How Internet Explorer Stifles Microsoft
by Devanshu Mehta
Microsoft has chosen the growth of IE over every other division in the company for 10 years now. Windows versions from 95 onwards have suffered enough. Now, the company’s IE-centric view of its business is hurting younger divisions of the company that have a chance of becoming a major force as the company looks to take on Google.
This story started out as a simple one of corporate arrogance and lack of support of my browser. If it had ended at that, the story would have been like countless others where the big corporation prevents you from being a customer unless you behave _exactly_ the way they want you to.
It all began when MSN announced their “AdCenter”:http://adcenter.msn.com service which – similar to Google AdWords– sells text-based, contextual, per-click advertising for “MSN”:http://www.msn.com properties on the internet. Curious, I went to sign up for an account.
Now I did not plan on advertising on it. I have never paid for any advertising for any of my web sites ever. I was more curious in Microsoft’s method, their design and approach as compared to my experience with AdSense. So I went to the “MSN adCenter site”:http://adcenter.msn.com and clicked to sign up.
Microsoft adCenter does not currently support the web browser you are using. Please sign in using Internet Explorer 6+. More about *system requirements*
Oh great! Another MS web site that does not work with Firefox. So I click on the phrase _system requirements_ to find out what I would need. Would a Mac user like me have any recourse? Or did MS not want my business? It only got worse. The _System requirements_ link did not work either! Not only could they not design a web site for my browser, they couldn’t even manage to create a link to their requirements page that I could click on!
So I write the good folks at MSN support a nice, courteous letter (honest!):
I would like to use adCenter to advertise my web services solution but am unable to register for an account. Apparently your service does not support either my Firefox browser or my Macintosh computer or both. The system requirements link also does not work on my computer. I have spoken to other people who are having the same issue. Is there any way to resolve this that does not involve buying a new computer? I would like to explore new opportunities for advertising and would hate to be locked out simply based on poor site design.
Within a day, I receive a response. While I will not post the email verbatim- it mainly says things like “we do not support the Firefox browser” and “we apologize”- here is the worst part:
Your Macintosh can be used with Virtual PC or Bootcamp which enables you to run XP. As a result, you will be able to access Microsoft adCenter.
Long story short, they are asking me to buy a copy of Windows XP (required for VirtualPC and BootCamp) to use adCenter!
Think about that for a minute. A company who sells advertising for their web properties, who would like as many people who can sign a check to advertise with them, is asking a potential advertiser to _buy their operating system to use their service_.
And it gets worse. I wrote back, still polite and level-headed:
Unfortunately this still requires me to purchase a piece of software (Virtual PC or Windows XP for BootCamp) in order to use a web site. This is an extremely high barrier you have set for potential clients and I believe you will have trouble gaining customers from the non-Windows world. This is unfortunate, because your service was one I was looking forward to using.
I believe this is asking too much. I build web services (which I would like to advertise) and cannot imagine how my product could survive if it supported only some browsers on some computers. I hope you do build a web site based on internet standards in the future so you can compete for all potential clients.
And I never received a reply from them again.. until a few days later when I heard from some survey department that wanted my opinion on the quality of MSN Support.
*/ OFF TOPIC*
Interestingly enough, my MSN email account filed the MSN survey email under spam 🙂
*/ END OFF TOPIC*
And it still gets worse. I finally give in and try the MSN adCenter web site with an old copy of IE for Mac that I have lying around for situations like this… _and it works_. IE for Mac is unsupported by Microsoft at this point and will never have an updated version. It does not support many of today’s web standards and also does not support many Windows-only IE web thingies like ActiveX. And it still worked.
So I went back to FireFox, spoofed my user-agent string to tell the web server that I was actually using IE 6 using “my favorite FireFox plugin”:http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/02/19/9-firefox-extensions-i-actually-use/ and the web site worked, though it looked like somebody had stepped all over the page. So MSN adCenter was blocking me by checking my user-agent string!
Again, think about this. They are actively blocking potential advertisers. They have actually written scripts for key pages of their site that will block potential advertisers _just because they don’t use their browser_. That may be insidious, selfish and anti-competitive, but one none of that is surprising.
