Firefox vs. Internet Explorer…

…you're kidding, right?

I don't think so…

Oh well, I'm a bit tired from evaluating and comparing browsers, and even more tired from working around browser-bugs all day, so I'm taking a few steps back from it all and will try to sum up what we have so far.

Firefox and Internet Explorer may appeal to the same people, but they are clearly not playing in the same league. The former is relatively fast, relatively reliable and relatively standard-compliant in its basic form, while the latter is generally slow, relatively unstable and anything but standard-compliant in any way, shape or form. Apart from that they are both pretty ordinary browsing-tools for the average user. Both browsers are able to fulfill most web-users needs.

Internet Explorer 6 has a reputation for adding in a bit more “fun” than the average user really wants – like vulnerability to malicious attacks from people on the dark side of web development, and is in need of a steady flow of patches in order to be somewhat secure.

Internet Explorer 7 may end up on a slightly higher security-level, and may not add just as much “fun” for the average user as previous versions do. Based on how some of that hightened security will be achieved – by passing site-addresses on to Microsoft(?) for clearance, I don't think I will concider IE7 as anywhere near secure enough for serious use.

Firefox has a much better reputation when it comes to built-in security, and seems to keep up a pretty good defense as new and improved versions arrive. Firefox also has the basic preventive measures against unwanted content/junk in place, so fewer annoyances can be expected while surfing.

web destroyers…

It might be seen as a problem that so many sites make use of Internet Explorer's weaknesses and non-standard behavior in order to function. That is of course the fault of those who created such sites, but it might be a bit irritating when a site fails in the better browser – Firefox.

Yes, there shouldn't be any dispute about it, really – Firefox is better than Internet Explorer, but too many s.c. “web developers” seems to be completely unavare of this fact, or they are completely unable to produce proper solutions and adhere at least somewhat to web-standards.

Lack of knowledge is probably the cause in many cases, but in too many cases there's a complete lack of will. Anyway, too many people who call themselves “web designers” and/or “web developers” are nothing but “web destroyers”.

Apart from the occasional browser-bug (of which there are more than there are flies on a dirty dog) that might pass unnoticed and cause a minor failure, most failures in a good browsers are created by one or more of the above mentioned “web destroyers”. Some of them even do it on purpose.

No, I am not just another “Rotten Standardista”, whether one read that in a humoristic context or as something a bit more serious. I just can't see the point in creating web sites and solutions that excludes potential visitors because they choose to use a better browser. Maybe someone can enlighten me on why non-functional, non-standard and weak solutions are needed, but I doubt if anyone can make me any wiser.

Perfection isn't important to me, and perfect web design may even be unwanted in most cases, but I think it should at least work in all the latest versions of any good browser. General browser-support shouldn't be too hard to achieve even for “professional web destroyers”. Even a web carpenter like me can manage that – most of the time.

Some are too hung up in the visual design and “pixel perfection”, as if that's all there is to it. In my opinion: those designers should stay well away from the web, and instead try to make the perfect waterfall look exactly the same on two pictures taken from different angles and at different times, by “correcting” the pictures drop by drop – pixel by pixel – manually.

web developers/designers…

It is left to the developer/designer and the standard-aware code-writer, to make any creation work across browser-land. Sometimes that's done by avoiding all problems, sometimes by adding non-standard code and sometimes by leaving it to the browsers themselves.

We can hardly make anything but the simplest designs work without including some kind of workarounds for browser-bugs and -flaws. I don't think a flawless generation of browsers will ever be created, so hacks and workarounds will be with us for ever. Irritating, but no big deal apart from the time and money spent.

Hacking every browser into identical rendering and behavior down to the smallest details, is definitely not a good idea.
1: it rarely ever works...
2: it's a waste of time and money...
3: it becomes a maintenance-nightmare...
4: even the word “success” becomes questionable with such an attempt.

Constantly patching up for weaknesses in old and outdated browsers doesn't lead to any progress, so I prefer the approach known as “disgraceful degredation” in weak browsers, while focusing all attention on the strong ones.  That is: old and weak browsers are not even tested. They just get the same standard CSS that standard-compliant browsers get – if anything, and will have to handle it the best they can. Some progress may come out of such an approach in the end, but that end isn't anywhere near – yet.

