I write this hot on the heels of a post I made a few weeks ago, citing my insignificant attempt at turning the world away from the Dark Side of IE. Since that started, the use of MSIE by my readers has gone down to 26%. Certainly better than 33%, but not groundbreaking by any means.

I’ve been giving the topic a lot of thought lately, because I’ve often wondered why people don’t use a browser that is clearly superior to IE (hell, I’ll push Opera on people if it means getting them off IE). I think I’ve got a real reason why people aren’t flocking to the Fox in hordes. And it’s pretty chilling.

People don’t switch from Internet Explorer because it is familiar and it is already there.

Most of the people who read my blog, as far as I know, are fairly competent with computers. They can read email, find stuff on Google, and maybe, just maybe, get some work done. Some of the people who read this blog are very competent with computers. They grok the ins and outs of every aspect of the machine they sit in front of (as well as the ones they sit on, next to, under, etc.). However, these are the people who are already on the better browser.

There remains a small amount of people who read my blog who just aren’t technically savvy. They fear the computer, because they don’t understand it. These are the people who are afraid to create, move, install, download, or delete anything because they fear that such an action could destroy their machine. They watch TV, see the Dell commercials, go and buy one for $400, and never do anything more than browsing the web and grabbing email (if they manage to configure everything properly).

These people won’t install Firefox on their own. After all, what the hell is a “firefox” or a “mozilla” or a “thunderbird”? What benefit do they get out of installing this cryptically named piece of software (which they have no idea as to what it is), and then learning how to use it? To them, there is none. They don’t see an advantage to changing.

On top of that, some of the features that we attribute to our workflow, like tabbed browsing, are too advanced for an uneducated computer user. They just don’t get it. And that’s understandable. Someone computer-illiterate probably has a reason for it, such as a lack of time to worry about how to use something as advanced as a computer. In fact, many of the features that Firefox boasts are features that normal people don’t need.

  • Faster Browsing. While everyone loves speed, Internet Explorer isn’t slow enough to be considered crippling to someone who is checking stocks or news.
  • Automatic Updates. Again, they are cryptically afraid of installing. What they have works – why should they update? It could disrupt their familiarity with the browser if anything new gets added or changed.
  • Integrated Search. One word: overkill.
  • Live Bookmarks. “What do you mean, my bookmarks change?” I can hear it now.
  • Customization. Again, overkill.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Imagine someone who has an analog alarm clock. For him, it works just fine. He sets the time, he sets the alarm, and it wakes him up. There is no snooze button, no digital display, no radio to wake them up, no volume control, nothing. Just a clock and some bells. But hey, for him, it works. At the same time, all of his friends are trying to get him to use a digital alarm clock. Why? “It’s better!”, we tell him. We ramble off the spec sheet on the back of the box. He understands the idea, but he doesn’t see the point of changing what is already familiar to him. So he sticks with an analog clock.

So what can be done about this? Unfortunately, not much. The best thing that could possibly be done is for someone to write a Windows web browser, based on Gecko, that looks and feels EXACTLY like Internet Explorer. No tabs, no live bookmarks, no theme customization, nothing. Until then, we’re stuck.

If you’re one of those people who are still using Internet Explorer, I strongly urge you to give Firefox a try.