Internet Explorer: What "features" are used by websites that make them IE exclusive?

For the most part I use non-IE browsers for my Web-browsing needs; Galeon and Safari (and even, occasionally, Lynx :eek: ) at home, Firefox and Opera at work, and only IE when I absolutely have to. Unfortunately, there are sites, like our corporate website or my banking site that just don’t work properly with any other browser. Why you would design a webpage that doesn’t use standard HTML is beyond me, but apparently it is done and quite frequently at that. So what’s the deal? What features, and why, are exclusive to IE?


      • ActiveX controls maybe? These are a very-convenient-for-developers way to quickly add functionality to a web site, but then only IE supports them, because they are a MS standard. There’s a few good things you can technially say about ActiveX, and a whole bunch of bad things, mostly relating to computer security. MANY of IE’s security holes have involved ActiveX controls. And even so–I think even one of the new Google map things only works for IE…
  • Another thing that IE will do is accept and interpret what is technically incorrect HTML code. It’s “HTM” the way Microsoft wanted, but MS doesn’t own or run the internet. You mostly get this sort of thing when a website is developed on MS web-development software. Why many big companies do this (use substandard-compliance MS web-dev software) is because—they got a package deal on MS software for their whole office/company, and they don’t want to spend extra money for anything better.

This is the thing, but you’re off slightly.

IE (arguably) accepts and interprets incorrect HTML about as well as any other modern browser.

Lax coders, however, tend to only test their HTML in IE.

My guesses:
[li]Some sites are not really IE-specific, their idiot webmasters just put in an user-agent check that disallows other browsers to access the site. But if you spoof your agent as IE, you can view these sites just fine.[/li][li]Sometimes people are too lazy or otherwise unable to code proper HTML. They test the code under IE and it appears okay so they leave it at that. But the site looks crappy under every other browser.[/li][li]Sometimes there is no standard. CSS, for example, is not completely supported by any browser. Thus IE is sometimes used as a makeshift standard.[/li][li]Sometimes IE is the de facto standard. When web standards and IE collide, IE sometimes wins out due to its sheer popularity. And possibly due to all the other browsers masquerading as IE because of the above issues. A vicious cycle.[/li][li]Some pages use ActiveX, Microsoft’s propietary virus spreading system. Only IE natively supports this. There may be “wrappers” that make it available in Firefox/Mozilla/etc. but I don’t know how well they work.[/li][li]Microsoft programs (Office, FrontPage, etc.) generate output tailored for IE. Some people work with these programs and never bother with compatibility.[/li][li]IE does have a few other exclusive features that aren’t used much. This includes VBscript, certain DHTML behaviors, font embedding, etc.[/li][/ul]

Works in FireFox on Windows just fine, and in Safari on Mac OS X just fine, too. I’ve never tried it on IE.

At work for a lot of intranet resources I must use IE. Sometimes even spoofing the browser ID isn’t enough. Too much ActiveX crap the corporate people use, and too many IE-only features. Like a mouseover menu that you can do in pure CSS is done with VB script. No way around that. So… I use something called MYIE2 which sucks (it’s an IE shell) but at least has multiple tabs – kind of.

All these are valid reasons, but I think everyone has overlooked the largest two reasons:

  1. MS IE uses a different Document Object Model (DOM), which is how Javascript manipulates elements on the page. They made up their own features to add to Javascript, and web page authors use those without realizing/caring that it’s not the standard. This concept, BTW, is MS’s “embrace and extend” strategy with regards to standards. Take an existing standard, and do stuff that’s non-standard so that MS products will be locked-in. 90% of the time when I see an IE-only page, the reason is Javascript and IE’s non-standard DOM.

  2. MS’s version of Java is different from the standard Sun Java.

It looks like part of the OP’s question is why people would design sites that work only on IE. From what I’ve seen, it boils down to ignorance (they don’t realize that Microsoft tools like FrontPage often produce pages that don’t work properly on non-Microsoft browsers) or laziness (they get some cool tool or fancy plug-in, and don’t really care that they’re locking out a 2-digit percentage of their potential viewers).