Microsoft sponsored site “Carbon Grove” forces users to use Internet Explorer

When most companies are working towards making the web more standardized and interoperable, it feels as if Microsoft wants to take users back to the last decade when sites were specifically designed for and only one browser, in this case, Internet Explorer.

I only say this because Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team has recently sponsored a climate-change edumacation site called “Carbon Grove” designed exclusively for and only works on Internet Explorer 7 and 8.

To be clear, I actually don’t mind their sponsorship. The Internet Explorer team could very well sponsor this site if they wanted to and I’d be glad to take their money, but it shouldn’t influence who should or should not be able to access the website – adding “artificial incompatibility” – especially when there’s nothing technically preventing it so.

The main feature of the website is a Silverlight application and because Silverlight is supported on at least IE, Firefox and Safari, there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t work otherwise.

If you try to access the website with Firefox and spoof your user-agent to appear as Internet Explorer 7, you are presented with a Silverlight error which you can’t avoid even if you have the right version of Silverlight installed.

However to prove a point, I did a little bit of HTML hacking with Firebug on Firefox and what do you know, it works flawlessly.

The developers at Jackson Fish Market – a Seattle startup by three former Microsoft designers whom I regard highly – have assured me there’s no code or logic which prevents non-IE browsers from accessing the site besides the user-agent checker and I believe them. The Silverlight install prompt which blocks access is most likely a side-effect as a result of modifying the user-agent. The issue is that I shouldn’t have to lie about my user-agent in the first place.

Having said that, these developers have designed Silverlight sites (ex. Tafiti) before that work flawlessly across many browsers so it’s not like they don’t know how.

The fact is, somewhere along the line, someone said “this site should only work in Internet Explorer” knowingly it works perfectly fine on most other browsers. That I think is anti-competitive.

To be honest, with all the advancements Internet Explorer 8 makes towards working better with existing standards and even adopting the latest web standards ahead of competing browsers, I thought very highly of them. But this, is just ugly.

30 insightful thoughts

  1. Trying to imagine the person who would install or use IE7 just for this site. I already use IE7 and am not interested in the site.

  2. That site seems like a minature version of Zoo Tycoon 2 without the animals. What a lame IE billboard. 🙂

  3. welcome to microsoft we are going to look you into our products marketing strategy…
    … not like it’s anything new.

  4. What about me, the Mac user? This means I have to reboot into Windows, and then resist the urge to open my ‘good’ browser and instead choose IE to look at a site that, in all honestly, may not be what I was expecting thus wasting a good chunk of my time. Great……

  5. So that “You are using Microsoft Internet Explorer. Please download Firefox” campaign backfired?

    How unfortunate!

  6. Interesting, all I had to do was change the user agent. No HTML hacking required (Firebug is very awesome though).

  7. @Jono: That works for the “introduction” portion of the website, but not the Silverlight feature application where you look at your trees and others too.

  8. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of *any* large company as a single monolithic entity. It is made up of thousands of individuals with different backgrounds and motivations. This was likely a decision made by some marketing drone, and we all know Microsoft’s marketing dept. has got issues.

  9. Guess Microsoft doesn’t have the kind of cowboy coders that would turn off the user agent check just before the site goes live, would they?

    “By accident.”

  10. What is “Internet Explorer”? Is this a Plug-In? I have installed Flash und Silverlight. Do i need to install “Internet Explorer” too? Where can i download it? Please help! Thx!

  11. If they sponsor the site, then it should be okay with them trying to get users to install IE7 and IE8. Much like users having to download iTunes to download the free tracks when Starbucks had that one promotion.

  12. Works fine here in Opera after spoofing user agent.

    Why don’t you guys mention Opera when you can mention jhonny-come-latey Safari (windows)? Opera is speedier, safer and more standardized than other browsers – it’s also the only browser that passes Acid3 a 100%.

    Surely, it deserves a mention?

  13. Paraphrasing deXter:
    whine whine whine opera whine safari sucks whine whine faster than firefox whine whine
    I’m just kidding though, i often use Opera

  14. Duh. It’s a PROMOTION TO GET PEOPLE TO USE IE7. Of course they require it.

    It would be one thing if required IE, but if the freakin’ IE team wants to sponsor a fluff, non-core website to encourage IE use, it’s not a big deal. Everyone step away from the OMG EVIL!!11! panic button.