What is surprising is that it suggests mammoth arrogance; the kind of arrogance that puts IE before business sense. That puts IE before the first rules of business- you know, the ones about how the customers are right and should be kept happy and come first.
Using market-share in one division to fuel others is one thing, but using the power of one non-moneymaking division to the detriment of other, younger divisions is something that a publicly held company cannot afford. With a 15+% market-share of non-IE browsers, Micrsoft has just handed that advertising business over to Google. Google says thank you.
P.S.: “SearchEngineWatch”:http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/060306-155855 discovered even worse behavior with Firefox. Apparently, if you use Firefox once you’ve signed in, Adcenter has trouble tracking your customers too! Their conversion tracking script expects you to use IE6. MSN’s suggested solution is for all your customers to use IE6. Like I said above, choose IE over customer service!
P.P.S.: I finally found the “system requirements”:http://advertising.msn.com/Home/Article.aspx?pageid=702&linkid=3132 and the “browser requirements”:http://advertising.msn.com/Home/Article.aspx?pageid=702&linkid=3134 pages, but only using the user-agent modifier in FireFox. Tsk, tsk. Without IE6, you are not even allowed to know how that you need IE6. Brilliant!
UPDATE (5/26/06): We have a “follow-up article”:http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/05/26/msn-adcenter-and-firefox-revisited/ with reaction from Microsoft, the blogosphere and more.
[…] With the advent of MSN AdCenter, it seems as though Microsoft is now trying to take some market share away from Google AdWords. It would seem, however, that since they don’t support Firefox, or anything running on a Mac, that this will be next to impossible. I came across this blog entry and thought it worth a mention. […]
They’re just shooting themselves in the foot. You should use another service.
You said, “Using market-share in one division to fuel others is one thing, but using the power of one non-moneymaking division to the detriment of other, younger divisions is something that a publicly held company cannot afford.”
I say: How do you know this to be true? What metrics are you using to determine this is not a sound strategy?
I cannot read your artical for all the Google ads that are covering up the words.
Mozilla (for java and flash)
Umm.. the metrics of common sense?
As an application / web developer racing to release a new product it is just not worth the effort to support minority platforms, I agree it would be nice but these guys are running a business
If this is the case, might I suggest developing for web standards (which all browsers are supposed to support) rather than developing for 1 proprietary browser that happens to have a majority (if decreasing) market share. This way all customers (especially tech savvy ones most web organizations want most) will be able to use your product.
Greg, use firefox, install adblock plus and Filterset G updater, then you wont see any ads.
I had to copy this into Open Office writer to view, adsence is blocking quite a bit of text.
Totally agree with you. The way Microsoft does it only could attract very minimal customer. They will have to reconsider their business plan, since there are Linux and Mac users, not to mention Solaris and UNIX as well. They don’t accept Internet Explorer readily.
Anyway, the reason why I still maintain a copy of XP, is that there are still stuffs which Linux could not do.
Micrososft no quiere anunciantes que no usen Windows e Internet Explorer…
Microsoft adCenter pretende ser una plataforma de anuncios de texto al estilo de Google Adsense.Si queremos registrarnos como anunciantes en https://adcenter.msn.com/Default.aspx usando algo que no sea Internet Explorer, nos dice que nuestro navegador …
Firefox tends to be a little immature for me…It keeps crashing. Mozilla has a few memory leaks as seen on my gkrellm, but it is a little more compatible with the Microsoft dominated web.
My Linux does everything that I want it to.
You might try logging into the Microsoft website with Internet Explorer on a genuine Microsoft equiped computer. Make sure you check your copy of Windows with Microsoft Genuine Advantage and you’d probably have great success using Microsoft products and services. Using other operating systems leaves you liable for intellectual property issues and that cd-rom image you downloaded may have viruses, spyware or worse, software from third world knockoff sweatshops that give you bogus start menus like fvm95 which is ripped off from 10 year old Microsoft cds
May 12th, 2006 at 7:36 pm
You might try logging into the Microsoft website with Internet Explorer on a genuine Microsoft equiped….”
If that is you…guess what…Linux is coming.
You can never trust software that you cannot see the code. Windows is an untrusted binary. Any program given to you in binary format is un readable by humans and untrusted.
