Traditions I can trace: Wikipedia and Firefox in the Library

Liron Dorfman, a Wikimedia Israel activist, periodically lectures in a library in the north of the country, helping librarians contribute their vast knowledge and experience with reference works to the Free Encyclopedia.

At one of these lectures he called me in panic and asked for urgent help: He was trying to teach the librarians how to upload images to the Commons, Wikipedia’s images repository, and the Upload Wizard got stuck.

My first question, of course, was “Which browser are you using?”

The answer was, non-surprisingly, “Microsoft Internet Explorer”.

So i told him to try another browser. There wasn’t one installed, so i told him to download one. He wanted to download Chrome, but i insisted on Firefox, and he agreed.

So he installed Firefox, tried the Upload Wizard there, and it worked. Win.

It was a nice demonstration of how Firefox can save the day. It would probably work in Google Chrome, too; it has many bugs that make it almost unusable to me, but for this matter, Firefox was just a matter of personal preference.

Of course, uploading should work in Microsoft Internet Explorer, too; about 30% of Wikipedia readers still use it, and about half of them use the old Internet Explorer 8, which is the newest version available on the still-popular Windows XP. The fact, however, is that for better or worse MediaWiki developers mostly use GNU/Linux and Mac, on which Microsoft Internet Explorer doesn’t run at all, so we don’t even open it unless they have a reason. We usually test new features on it, but it is rare for us to actually use it for browsing the web, and that is essential for noticing bugs that would otherwise go unnoticed.

We all wish that all our users would stop using the old, proprietary and non-compliant Microsoft Internet Explorer, but we cannot convert millions of people overnight; even the giants Google and Facebook tried to do that and until now it was not a great success. Until then, we hope that the people who still use it will at least be able to read and contribute text and media. We can only fix problems if we know about them, so if you use Internet Explorer and encounter a problem in Wikipedia or the websites related to it, please report it at Wikimedia’s bug reporting site.

But if you just stop using Internet Explorer and move to a modern browser, we’ll be quite happy, too.

And to get back to the opening point – never be shy to introduce your friends who still use Microsoft Internet Explorer to Firefox! They’ll thank you in any case, but it works especially well when things break. If you find yourself doing that a lot, then you are already very cool and you should consider going further by becoming a Mozilla Rep.

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