  15. Let’s be real here:

    Who actually loaded up IE7 to visit that site besides Long?


    It’s just not a good way to get people to explore IE7 / IE8. I haven’t had to open IE-anything for the past 2 years to visit a website and I’m not about to start now. The people who are actually viewing the site (UA-spoofers aside) are already drinking the IE kool-aid, so what’s the point?

  16. I talked with someone on the IE development team. They build the product, not the marketing materials. There’s a marketing team behind this effort. Surprised?

  17. Even though I support Microsoft’s efforts I think I will have to agree here. Someone internally made a bad decision. Hopefully it was minority of people or a single person who made a bad decision instead of a unanimous decision.

  18. @Long Zheng,
    seems like we’ve met yesterday on one of my dreams for I was kinda going to blog for the same site, but how unfortunate for me being in military with a so censored time. Good shot anyways.

    Eventually, all the various ways Microsoft is trying to force users use IE and it’s other products I valuate as immature and mean, eventhough they never worry about using whatever procedures just to achieve what they want and how they want it to be.
    IE (the way I see it as a web developer) is a product which Microsoft should feel embarrassed about and ashamed, they simply don’t and that is weird though.
    Shame on you Microsoft.

  19. > It’s just not a good way to get people to explore IE7 / IE8

    I guess it was a good way to get people to switch to Firefox, huh? Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now

  20. @rożen, Firefox-only sites aren’t great either, but honestly, Firefox-forcing is FAR more justified than IE-forcing. Plus, it doesn’t matter so much if some kid blocks his site off to IE. Microsoft is a corporation, and it’s sponsoring this. There’s a big difference when a company officially stands behind this kind of a message.

    And it doesn’t matter if some marketing drone authorized this. Microsoft as a company is sponsoring this, so Microsoft as a company is at fault.

  21. some of the firefox fanboys method of forcing users to use firefox is some of the most retarded things i’ve seen…like those java popup promts on each page… fking morrons fanboys are specially when they don’t see all the flaws in what they support.

    Anyway I’m not fan firefox or opera and even less ie7 and ie8 what all those browser have in common is they are made for nubs.. at a base level..really poor features and funcionality barely anything for the power users. For firefox you have a bit of hope with some good addons although most plugin developers still often don’t have a clue, but at least they try somewhat.. the IE engine has the Maxthon browser which at least in Maxthon classic the developers were way on the ball compared to all the other browsers in putting together a powerful browser that doesn’t need a ton of addons to get any decent functionality.

    Overal I don’t really see to much wrong in this site its only promotional thing its not like anyone would go there for information on anything.. the only sin is that Silverlight is still shit compared to Flash overal and they are limiting the number of users that could see the site.. when it would potentially work.. perhaps not for firefox 3 users as again sliverlight is crap and doesn’t support that, but other than that it does work so I dunno why… might aswel let other browser users come in and see the IE logo splattered around the page, i mean you see that all the time with shitfox users websites.

  22. @rożen: How many sites do you think Mozilla actually ‘sponsored’, knowing that the site was blocking out people using browsers other than their own? I never actually seen one site that did that, and it was that ‘anti-microsoft’ one, but Mozilla never sponsored them, and why in the world would anyone go to it?
    @directimpact: Wow.

  23. That’s evil, trying to force kids (or adults) to use IE 7! I refuse to use that.
    And it’s a really stupid site anyway (a bunch of idiotic “carbon reducing” tips). On Firefox 3 on Mac OS X Tiger, I changed my user agent, and it ran fine. Why the heck are they doing that? If somebody’s already using Windows and Internet Explorer, why would they bother advertising them on the side? They should only care about people who AREN’T using that already!
    I just wasn’t able to access the part of the site which uses Silverlight… Microsoft decided not to make it compatible with Firefox 3, I guess.

  24. I think if I were forced to use Exploder to view sites, I’d employ a fairly standard carbon emissions reduction – and switch off the machine.

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