In the mean time we just have to make the most out of it, and select our methods carefully. Building up a solid understanding of both standards and browsers, is vital if the design-processes are supposed to end in solutions that'll work reasonably well across browser-land.


Standard-support is generally good enough for the average web design to work and render correctly in Firefox.

CSS1 and CSS2 are pretty well, but not completely, supported. Firefox 1.5 isn't quite up to CSS2.1 level yet, so we may have to wait for version 2.0. A few bits and pieces of CSS3 are recognized already, but not flawless. Looks like work in progress.

That Firefox has bugs should come as no surprise. A few of them – found in version 1.5 – are really annoying, but most bugs are trivial and relatively easy to work around.

Conclusion: I see no real problems ahead when it comes to making standard-based designs work quite well in Firefox. It is still a bit too weak for advanced designing though, so some improvements will be most welcome.

Firefox 3 looks promising.

Internet Explorer…

Standard-support may look good on paper for Internet Explorer, but in reality it's flawed to the point of being non-existent.

CSS1 is understood by IE6 to a degree, but not often executed in line with the specs. Support for CSS2/2.1 is non-existent in IE6, and will at best be partial and pretty limited in IE7.

Major underlying bugs like the proprietary Layout behavior have survived relatively unfixed from earlier versions into IE6. The minor adjustments that are announced for IE7 with regard to this pretty non-standard behavior, may end up creating more problems than they solve since the underlying bugs will be left as is – unfixed.

That'll leave web developers with an IE7 with broken CSS-support that'll need a lot of fixing, but with less means than in earlier versions with which to fix it. That's what I call “broken by design”, and one might be excused for thinking that IE7 will be “intentionally broken”.

Conclusion: I think Internet Explorer 7 will create fewer problems for standard-based web designers than earlier IE-versions. However, I don't think IE7 will come anywhere near Firefox when it comes to standard-support in the final release, so a lot of improvements will be most welcome.

Sorry, but Internet Explorer 7 final release was the closest thing to a complete failure one can come. Based on the latest information and beta release, Internet Explorer 8 won't be much of an improvement either, but one can always hope…

to sum it up…

I have already reached some pretty obvious conclusions for Firefox and Internet Explorer. The bottom line is that we have one browser that is pretty “grown up” when it comes to standard-support, and one browser that is playing “catch up” towards the same standards. It goes without saying which one is in the lead at the moment.

Now, which one of these two that'll be in the lead in a years time is really not all that interesting – to me. I'm only interested in how well browsers – any and all browsers – adhere to standards, since that's all I want to feed them. It's about time all browsers got their rendering-engines working and start delivering.

Parties behind the two mentioned browsers may fight over user-shares all they want. I'm not amongst their users, and I really couldn't care less what browsers visitors to this – or any other site I've participated in the creation of – are using. It's not my business to know or my choice to make.

As mention at the beginning of this article: I'm a bit tired of comparing browsers and work around browser-bugs, and want to focus entirely on content and design instead. I can live with variations and rendering-differences between browsers – within reasonable margins, but lacking, incomplete or buggy support for standards are not acceptable anymore – regardless of browser-name.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 28.feb.2006
last rev: 29.may.2008

Firefox vs. Internet Explorer…

Me: am i too rough on those browsers?
Opera: naa - it sounds just fine to me...


  • introduction
  • Table of Content


  • this is PTL web-design
  • CSS sledgehammer
  • accessibility
  • Print enhanced page
  • Projection enhanced
  • Small Screen enhanced page
  • validity of xhtml and CSS
  • html tidy
  • Opera and me
  • Firefox vs. IE
the usual
  • the author
  • Copyright
the unusual
  • Molly speaks up
the additional
  • Examples
  • Demo pages


This page is fine in IE/win…
What did I do wrong?
— Georg

Dear IE-user:

Add another servicepack to XP, and get back the broken rendering.
Works every time…
…let's have "more fun"…

Note to all visitors:

There are many good browsers, but I won't list them here.
If you have one of the good ones, just praise yourself lucky and surf happily ever after.
— Georg

related articles:

…2006 - 2008