Worst. Review. Ever.

CNET is serving up perhaps the stupidest PC software review ever written, a comparison of IE7 and Firefox 2.

It encompasses just about every eye-rolling, groan-inducing, focus-on-the-trivial, big-picture-missing flaw I’ve ever seen in the PC review format. The comments from the three “judges” reflect a depth of analysis that is measured in submicron thicknesses. And I give the whole piece extra lameness points for the cringe-worthy prizefight metaphor, which was tired when I first read it in a comparison of IE5 and Netscape back in 19-frickin-99.

Follow the link if you must, but only if you first swear a solemn oath not to blame me when you get to the end and say, “My God, that was a colossal waste of time.”

(Full disclosure: I write for ZDNet, which is a subsidiary of CNET. But thankfully, I had nothing to do with this mess.)

… On the plus side, at least it’s short.

21 thoughts on “Worst. Review. Ever.

  1. What a waste of time. I use F/F and apart from being quick it is a bare bones browser. As Ed pointed out a while back the more you laden F/F with extensions, the slower it gets, and it is a memory hog. What we need is objectivity not what Cnet has written. J.B.

  2. My God, that really was a colossal waste of time.

    Good call Ed.

    Frankly, my experience with the two new releases is that Firefox is pickier than ever about the combination of extensions that work well (this is a trial-by-fire exercise with every major release) and I’ve ended up trading away functionality for stability to the point that whatever advantages FF offered are mostly gone.

    OTOH, IE7 is pretty good except for the abysmal lack of UI and preferences support for controlling the tabbed browsing experience. I do not understand how this new version could have shipped withut the ability to right-click a URL in the Links bar and “Open in a New Tab” or to establish preferences for opening search and address bar entries in a new tab.

    Heck, I may have to try Opera or one of the IE-based alternatives like Maxthon ;^)

  3. Friends of mine use Maxthon and swear by it; I’ve tried it and found it very encouraging, but I haven’t replaced IE with it. Firefox is extremely “bendy”, although I’ve found I wind up using the plain vanilla version of the program simply because installing, maintaining and trying to predict the side effects of the browser add-ons is often more trouble than it’s worth.

  4. I haven’t seen any objective IE vs FF reviews. All of them seem to say “Microsoft is evil! Get Firefox!” or “If you don’t stop using IE and start using Firefox, you’ll burn in hell!” i like Firefox a lot, not because Microsoft is supposedly in line with Satan, but because it has a few features that i really like. First, it seems to download files faster than IE, and it has a resume feature that IE doesn’t have. i also find it handles RSs feeds better. And I think the Mozilla team has done a better job with the interface. But you can’t beat the fact that some sites just don’t work with Firefox.

    I’m not a Microsoft fanboy. I do like Firefox. But seeing all this “IE sucks’ crap is really starting to get boring.

  5. Yes, a colossal waste of time.

    Not only that, but it was wrong at times. For example, it’s hard to jive “IE 7’s installation recommended that we back up important files, close all programs, and eventually restart, while Firefox asked us only to close the old Firefox.” with what Firefox 2’s installer says on my PC, “It is recommended that you close all other application before performing Setup. This will make it possible to update relevant system files without having to reboot your computer.”
    Nobody: I’ve noticed that downloads go faster in IE if you use a download manager. I use “Free Download Manager” myself. I suspect that the downloads are faster in Firefox because it utilizes a download manager natively while IE doesn’t.
    I used Maxthon myself as my default browser before IE7 came out. Once I installed IE7, it pretty much destroyed my Maxthon installation. Maxthon would start, but only a blank window (and not my home page) would be displayed. I assume since Maxthon uses IE6’s rendering engine under the hood, but that is only my theory. In any case I decided to give the big two another chance…

  6. Marc:

    Until Microsoft fixes the omission of the Open In A New Tab command on the right-click menu, there is an alternative: the Ctrl key. Just about anywhere there’s a link — on a page, Links bar, or Favorites, for example — Ctrl+click opens the link in a new tab.

    In the address bar and search box, Alt+Enter opens in a new tab. (Ctrl was already used in the address bar; pressing Ctrl+Enter inserts “http://www.” and “.com” around what you type. You can combine the shortcuts: type edbott in the address bar and press Ctrl+Alt+Enter to open http://www.edbott.com in a new tab.

    And yeah, the Cnet review — much of it based on reputations of previous versions — is ludicrous for its methodology and reviewers’ credentials, so its conclusions are, well, who cares?

  7. Most download managers use multiple TCP connections to the target site. The TCP protocol has evolved to prevent congestion on the Internet as a whole, not to provide the best throughput on any one connection. More connections also cause greater use of system resources on the servers.

    I imagine if the ISPs implement traffic shaping in the correct way, by using the Quality of Service fields in the IP headers, that download managers and peer-to-peer applications will simply claim to be VoIP applications (which have the greatest requirements for timely packet delivery) and thereby undo any benefit that a VoIP application could have got from QoS.

    Trouble is, people don’t want to share: they want their downloads now.

