothing.

Opera

The Opera browser has never been good and has always sucked. It has never rendered web pages correctly, form control has always been wonky, the widget apps it has are worthless and it has the exact same memory munching problem Firefox does.

Don't use Opera. It sucks.

Google Chrome

Oh, what could you possibly say about the mighty Google Chrome that has gone wrong?

Plenty.

Chrome, while operational and mostly functional, is an unfinished browser.

It does not have any out-of-the-box solution to handle RSS while every other browser does.

The use of any extensions adds a whole bunch of chrome.exe processes. Install a few and then check the Task Manager. You'll see chromechromechromechromechrome. Stupid. Make sure to add up all the memory each chrome.exe instance uses when the browser is in regular use. It's not a slim on resource as you think it is.

Bookmark management is no better than Netscape 3.0 - and in fact is worse in some respects. I'm not kidding.

When downloading anything you get the download bar. Okay, cool. Oops, I closed the download bar by mistake. Can I bring it back? Nope. You have to CTRL+J to get that back or activate it from the menu, BUT IT LAUNCHES AS A TAB. Stupid. Firefox at least doesn't do that. If you close the download box by mistake, you can bring it back at any time again by CTRL+J'ing it and pop, there it is.

Lastly, and most important, is the wonky JavaScript engine in Chrome.

One of the biggest selling points Goog has about Chrome is that the JavaScript engine it uses is fast-fast-fast. Is it? Yes. But on certain web sites the engine breaks, namely in webmail UIs.

Ironically, Chrome never has a problem with Hotmail but does with Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Where exactly? With anything that requires refreshing the content.

Example: You're in Gmail. You go to empty your spam "folder". Gmail says it's doing it, then hangs up. It happens sometimes. You pin the blame on Gmail being slow for the moment. Don't be so sure that's the cause. Load up Gmail in any other browser and you'll magically notice Gmail seems to run a lot faster. It's at that point you realize the wonky JavaScript engine is the problem with Chrome using Gmail and not Gmail itself.

If you don't believe me, try it for yourself. When you encounter just about any web UI that requires the refreshing of content on a JavaScript level, Chrome fails and fails hard. You won't see any error or anything like that. Instead the whatever-it-is you were doing simply won't complete, requiring you to manually refresh the page yourself.

Chrome is already starting to suck big time because of crap like this. Who would have ever thought there would be a JavaScript engine problem in a browser? Well, I'll hand it to Chrome, it has one. Congrats, Google?

And then there's IE8

If you can get past the fact that IE8 has a bit of a wonky UI (which it does and I don't deny that), a "stock" IE will display every web page you visit properly every time, all the time.

The separated iexplore.exe instances per tab keep IE from being crash-happy.

Flash content actually works better because of Flash's own ActiveX container (you'll see it in the Task Manager when viewing Flash content).

ALL forms on any web page always work correctly.

Love or hate IE8, when you want a browser that never has any issue viewing web content, IE is it.

Right now I'm using IE8 and Chrome 5 the most - in that order. The only time I use Firefox now is when I need to use a Firefox add-on for a specific function, such as downloading YouTube videos locally to my hard drive. Other than that, my Firefox is fairly dormant these days.

I never thought I'd see the day where I'd actually start using IE again, but given the current state of alternative browsers, IE8 is the old standby in Windows that always gets the job done when you need it to.

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