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IE 9 Less Dogged by Add-On Problems, Microsoft Says

Microsoft is gaining the upper hand over problems in Internet Explorer 9 traced to browser add-ons, the company announced today.

Add-ons have been a pet peeve of the company over the years because they have led to slower browser performance or even crashes. Users can't immediately tell that that the problem lies with the add-on, which is typically devised by a third-party software vendor, not Microsoft.

The top 40 add-ons most used with IE 9 currently will work without crashing the browser, according to Microsoft's software compatibility testing data. Much of that progress stems from error reports Microsoft received when developing the beta version of IE 9. At that time, the IE team determined that about 70 percent of all IE 9 crashes were due to add-ons, Microsoft's IE blog explained.

Nearly two years ago, Microsoft made the same complaint about add-ons slowing IE 8. At that time, the Skype voice-over-IP add-on was singled out as the biggest speed drag for IE 8 users. In Microsoft's latest roundup of the top 30 add-on problems addressed in IE 9, Skype shows up as "fixed by the vendor," with a relatively low incidence of causing crashes.

The most problematic add-on that's now "fixed in IE 9" was the one produced by Conduit Toolbars, which caused 2.6 million crashes in a month's time. Conduit makes a platform that developers can use to make customized toolbars for Web sites.

Google fixed problems in its own toolbar and Microsoft worked with Yahoo to resolve issues associated with Yahoo's toolbar for IE 9. Microsoft even fixed problems caused by its own Windows Live Toolbar for IE 9, although it has since been replaced by the Bing Bar.

Microsoft works with add-on developers through its Windows Quality Online Services (WinQual) program. The program provides access to crash data through a Windows error reporting service. Developers also get a laundry list of things not to do at this Microsoft help page. Once an add-on has been revised by a developer, users can be alerted to the upgrade's availability through Microsoft's "upgrade advisor" service. It gives users the choice to check for the update, disable the current add-on, or keep using the installed add-on.

There are also resources for IE 9 users whose browsers crash upon opening. Typically, such a situation would prevent users from disabling troublesome add-ons. To address this situation, IE 9 users can open the browser in a "no add-ons" mode by accessing System Tools folder within the Accessories folder in Windows. That approach allows users to access the "Manage Add-ons" option in Internet Explorer and kill a performance-clogging add-on.

It's possible to run IE with the "no add-ons" mode turned on. However, Microsoft's blog post doesn't recommend it because it will disable Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight support for video and graphics.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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