Add-ons account for more than 70 percent of browser crashes in Internet Explorer 8, according to Microsoft.
The company released a whitepaper this week titled “Enhancing the performance of Windows Internet Explorer 8″ that outlines the various factors influencing performance and speed in its flagship browser. The whole report is available for download (as an MS Word .doc file, if you can believe it).
The other 30-odd percent of crashes in IE8 are caused by the browser, one of its subsystems (such as the download manager) or by malware.
When confronted with criticism about performance, especially crashes, browser makers are always quick to point their fingers at add-ons. And rightly so — add-ons are sometimes buggy and poorly tested. As a result, browser makers are now subjecting add-ons to a more rigorous testing process to vet their stability and safety before giving them the stamp of approval.
In a detailed analysis of Microsoft’s report at our sister site Ars Technica, Emil Protalinski argues that the third-party add-on culture around IE isn’t as robust as those surrounding Firefox and Chrome.
Protalinski chalks it up to IE being a poor development platform.
Microsoft’s two biggest competitors in the browser market, Firefox and Chrome, both put a big emphasis on add-ons. Microsoft claims that IE add-ons are very easy to develop and that it made sure the developer tools are not a separate download. That may be true, but IE still isn’t as good an extensibility platform as other browsers: it’s harder for plugins to intercept web traffic and so add-ons like NoScript are much harder to port.
During his keynote address at Microsoft’s recent MIX10 developer event in Las Vegas, IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch said that one of his team’s goals is to significantly improve the browser’s extensibility in the next version.
IE9 is due around the end of the year, but you can test drive it right now.