  8. Carl:

    Thanks for the tip on using the Ctrl key – I knew about the Alt+Enter shortcut already but that helps some. It does, however, make me feel like I’m using a Mac with a one-button mouse ;^)

  9. Are there any official answers to why they left out the right click search and the open in new tab option from the context menu? It doesn’t make any sense. I was hoping they would make the right click, search option open in a new tab. I bet I wasn’t the only one that submitted that one to the beta team.

  10. James, Open in New Tab is there on the right-click menu. If you’re not seeing it, that’s a bug. Do you have the Google Toolbar installed? I have heard that produces that symptom.

    The Search option on the shortcut menu is available if you install the Windows Live Toolbar. I don’t think it was ever there in IE6.

  11. Disabling the toolbar did the trick. With the new search box on the address bar, and the inline search add-in, I don’t need the toolbar anyway.

    To bad that the context search menu option is only available with the Live toolbar. I use that option almost as much as inline search.

    Thanks for the info.

  12. “It encompasses just about every eye-rolling, groan-inducing, focus-on-the-trivial, big-picture-missing flaw”

    Ed, I’m here commenting on a blog entry in which you basically wrote, “Here’s a bad review, don’t read it.” Pointing out the waste of time irony would be too easy, so let’s back up a little more and look at things from a broader perspective: Given the circumstances under which this communication is taking place, I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re all missing the big picture these days… not just the incredibly poor reviews that infuriate us so (I do honestly feel your pain on that, nonetheless).



  13. A note to anyone who has never tried Opera to install it, since that is where Firefox copied all of it’s ideas from originally. And yes Opera is completely free and has been for over a year now.


    If you ever need anyone to join in and do a REAL multi-person comparison of the browsers I am more than willing. I have no qualms about telling it like it is unlike CNET’s push Firefox because we are on a crusade for it mentality. That review is unbelievable and fits in with the way CNET reports it’s Microsoft and Firefox stories.

  14. Andrew,

    I’ve tried Opera as well as Firefox and IEx. I have issues with all of them. I’ve been using Firefox since 0.7-8 or so though I’ve always tried new Opera versions but never cared enough to switch over. Recently their new “hip” on-site ad campaign plus “widgets” really turned me off, haha. I can’t say I’ve analyzed the product enough recently to feel one way or the other about it though.

    With the release of fx2, I’m very much against the turn Firefox has taken. It’s been building a long time, but a line has been crossed that I don’t personally feel comfortable with anymore. Google ties, privacy issues, and moving away from a simply standards-based goal for the core makes it seem like the project has lost its way unfortunately.

    IE7 I have yet to use, but as a person with more web-dev experience than I ever wanted to have my frustrations should be obvious: trying to support different bugs in 2 different versions was bad enough, coming out with a new version with new issues doesn’t “solve” any of the old issues that still need to be supported in addition to the new ones. As a person with half a brain I refuse to support Microsoft’s sad attempt to stake their claim in the web’s advertising market by pushing out a browser and new services they can use their new operating system to leverage. They should be back in court over Antitrust violations soon, heh.

    Honestly the only good move they made was in aquiring Onfolio (which is why Live Writer is a half-decent product), but even that pissed me off since Onfolio used to be really good full featured software that worked natively with multiple browsers and was worth paying for… all that’s been discontinued by MS so they can stick parts of Onfolio in their Windows Live Toolbar.

    I’m getting off track here, but currently I’ve also used most linux based browsers and the only browsers I don’t have much experience with are Mac-based. I’m interested in looking at different solutions since I’m looking for a new soluton myself. I’d very much like to take part in some intelligent discussion and analysis of such.

    As for CNET, I’ve known better than to read anything written in any part of their online empire for a while now. Sorry Ed… I worked with IDG for a while, but that was over a decade ago and at the moment I have very close friends working for ZDNet… despite that, I have a hard time taking seriously the majority of reviews written up in the publications owned by either company and I find the online material is even worse.


  15. Marc:
    The Links bar also accepts the middle click button to open in a new tab. It’ll save you lots of time that you would spend using the context menu 🙂

  16. I can’t wait to see a browser review by Andrew, the author of firefoxmyths.com! What sort of impartial review could we expect from somebody who has such a complete lack of moral scruples as to misquote critics of his page in the testimonials section to make it appear that they have endorsed the page?

  17. OK, no food fights, please. I’m not looking to hire any third-party reviewers and I don’t want to see any personal attacks here. Comments that cross the line will be deleted without notice.

    Thanks for being civil.

  18. Ed,

    I wasn’t asking to be hired, rather just thought it would be fun, you could also pull someone from the Mozilla endorsement crowd. 🙂 Call it the totally non biased review.

  19. I was pleasantly surprised with IE7 to find that it supported some of my favorite features of tabbed browsing from Firefox.

    Middle-Clicking on a link automatically opens it in a new tab loading behind the current one. I find this very useful when browsing through search results

    Middle-Clicking on a tab label closes the tab.

    These hints work with IE7 and FF (with options set appropriately).

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