MSN AdCenter and Firefox Revisited

by Devanshu Mehta

Thanks to Digg, my article on “the curious behavior of Microsoft towards their advertisers”:http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/05/12/how-internet-explorer-stifles-microsoft/ wherein Microsoft builds a web site for their advertisers that does not work for Firefox users. Cut out 10% of your potential advertisers before you even go in to business- that’s a great strategy. We have feedback from users, the blogosphere and *Microsoft*.

Today, two weeks later, the site is “still Firefox-unfriendly”:http://adcenter.msn.com and in fact, even more so:
UPDATED MSN AdCenter in Firefox

It has gotten worse; it doesn’t even fail gracefully any more. It does not inform you that the reason the site looks wonky is that you are using Firefox. It looks the same in Safari- so that locks out all Mac and Linux users… but I am repeating myself.

Since the original article got on the Digg.com frontpage, there were many comments, on my site, at Digg and *directly from Microsoft*. Let me discuss a few:

* The day after I got on the Digg front page, Microsoft responded on the “Adcenter blog”:http://blogs.msdn.com/adcenter/archive/2006/03/13/550465.aspx with the following message:

We’re currently testing adCenter using multiple browsers, and will keep you posted here on the blog as compatibility grows and we have a timeline for these updates.

In the meantime, we apologize for any inconvenience the browser incompatibility may have caused you.

Nice- someone up there read me.
* Six days later, they said that “they had moved it up their priority list”:http://blogs.msdn.com/adcenter/archive/2006/05/19/602234.aspx of things to get done.
* A few people said that supporting “minority platforms” should not be the focus of people trying to rush to release of a “product”. First off, AdCenter is not a traditional product. It is a site that allows you to advertise on MSN. Building web sites to standards is an age old (15 year old) art- one that is perfected by all kinds of developers large and small. None of them have the budget that Microsoft can afford and most, like my web sites, have no budget at all. And yet, my web site and Google and Yahoo and most others just work. This behavior seems to be _deliberate_ and _part of a much older problem_; one of choosing IE growth over everything else.
* Which brings me to a related point- web sites are not built for platforms, they are built to standards. If they are built to standards, they work on every platform that supports standards.
* Someone called _randomuser_ made the most hilarious post of this site’s history. To quote:

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

I hope this person was joking. If not, I hope this person gets help.
* I am beta testing MSN’s Live eMail as well and it had brief Firefox support for a day before “it actually went away”:http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/05/20/msn-live-supports-firefox/ which was strange. I am beta testing Yahoo!’s new email as well and while that works fine in Firefox, it is kind of slow in any browser.
* A lot of people brought up the behavior of “ExplorerDestroyer”:http://www.explorerdestroyer.com/ as a counter-point; that is, as an example of behavior that penaliizes you for using IE. I believe the Explorer Destroyer’s extreme idea of showing obnoxious messages to IE users is wrong. I wouldn’t mind giving users that read my site with IE a small and unobtrusive message in a corner saying “This site _recommends_ Firefox”, but anything more than that is more information than a visitor needs. If they wanted to be preached to about their software preferences, they would have gone to MSN.
* Many people at “WebMasterWorld”:http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum114/85.htm are reporting that not only does AdCenter not work with Firefox, if users click on your ads served through AdCenter using Firefox, there may be issues with MSN being able to track them. That is, even the back-end of AdCenter- the part that serves ads- does not work well with Firefox.

Understand that I am not bashing Microsoft in general. I use MSN email, have XP on two computers in my house and have used their products continuously for 15 years. What I am saying is that I have used computers for longer than I have used Microsoft products and I continue to use many other types of operating systems and software _in addition_ to Microsoft software.

In those 15 years, though, I would have appreciated a Microsoft that did not put its browser marketshare before its operating system, online services and security. I am just hoping for a world where things are built to standards.

“Darren points out that a lot of Ad agencies are heavy Macintosh users”:http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/archives/2006/05/i-guess-microsoft-doesnt-want-my-money.html – unfortunate for MS. Also “David Utter at WebProNews”:http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/topnews/wpn-60-20060506AdCenterNotReadyForFirefox.html reminds us that Firefox users are probably _early adopters_ and more influencial users. They are probably more discerning- solely based on the fact that they chose to select an alternative to the status quo- an MS browsers or OS. These are people you probably want to keep happy.

Also a quick thanks to “rajiv”:http://rajivvyas.blogspot.com and “The Challenge Dividend”:http://www.thechallengedividend.com and “Elton”:http://eptiger.blogspot.com and “Pat Mullin”:http://weblog.patmullin.com and, of course, Digg for all the incoming links. The experience detailed in the article was frustrating, but the feedback was fun. Keep it coming and be vocal. If a web site or software or anyone else does not support your setup, be vocal.

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