IE7, Firefox, and State Space Search

May 29, 2007

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