…and another thing. If your lead feller (Bill) would have stayed in school, maybe he would have known the basics in security so when you connected the stand alone PC operating system onto a network, and a world wide network at that, your system would not be so easy to infect.
[…] read more | digg story […]
right click on the offending ad, choose the option that says, in effect, ‘remove this frame’, and voila!
sidenote: I admit, there is a slight possibility this functionality was granted to me by virtue of the dozens(!) of extensions I have installed, so YMMV.
[…] I just read about a firefox user’s experience with MS’s new adCenter advertising service. Unfortunately, this is what one expects from MS. It’s natural for MS to have IE as the preferred browser. Someone should tell them, however, that the days of useragent checking are thankfully behind us for the most part. May be it was the same developer(s) that did this site. Firefox users see: We’re sorry. Windows Live Shopping Beta does not yet support Firefox. […]
This AdSense frame on your page is a real problem.
Mac OS X 10.4.6
Opera users hit shift-G to actually be able to read it.
Sorry about the AdSense issues; teaches me to take SEO tips too seriously without the CSS to back it up. 🙂 Thanks for all the comments people- I tried hard to not be arrogant or judgemental with the MSN folks while I was communicating with them. Sometimes you get farther with people by being civil.
[…] link […]
The whole web would be like that page if Microsoft had its way. Only the hard work of Macintosh and Mozilla developers, and the 1990’s efforts of the formerly principled Justice Department have saved us from that fate.
From MS’s point of view, this makes sense: max 10-15% lower income on adcenter (and the like) is small sacrifice for keeping the many customers whose only reason for not changing over to other OS’s is that they need to “improve” so that they can “do everything Windows can” (eg. access sites like adcenter)
Great piece, Devanshu. What I find most interesting is not that Microsoft would be so arrogant to think that people won’t care that they can’t buy ads on their network, but that the think that not being able to serve their adds within other browsers doesn’t matter.
When releasing a new product/service one of the goals of the company should be to reach the largest audience possible. While I am sure a lot of their clients will have Windows/IE, but in a professionin which a lot of design and site development is done in the Mac environment, common snese would seem to support them as well. Hopefully they will add this capability in the future. This scenario would be different IF they still produced IE for the Mac as well.
Go download IETab, a kick-ass Firefox extension. Problem solved. 🙂
@Brian, good idea… except that it doesn’t solve the problem for Mac users, Linux users and users who do not want to use IE at all.
Microsoft does not deserve our business. They sent me advertising for this service via US Postal Service.
Either they support Macs with Firefox, or they don’t deserve our money. I have an old version of Virtual PC, but it would not run fast enough. The people that make decisions at Micosoft don’t need our money. Google understands, Microsoft does not. Just the fact they ignore other browsers is another reason to use Windows. Most developers use Firefox and not IE on Windows.
This is crazy. Our web site’s content managment system is build with ActivEdit and I thought — finally I can use this thing with my new MacBook and Bootcamp. Yes, I had to buy the full version of windows to just ‘try’ this. And lo adn behold, ActiveX does not work!! Ouch. Firefox does not like the ActiveX stuff either — both in windows.
Best answer for us — change our content management tool to be all-platform friendly — with an open source solution.
Microsoft is tangled in their own mess.
[…] Devanshu opisuje rÃ³wnieÅ¼ swojÄ… korespondencjÄ™ z dziaÅ‚em obsÅ‚ugi MSN. NapisaÅ‚ im grzecznie, Å¼e chciaÅ‚ siÄ™ zarejestrowaÄ‡ w ich programie, ale strona nie dziaÅ‚aÅ‚a mu zarÃ³wno pod jego Firefoksem jak i na Macintoshu. Jaka odpowiedÅº? „Firefoksa nie obsÅ‚ugujemy, a uÅ¼ytkownicy MacÃ³w mogÄ… uÅ¼yÄ‡ emulatora do uruchomienia Windows XP.” Ja przepraszam, jakaÅ› nowa forma rasizmu? Pingwiniarz czy inny czÅ‚owiek z MacÃ³wkÄ… to juÅ¼ jakiÅ› gorszy reklamodawca? […]