Saturday, August 2, 2008

When a Tiny Bug Eats Away Multiple User Experiences: Thank You, SiteMeter



A number of blogs that I read came crashing down on me yesterday. Every time I would try to visit one of these websites, I would get a creepy error saying that "Internet Explore cannot display the webpage" after an "Operation aborted" alert. What did this mean?



My initial diagnosis was that the first website that gave me the error was at fault. They must have had some bizarre code added to it that caused it to fail. When this started happening on more than this website I had to re-think my hypothesis.



My next explanation for this phenomenon was that I had become infected with some evil virus. I then proceeded to run Trend Micro for the next 4 hours. When it was done running, I returned to the crashing culprits only to find them still giving me the error. At that point, I blamed Trend Micro for not being able to catch this malicious little bug.



The next thing I did was to try and open the same websites in Firefox. Voila! No error messages. So this must be an Internet Explorer bug. I went to see if there was an update for IE only to find that I had the latest version. Now I was dependent on Microsoft to fix my browsing experience. Eek.

Before giving up, I noticed a post on one of the websites I sojourn:

Update: It looks like there's a sitemeter problem that is affecting Internet Explorer all over the internet. Many websites won't open if they have sitemeter. Working on it now...
So Sitemeter caused all of this and had taken down thousands of websites because of their wish to track web statistics? Wow. The Sitemeter website itself suffered from its own bug, not coming up in IE when I tested it. It turns out that all of this comes from Sitemeter making some platform changes to "offer a slight improvement to performance and page load times. They "apologize for any inconvenience this may cause but we hope the new features and benefits will be appreciated." I don't think there is any appreciation going on by Sitemeter's customers and their customers' customers.



So it wasn't the websites I routinely visit and enjoy, Trend Micro nor even good old Internet Explorer. I felt bad that I had blamed them for all of these woes. I apologize to you all. It goes to show that a small bug on in this Web 2.0 world we browse in can screw up the experience for more than just the people that created it. It looks like the only winner here is Firefox, which gave me the same good user experience I typically get from it. I may be packing my bags for good, Microsoft. Please thank Sitemeter for it.



UPDATE 1: Sitemeter has "resolved" the issue. It had to do with their new website launch. Resolution? Read their answer: http://weblog.sitemeter.com/2008/08/02/sitemeter-ie-issues-resolved/



UPDATE 2: Gawker readers blame Microsoft's browser even though it's a Sitemeter glitch: http://gawker.com/5032323/the-gawker-internet-explorer-pc-problem

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