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Tarnished, Old, Boring

As is all over the Web, our good friends at Microsoft Australia have decided to give away some money1 to try and shore up IE 8′s market share. They’ve done this by setting up a Web site that tells you to use IE 82, and when you do, you get a little box that includes the tweets they’re popping on the competition Twitter account.

That’s all well and good — it’s Microsoft’s money, after all, and they can spend it however they like. That said, there are a couple of things I find rather odd about the whole shebang. The first is technical: thus far, the landing page they have only uses some remarkably simple server-side User Agent sniffing to decide which image to show and whether to show the box of tweets. It would be nice if they actually used the competition to showcase some nifty technology that IE 8 actually brings to the Web that the other browsers don’t have, but presumably ActiveX and VML3 don’t count these days, and that pesky Silverlight team actually get things working on other browsers, damn them. (The fact that the competition page detects a default IE 8 install as IE 7 is particularly hilarious, but well documented elsewhere, so I won’t go into that.)

The bigger thing I find strange is the verbiage. There are at least seven versions of the welcome image that get served up depending on your browser: Tarnished Chrome, Old Firefox, Boring Safari, IE 6, IE 7, a generic message for other browsers, and the IE 8 version that talks about the competition a bit.

The first thing that leaps out at me is the rather negative language used — if IE 8′s so much better that people are going to love it just as soon as they give it a shot (encouraged by the chance to win $10,000), surely there’s no particular need to pluck out some negative adjectives before the names of the non-Microsoft browsers. (Presumably Microsoft’s marketing department isn’t too keen on talking down IE 6 and 7, so no adjectives and no ditching of the browsers in those cases. Feel free to suggest appropriate adjectives for IE 6 in particular in the comments.) Talk up your own product, Microsoft!

The So get rid of it, or get lost line is a bit odd, too. It seems to be an attempt to be cool, hip and edgy, but it’s dangerously close to actually telling your prospective customers to get bent, which is the sort of marketing tactic that doesn’t work out very often. Particularly for people on non-Windows platforms, surely it might have been better from a brand image point of view to say something nice (Sorry, but to take part in this competition, you have to be running the sheer awesomeness of Windows?) rather than that rather strange, out of place comment.

From my point of view, the idea of a marketing campaign for a new browser version seems reasonable — the last thing Microsoft wants from a brand and technological point of view is a world dominated by alternative browsers — but this seems like a remarkably wrong-headed, badly thought out way of going about it.

(Legalities: the marketing images and copy linked above are © Microsoft Australia and are reproduced unmodified apart from the addition of a background colour for legibility. Fair dealing is asserted under section 41 of the Copyright Act 1968 for the purposes of review and criticism.)

1 Link appropriately nofollowed. I did debate whether to post this at all, given it’s an obvious attempt at a viral marketing campaign and Microsoft would want people to talk about it, but I felt the need to vent a bit, so I feel nofollow links are an appropriate compromise.
2 For what it’s worth, I don’t mind IE 8 anywhere near as much as 6 or 7 as a developer. Sure, it’s still horribly slow at executing Javascript — sorry, JScript — and lacks support for a whole bunch of useful features everyone else has had for years, but it’s not actively broken any more, which is nice.
3 I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the continued support for VML in lieu of SVG in IE. There has to be some sort of stubborn as a mule award on that front.

3 Responses to “Tarnished, Old, Boring”

  1. Daniel O'Connor Says:

    My first reaction: marketing wankers.

    This enrages me. IE6-8 are legitimately broken, and there’s a lot of hate – both rational and irrational, but it’s mostly in the form of polite suggestions to use other browsers or angry forum posts.

    This is a hugely antagonistic approach.

    Having used IE8 and found it tolerable enough while testing, I was willing to give them a bit of goodwill; but you know what? Fuck ‘em.

  2. Toby Says:

    @Daniel: +1 … IE6 is the new NS4, with added lockin; IE7 and IE8 are not competitive with the free browsers.

  3. Lupe Crego Says:

    Hello, I found this blog post while searching for help with Microsoft Silverlight. I have recently changed internet browser from Opera to Internet Explorer 7. Now I seem to have a problem with loading sites that use Microsoft Silverlight. Every time I browse site that requires Microsoft Silverlight, the site crashes and I get a “npctrl.dll” error. I can’t seem to find out how to fix it. Any help getting Microsoft Silverlight to work is greatly appreciated! Thanks