I’m glad to see that Matt’s trying to get back to writing longer essays. His latest piece is a fine review of the great features that Mozilla has made users expect from their web browsers, and it makes me remember how much I have enjoyed reading Matt’s perspective on the world.

The subject matter of the piece also made me remember a conversation I had with Anil recently, discussing Internet Explorer’s lack of a popup-blocking function. We both came to the conclusion that, in this day and age of the overwhelming proliferation of popups, the only possible reason that IE omits the function is a fear that Microsoft will be somehow blamed for yet another move destined to hurt the little guy, in this case, the advertiser trying to make money on the web. (Remember when IE was the first to implement third-party cookie blocking, and how people complained that Microsoft was being unfair to advertisers?) By resting on the huge browsing majority and letting popup blocking gain acceptance (or, more appropriately, achieve required status) with other browsers, you can bet that there won’t be a peep when the next version of IE includes the feature.


There is another possible reason. Microsoft has for years viewed IE as an application platform inside the larger Windows platform. Netscape/Mozilla has traditionally been more of a content delivery device. Both can be used to navigate information spaces as well as deliver applications but each has had a distinct emphasis.

If Microsoft were to give end-users the level of control over the capabilities of IE that Mozilla affords, this would cause a serious fragmentation of the platform. IE applications would suddenly become very difficult to develop because the developers would no longer be assured that all installations of a specific version of IE would interpret their code in the same way. Big developer headache and lots of extra development time.

Pop-ups are certainly abused and probably useless to information oriented web sites. But pop-ups, both modal and amodal, are quite common and accepted inside applications. The inclusion of a pop-up blocker or a more general DOM manipulator would may have a very detrimental effect on IE’s usefullness as an application platform.

• Posted by: starbuck on Mar 6, 2003, 11:20 AM

MSN uses popup ads like crazy, maybe that’s why they don’t disable them in IE. Even the stupid search page you get when the browser redirects you to search (when you type in a nonexistent address) includes a popup ad.

• Posted by: Rafe on Mar 6, 2003, 12:42 PM

Now Rafe, are you implying that MSN influences the development of Microsoft products? That’s just crazy talk. ;-)

• Posted by: starbuck on Mar 7, 2003, 11:33 AM

Don’t forget the Address Bar Autosearch can be disabled or even redirected to a search engine of your choice:


Users can turn this “feature” of IE off, but the settings are buried.

  • Click View > Explorer Bar > Search (or just hit Ctrl+E) to open the search bar.
  • Click the Customize button at the top of the search bar. The “Customize Search” dialog will open.
  • Click the “Autosearch Settings” button at the bottom. The “Customize Autosearch Settings” dialog will open.
  • From the “When Searching:” pulldown, choose “Do Not Search from the Address bar.”
  • Click OK to close the “Customize Autosearch Settings” dialog.
  • Click OK to close the “Customize Search” dialog.
  • Click View > Explorer Bar > Search (or hit Ctrl+E) to close the search bar.
  • Type an invalid URL.
  • You will not see the MSN autosearch page, but instead the well-known “The Page Cannot Be Displayed” page.

If I recall correctly, earlier browser clients would generate a 404 locally, but as I understnad it that is a *server* error code and nothing was ever precisely defined as a standard for clients in the case of a server not found, so this at least is acceptable, but it’s disappointing that even this page barely nods at web standards.

In any case, if you dislike that MSN page, that’s how to get rid of it.

• Posted by: Dan Hartung on Mar 8, 2003, 1:54 AM
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