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IE7, Firefox, and State Space Search

May 29, 2007

VLADIMIR:
Anyway he has put them down.
ESTRAGON:
(glance at Lucky). So he has. And what of it?
VLADIMIR:
Since he has put down his bags it is impossible we should have asked why he does not do so.
POZZO:
Stoutly reasoned!

Having discovered that Macbooks dislike hitting sharp corners from appreciable heights I have been thrust back into the world of Windows. This has been an interesting experience, and I do think a few months away have sharpened my perception of the platforms differences. Now the laptop (of which I have a loan from my most gracious Mater Familias) came equipped with Internet Explorer 7. I’ve been a Firefox man for quite a while now, but for the laugh I decided to give IE7 a lash. Now this isn’t a review, instead it’s a note on one aspect of the IE7 —vs— Firefox debate which (although seemingly trivial) has in fact overwhelmed all other differences: state space search. Being a master of productive laziness I enjoy what The Stuff aptly terms a “morning trawl of the internet” — this usually involves hitting reddit et al growing a giant list of links to visit. Now in this process, tabs are my friend: so typically I start somewhere, say reddit, and fly down along opening interesting links in new tabs in the background. When I finish the current page I move on to the next tab, lather – rinse – repeat (always repeat). Now there’s the interesting part. In Firefox when one opens a link in a new tab that tab goes to the end of the list of open tabs. In IE7 it goes right next to the current tab. In other words the process is a breadth first search in Firefox, but a depth first search in IE7. At this point we should note this behaviour can be turned off in IE7, to make it behave like Firefox (and I have no doubt the reverse can be done with Firefox). What set me thinking is the sheer obscurity of this feature difference, in many respects it is a minor feature of IE7, and yet it massively changes the “browsing experience”(…for me anyway). This has begun to wreak havoc on my morning trawl, instead of a general survey it becomes a relentless plunge into a black hole solely determined by the first interesting link on reddit (or wheresoever I start by happenstance). So yes this “problem” is entirely specific to my habits and remedied by 6 clicks, but still makes you think what other subtle “givens” exist in the world of browsers which we take for granted.
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