Do you want to view only the webpage content that was delivered securely? <Yes> <No>

This is the dialog that greets me in Internet Explorer 8 when I attempt to view images in Gmail or look at Google Reader items. It happens because I often check my email in coffee shops and other public networks and have told Google to sign me in securely. The issue is that the text content of an email is secure since it is hosted on Google’s servers while the images are hotlinked from another site. In principle it’s good practice to warn users when the supposedly secure site they are visiting has mixed content, but the wording is particularly awful.

Take a look at it again. It’s not asking you if you would like to view the insecure content, it’s asking you if you would like to not view it. That’s like a bartender asking me if I would like to not have a beer; it makes no sense, of course I would like to have a beer, but to get one I have to answer in the negative. In previous versions the choice that would do what you wanted and display the content was “no” and now the opposite is true. And there is the other sticking point: the default answer is “yes”.

I understand what Microsoft is trying to do here. They trying to stop users from blindly clicking yes and opening themselves up to a world of credit card fraud and identity theft. It’s an admirable goal but awkwardly worded (or cleverly worded, as someone at Microsoft must think) questions are not the best way of doing this. I’d much rather have multiple affirmations required to proceed (are you really sure you want to do this?) followed by an option to not warn me for the particular site again.

There is a way to remove the mixed content warnings altogether, but that just brings us back to a world where the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the internet is free to trick you into believing that a site is wholly secure when it isn’t. There is a chance the Trusted Sites options may approximate the desired behavior but I’ve been met with only limited success. Until I get it worked out I’m left telling the bartender “no, I don’t want to not have a beer,” and that’s just wrong. 

(Edit: It turns out that I would need to place both Gmail and the site supplying the images on my Trusted Sites list. This is more work than I am currently willing to go through.)