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TBTF Exclusionary Sites Hall of Shame


 

This exercise began in November 1997 when John Robert LoVerso <john at loverso dot southborough dot ma dot us> sent word of a site that could not be accessed with Netscape Navigator, or indeed from any platform except Windows 95. In considerable dudgeon I wrote:

We knew it had to happen. This official Star Trek site is the first I've seen that is simply inaccessible to any other platform than Internet Explorer running on Microsoft. I deduce that the site uses ActiveX controls because it checks for the presence of Authenticode, MSIE, and Windows. Those failing any of these tests are treated so contemptiously as to be sent to the limbo of an illegal URL, there to contemplate their miserable lot out of the Microsoft mainstream. (The URL contains a space character.) Running Navigator under an MS OS will get you chided for an Incompatible Browser. while those running MSIE on a Macintosh get told Macintosh Browser. In neither case can they partake of the joys of the main site. As CobraBoy! <tbyars at earthlink dot net> put it, the result is "clearly what results when the two greatest forces of evil on the planet, Viacom and Microsoft, work together."

Readers have provided pointers to a number of other sites built to exclude some class of browsers. C|net got interested in exclusionary sites a month or two later. The sites are presented in reverse chronological order, more recent at the top. If a site has mended its exclusionary ways -- or promised to -- since the original article appeared, the notation "redeemed" appears to the left of its listing. A site that has backslid is marked "aggrevated."

Some readers have sent word of sites that exclude the Opera browser for no good reason. Unfortunate as such exclusion is, Opera has achieved only single-digit market penetration to date, so excluding Opera has far less impact on the user community than excluding the Microsoft or Netscape browsers. Few site builders test with Opera. Doubtless many are completely unaware of it. For these reasons I haven't added Opera-excluding sites to the Hall of Shame.



The TBTF Exclusionary Sites Hall of Shame

  Site In TBTF... Offence
  Comic Zone Explorer -- Requires a Pentium (!)
Bill Humphries <bill at whump dot com> writes with news of a sad new development in the sad history of exclusionary sites. This one was built with funding from Intel, and its Java applet does not load on any processor except a Pentium. This despite the applet's ancestory, the excellent Thinkmap technology from Plumb Design, whose thesaurus demo works just fine on Power PC machines as well as Pentia. Bill notes:

The site doesn't want to make me run right out and buy a PC with the Pentium Processor.
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redeemed Georges Linux Stuff Homepage 1998-04-27 Excludes IE
unfriendly The Interner Explorer visitor is greeted with series of dialog boxes (click on the thumbnail for a look) warning that the site does not like IE and offering a transfer to a Netscape download site. If declined, this final dialog closes the IE window -- depending on security settings this can happen without warning. The site is unfriendly in the extreme and richly deserves its place in the Hall of Shame. Thanks to Dan Tasch <taschda at dmapub dot dma dot org>.

Redeemed 1999-06-25: Tim Chambers <tbc at netbox dot com> writes to inform us that this page now allows full access to IE, after subjecting visitors to the first two unfriendly propaganda dialogs.

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  Canadian MSN NewsView 1998-04-27 Requires IE 4.0
This MSN site state its prejudices upfront. The non-IE4 visitor sees a page with a reduced GIF image of the actual page, and the caption:

Because of its multimedia capabilities, NewsView is only available to viewers using the Internet Explorer version 4.0 browser. Download it free ... [link]
Thanks to denise.1 <com1 at francomedia dot qc dot ca> for the catch.
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redeemed Intuit Quicken 98 1998-02-23 Requires IE to run
This is not a Web site requiring IE, but rather a vendor taking Microsoft up on its tempting offer of Web browsing integrated into its product for "free." The 32-bit version of Quicken 98 requires IE 3 (which comes bundled with it) or a later version installed on your system in order to access its Financial Institution List Web page. Other Quicken 98 features such as local Web pages (InsuMarket, Mortgage, etc.) and Market Watch don't work unless you're using Internet Explorer. It's not clear whether IE must be your preferred browser, or merely installed on your system, for Quicken 98 to work. This item came from a posting on the I-WinSoft mailing list, which should eventually be archived here, though it's not there yet. Thanks to Rob Faulds <rfaulds at avici dot com> for the alert.

Tim Wright <timw at sequent dot com> sends some historical details that diminish the blame owing to Intuit by shifting it to Netscape. Wright also confirms that IE need not be your preferred browser, it merely has to be installed.

Quicken wanted to use Netscape, but at the time Netscape was being incredibly anal about not "unbundling" Navigator. Their attitude was "you take all of Communicator, or nothing." Rather than be held to ransom like this, Intuit ran to the "open" arms of Microsoft. They felt they had to "Webify" Quicken (I'm not convinced that this is an improvement over the previous version, but we'll let that pass), and we can blame Netscape for this mess as much as Intuit. Netscape seems to have learned their lesson rather late once again.
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redeemed BarclayCard site -- Excludes IE
This site, reported by Chris Heathcote <chris at deaddodo dot demon dot co dot uk>, lets you check your credit card balance and pay it off online -- but only with Netscape navigator 3.x and above. No IE at all.

Redeemed 1999-06-25: Jo Ryall <ryall at ada dot net dot tr> writes to say that IE users can now get access, after receiving a couple of security warnings. Jo notes however that registering requires giving your credit card balance, and "if I knew I wouldn't need to register."

