Over the last 12 months or so I was starting to like Microsoft a bit because of their efforts in trying to connect to the users by opening up IE and Windows7 developers blog and taking inputs from everyone on what features and improvements they want to see on future versions. That takes some balls considering the fact that many people were furious with IE & Vista in general. They took a lot of these user suggestions and implemented on Windows 7 and IE8 (not enough). So, lets give them credit where its due: Windows 7 is the best Windows yet (unlike Vista) and IE8 is the best IE yet (unlike IE6-7). They are not better than the alternatives but its their best effort yet.
Recently they doubled up on their efforts on IE8 promotion. First the Browsing For the Better promotion where MS will donate 8 meals for each IE8 download (partnering with Feeding America). Even though its a bit shady, I am not going to sit in the comforts of my home and criticize something that will help those in need. Their second effort is in the form of an online competition dubbed Ten Grand is Buried Here, where you download and install IE8 and follow their twitter account to play a treasure hunting game. You get hints to look for the location of $10k somewhere hidden online, apparently it only works with IE8. Another shady move, but even on this one I am prepared to give them a pass, a lot of companies use this kind of promotions to get users.
But, then came the LIES.
Microsoft recently (few months?) started IE8 mythbusting on their IE8 Get The Facts campaign. But lets take a closer look at them:
The Lie: Internet Explorer is much slower than Firefox and Chrome.
The Lie: Internet Explorer is less secure than Firefox.
The Truth: First, the NSS Labs Study IE8 is referring to is sponsored by Microsoft. Second, IE8 may be more secure than previous IE browsers its a bit too early to come to any conclusion specially since IE8 market share is ~5%. The same tainted report by NSS labs mentions (pdf) IE7, which is the leading among IE browser share, (exact quote) Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 provided practically no protection against malware. Third, Opera blog points out (among many things) that the NSS lab tested Opera 9.64 even before it was released. Huh?
The Lie: Firefox is a richer, more adaptable browser than Internet Explorer.
The Truth: Can anyone in their right mind dispute Firefox on adaptability? Firefox has more than 1900 add-ons just on the other category. Not to mention the fact that Firefox is open Source and you can rip it apart and adapt it to do whatever the hell you want with it.
The Lie: Internet Explorer doesnt play well with Web standards.
The Truth: Internet explorer REALLY doesnt play well with web standards. The myth refers to IE not IE8 which hold ~5% market share. However it is true that IE8 is the most standard compliant IE release yet. Not the most standard compliant web browser in any stretch of imagination. The test suite IE8 team is referring to is not approved or recommended by W3C. Basically, IE8 team cherry picked 7000 tests (which is yet to be peer reviewed) from CSS 2.1 test suite and declared IE8 the winner.
Just when you think you can finally start to trust Microsoft because of their recent commitment in trying to improve both Windows 7 (which I think is very impressive) and IE8, they start resorting to lies and shady tactics. When will they learn that quality product triumphs outright lies? Hopefully soon, for their own good. When you have quality product you dont need to spend millions of dollars to promote it, your users will gladly promote it for you. Just learn from Mozilla Firefox.
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I would like to point out that nowhere in the scientific method does it state that the results are dependent upon who is paying. A scientifically valid test holds up to scrutiny of the facts. Regardless of funding.
However, since several Microsoft haters have been unable to criticize the actual test methodology or the results from a scientific perspective, they have managed to twist the fact that NSS Labs is a highly credible, professional organization into a negative by implying impropriety since NSS Labs was paid.
One example is Automobile State Inspection. Just because you are paying for the inspection does not mean you will pass the test. Same goes for independent financial audits. Just because the company is paying does not mean they get a pass. So the smear logic does not hold if you think about it.
Paying couple of hundred dollars for Automotive Inspection from millions of users is not the same as paying (hundreds) of thousands of dollars from one company.
Automotive inspection can afford to fail individual inspection tests because there are millions of people who needs inspection. They will have to get a paid inspection whether they pass or fail, whether they like it or not. there is no second option.
How many thousands of companies approach NSS labs to test their browsers? One?
If NSS labs test results shows that IE8 miserably failed security tests, will Microsoft ever come back to NSS labs for tests. Are you that naive?
MS has a product that needs a favorable review from a somewhat reputable security company. MS pays NSS labs to conduct a test. NSS labs gives IE8 outstanding grades. How convenient!
Anywhere in your white paper does it mention that the test was sponsored by Microsoft, in BOLD letters?