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Just a Thought - PSU Says PU To IE

by - December 14th, 2004

And now, from my "Get That Crap Outta Here' inbox, come this news: It seems the IT powers-that-be at Penn State U have given Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, the virtual boot.

In so many words, the wise folks who man the venerable university's Information Technology Services (ITS) department have determined that it would be an insult to the Swiss to say that IE is holier than their cheese, and that students and faculty should try another browser, any browser, tout suite, lest they find themselves in a patching pickle, or an infection infraction.

Check out this bit from an InfoWeek article titled, Penn State Tells 80,000 Students To Chuck IE:

Penn State University on Wednesday issued an alert to students and staff recommending that they dump IE and use a different browser.

The university's Information Technology Services (ITS) gave the advice "because the threats are real and alternatives exist to mitigate Web browser vulnerabilities," ITS said in a statement. It cited the security problems in IE that have been the focus of both media reports and recommendations from such organizations as the US-CERT, the federally-funded computer response team housed at Carnegie Mellon University.

"The University computing community [should] use standards-based Web browsers other than Internet Explorer to help minimize exposure to attacks that occur through browser vulnerabilities," added ITS.

Kicked to the curb! Dissed and Ditched!

I mentioned how I feel about IE in a recent column, and it's interesting, and heartening, to see that Penn State feels the same way. But I do believe that, while Penn State can control how its Web sites are made, and so insure that all published Web pages are as compatible as possible with as many browsers as possible, once the students and faculty leave the university's virtual world for the Internet, IE may be needed again. Some university Web-surfers will continue to keep IE around, or use it exclusively to avoid the hassle of switching back and forth between browsers, thus negating ITS' efforts to create a clean and wholesome IT environment.

Bummer!

The folks at Microsoft are likely saying, "Nice try, PSU, but we gotcha by the short ones. We are dug in so deep that, to remove us, you must remove your spleen. You can't get rid of us, WE ARE THE INTERNET! MUAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!"

To a distressing extent, Big Redmond would be right. By creating tools that create Web pages catering specifically to IE, then creating an army of MS lemmings who only know how to create a Web site with MS tools, Microsoft has all but guaranteed that they will be needed.

What would be cool is if all of the IT departments at all of the colleges and universities got together and decided that they would only promote open standards for Web pages, both in practice and in teaching. Then maybe they'd make some headway, and send a very clear message to the Gates Gang, that Microsoft ain't the boss of them, or the Internet.

Perhaps that would be the catalyst needed to start a grassroots MS revolt. Banks and other financial institutions would toss MS created Web sites out in favor of more open, and more secure sites. (I know that would make me feel a lot better.) Online stores would find that their orders increased just by providing a secure site with a more compatible backend.

Yeah! And Bill Gates would come to his senses and announce that all MS apps and tools would strictly adhere to the standards set by standards organizations, and stop forcing people to march to Microsoft's beat.

Birds would starting singing again, flowers would bloom, the Sun would shine brighter, and the world would be a wee bit better.

I think that's when I wake up.

In any event, I salute the IT folks at Penn State for having the cojones to tell it like it is, and hope that other institutions follow suit. I can hope.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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