Microsoft Keeps Beating a Dead Browser

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I hate to be constantly beating a dead browser, but news about Internet Explorer 8 keeps coming up, kind of like a day-old fish taco at Earl's House of Chowder.

It seems Microsoft will stop at nothing to get people to try IE8. First, they published a "get the facts" comparison chart showing how -- surprise! -- IE8 bests Firefox and Chrome in virtually every way. (Note: Whenever anyone from Microsoft says "get the facts," the first thing you should get is your hip boots and waders, because it's going to pile up deep and fast.) I'm still scratching my head over the "Performance" blurb in that chart:

"Knowing the top speed of a car doesn't tell you how fast you can drive in rush hour. To actually see the difference in page loads between all three browsers, you need slow-motion video. This one's also a tie."

Right. If anyone out there can explain that one to me, please send me a note.

[ Cringely isn't joking, either -- Microsoft's IE8 "get the facts" campaign does get it wrong. | For the real facts, check out IE8 vs. Firefox 3.5: The browser wars continue. ]

But that's not all. They're dangling $10K cash prizes to Aussies willing to go spelunking down undah using only their browser. They've offered to donate eight (count 'em, eight) meals to a food bank for every download of IE8. And they've launched a series of "funny" video ads starring Superman-turned-pitchman Dean Cain.

This is where things get dicey.

As first noted by The Technologizer's Harry McCracken (and quickly followed up by virtually everybody else with a blog), there's one ad in particular that's gotten a fair amount of attention. It involves an ordinary looking housewife who borrows her husband's laptop, looks at his browser history, and suddenly starts spewing projectile vomit all over the kitchen in full living technicolor, like Ozzy Osbourne after three days of nothing but beer and bat heads.

The pitch? If only he'd been using IE8's InPrivate browsing feature, dear old wifey would never know the dark evil puke-inducing Web sites he'd been visiting.

(What exactly was hubby looking at that so fully engaged the gossamer-thin gag reflex of his loving wife? I have one guess, and it's four words long: Two girls, one cup. Google that, if you dare. But don't blame me if you toss your cookies after.)

After a lot virtual retching across the blogosphere, Microsoft pulled the ad. (If you must watch it, a copy is still available on YouTube as I write this.) No matter; it achieved its purpose. People are talking about it. For Microsoft, that qualifies as victory.

The weird part is that this ad, along with the others, is/was part of the Browser for the Better food bank campaign. So is Microsoft bringing food to America's hungry, or just food poisoning?

From these various moves one could easily draw the conclusion that IE8 is for the gullible, the greedy, the charitably inclined, and the easily gagged. Another obvious conclusion: Microsoft must be pretty damned worried about losing more ground to Firefox, Chrome, and any other browser that wanders down the road -- worried enough to gross out half the Web with an ad even the most adolescent of dot coms would not have dared run.

The question is why? If the destination is what matters, why does Microsoft care so deeply what browser people use to get there? Maybe this: Unless Bing is the browser's default search engine, no one will go there after the novelty wears off. That's probably enough to make anyone at Microsoft lose their lunch.

What's up, chuck? Who or what turns your stomach? Post your dyspeptic thoughts below or email me:

This story, "Microsoft Keeps Beating a Dead Browser" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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