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redeemed Official Lost & Found Site 1998-01-19 Charges IE4 visitors only
The practice of building exculsionary Web sites has taken a turn for the nasty. The Official Lost & Found site will begin charging visitors who reconnect with lost property -- but only those who come in using IE4. Users of all other browsers, including older versions of IE, will continue to get free service. The site owners say they are taking this step to protest Microsoft's increasing tendency to produce and encourage IE-only content. C|net covered this story as a followup on their recent interest in exclusionary sites. (But you read it here first.)

After a good deal of publicity (which might have been their aim), the site owners decided to scrap their IE4-pays plan.

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  Columbia University 1997-12-24 Can't get to Internet with IE
Joel Rosner <joelhr at columbia dot edu> writes that his school, Columbia, discriminates against the Internet Explorer browser. To enable access to the Internet, members of the Columbia community need to register their Ethernet card for the network. The page on the site that lets you do that says:

Browser Note: This page will not work properly if you are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. If you plan to register, pre-register, or lookup your RHNO connection information then please use any browser other than Internet Explorer. Netscape and Mosaic are two examples of browsers which work properly.
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  Citibank online banking 1997-12-24 Excludes IE, AOL browsers
Joe Barrera <joebar at microsoft dot com> notes an "MSIE need not apply" site maintained by CitiBank. Its online banking page says:

If you're already a Citibank Checking account customer with a valid Citicard and a Netscape 128-bit encryption browser, you're all set. Just click here to go to the sign-in page and get started with Direct Access!

Barrera is running IE 4.0 with 128-bit encryption, as verified by Wells Fargo's browser test page, but CitiBank tells him "Internet Explorer and AOL browsers are not yet compatible with Direct Access." Can't say plainer than that.

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redeemed Tesco Supermarket 1997-12-08 Excludes all but IE3+ browsers
The English supermarket chain Tesco offers an Internet Shopping page [28] that says this to a Netscape browser.

The Tesco Internet Superstore uses the latest Internet Technologies. We have detected that the browser you are using does not support either ActiveX controls or VBScript. Both of these technologies are required to use the Internet Superstore.

Tesco got wind of their inclusion in the Hall of Shame and sent this note:

The site is currently on trial and only available to users in certain areas. The site was writen in ActiveX and VBScript for quick development. A new version is in the pipeline (available in February) which will use server side Active [sic], thereby allowing the vast majority of browsers to access the site. Also we have a CD Rom (offline version) which is available to anyone with Windows or Virtual Windows. (The new online version in February will be available to Mac users.)

(I presume by "server side Active" they mean active server pages.)

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redeemed Microsoft Gaming Zone 1997-12-08 Excludes all but IE 3+ on MS, and rudely
The Microsoft Gaming Zone used to tell you this when you visited using Navigator.

We're sorry. For technincal reasons, the Zone doesn't yet support Navigator 3.0 or higher. We're working to add this support and we apologize for the inconvenience. If you think this message was sent to you in error, please report it to the Zone as a bug.In the meantime, we invite you to download Microsoft Internet Explorer for free.
As of 1998-03-17, according to Gene Mosher <gene at viewtouch dot com>, "The current message on the Microsoft Gaming Zone is not at all apologetic as it used to be. It is downright rude and arrogant." To wit:

We're sorry. The new Zone doesn't currently support Microsoft Windows® 3.x; or Apple® Macintosh® or Unix® operating systems, or Microsoft® Internet Explorer version 2.0 or Netscape® Navigator browsers.

Redeemed 1999-06-25: Microsoft has fixed the site. I can now use it fully with Netscape Communicator 4.6 on a Macintosh (that's two strikes against).

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redeemed Star Trek site 1997-11-24 Excludes all but IE on MS
We knew it had to happen. This official Star Trek site is the first I've seen that is simply inaccessible to any other platform than Internet Explorer running on Microsoft. I deduce that the site uses ActiveX controls because it checks for the presence of Authenticode, MSIE, and Windows. Those failing any of these tests are treated so contemptiously as to be sent to the limbo of an illegal URL, there to contemplate their miserable lot out of the Microsoft mainstream. (The URL contains a space character.) Running Navigator under an MS OS will get you chided for an Incompatible Browser. while those running MSIE on a Macintosh get told Macintosh Browser. In neither case can they partake of the joys of the main site. As CobraBoy! <tbyars at earthlink dot net> put it, the result is "clearly what results when the two greatest forces of evil on the planet, Viacom and Microsoft, work together." Thanks to John Robert LoVerso <john at loverso dot southborough dot ma dot us> for the first note about the site.

This from NetSurfer Digest, 1998-01-17:

'Star Trek: Continuum' Warps away from MSN. Paramount has announced that "Star Trek: Continuum," its official Star Trek Web site, will leave MSN and boldly go where fans with Macs and/or Netscape Navigator will be able to access all content. MSN restricted some ST:C content to visitors using Windows 95 and Internet Explorer. IBM will replace Microsoft as the site's sponsor, and full compatibility is expected to take a few months to implement.

Was this move instigated by this very Exclusionary Sites Hall of Shame? I'd like to think so.

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Most recently updated 1999-06-25