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Weblog Entry

IE7

February 15, 2005

Dean Edwards is going to need a new name for his pet project. The question is: will it still be necessary?

It’s official: there will be an Internet Explorer 7. There’s been a lot of activity over at the MSDN IEblog lately, so the former cone of silence covering any form of news about Internet Explorer has been lifted for a while. It’s no big surprise that Microsoft is releasing an update to their flagship browser.

What is surprising, on the other hand, is that Internet Explorer 7 will be available to Windows XP users. In mid-2003 it was announced that IE/Mac had seen its last update, and IE/Win was no longer going to be available as a stand-alone product. It was largely perceived to mean the browser was now only going to see an update when the operating system did, and given Longhorn’s continual slip date, this could only mean the reign of IE6 would continue for many years to come.

So why the strategy shift? Or is this even much of a shift? It was perceived that the release of Longhorn would be the next time we’d see an update to IE, but as far as I’m aware it was never confirmed. This could be right in line with the long-term plan, but something tells me it’s a reaction, more than anything.

It’s 2005. Internet Explorer 6 was released in late 2001, and itself a minor improvement over IE5 which was originally released in 1999. There’s a whole lot of stagnation going on, and we all know what has happened in the past few years. IE security exploits have become routine, and the alternative choices are all vastly superior. The public is starting to catch on to both facts, and for the first time in a long, long while we’re seeing IE’s market share slipping. Given the interesting things going on in the web application space (think Google here), the future of the browser is bright. That, more than anything, is a reason to get back in the game.

The question we all want to know: any chance of rendering improvements? A minor patch for IE6 was released as a component of XP Service Pack two last year. I still have yet to hear of a single rendering difference between IE6 stock and IE6 post-XPSP2, so it was a security update with a pop-up blocker. Will Internet Explorer 7 bring anything else to the table like improved CSS2 support, or even just a mass fixing of all the outstanding bugs? About the best we can do is wait and see what the first betas bring.

I’m not optimistic, either way. No matter what IE7 gets right, the browser upgrade cycle is slower than ever. There are so many compelling reasons to stop using IE6 now, but the market has done next to nothing about it. Even if IE7 is perfect, we’ll be supporting IE6 for a long time yet. I’ve predicted 2010 as the year we might be able to stop; even that might be wishful thinking, unfortunately.

* html, baby. * html.


Paul D says:
February 15, 01h

I guess there are two important questions to ask.

1. Will IE7 actually fix its CSS rendering bugs and add more CSS support?

2. Will IE7 be secure enough for people to use?

I’m guessing that since IE7 needs to keep ActiveX compatibility with IE6 and remain an integrated part of the desktop, the answer to (2) will remain “no”. Which makes it worthless to users.

The answer to (1) will determine whether web designers find any use for it.

David says:
February 15, 01h

I can picture the ad campaigns already and I fear it may just go further than a small add in the New York Times. Who knowes it may just be done in the same way as all the other current windows updates, i.e. automatically installed the background!

February 15, 01h

Even if we see a browser from Microsoft comprable against Firefox, support for IE6 and sometimes 5.5 will still be the norm. Worst case scenario for this - Microsoft fixes bugs currently used to target IE6 while keeping the rendering engine unchanged. Somehow, I just don’t see this as being a good thing at all.

February 15, 01h

I don’t suppose Dean Edwards has a trademark on “IE7?”

:)

February 15, 01h

Wow, some of the feedback on the MSDN IE blog is quite interesting. You’ve got your diehard IE users (ignorance is bliss) and then the folks asking if IE7 is going to work on Linux!

Based on past behaviour, MS will probably make an attempt to meet standards requirements better than IE6 has done, and they will undoubtedly fail.

Long live open source development, we’ll have yet another stable Firefox build in no time (how many does that make in less than a year?)…who can say the same for IE?!

Jon Hicks says:
February 15, 01h

I’m not optimistic either. I can’t see this as being anything more than a update for security features. IF the rendering engine is worked on, will it just introduce more bugs? Then you’re stuck supporting 4 versions of IE, all with their own idiosyncrasies!

The best part of the news is that it’s so obvious Firefox has made them change their plans…

February 15, 01h

I hardly ever write about IE, but this definitely sparked my interest. Nonetheless, I am not optimistic either.

Six more years. Six more years..

Ben says:
February 15, 01h

Geez we’re a pessimistic bunch… I guess like Joe Clark said at WE04, the things that make us interested in standards are the same things that make us crotchety pedants.

I think this is merely a commercial stop-gap measure from MS after all the publicity - http://news.com.com/Firefox+drawing+fans+away+from+Microsoft+IE/2100-1032_3-5368302.html?tag=nl - surrounding IE losing market share.

I think Jeff and John are on the money - it’s going to be a long time before we can chuck out our hack management.

9
Jon Jakoblich says:
February 15, 02h

What are the chances it’s going to include full PNG support?

Rimantas says:
February 15, 02h

I share your pessimism.
For me it looks like just another name for “cumulative security update” and PR move to delay corporate environment from switching to alternatives.

Lach says:
February 15, 02h

“Who knowes it may just be done in the same way as all the other current windows updates, i.e. automatically installed the background!”

Why would that be a bad thing? No, really. If users are already using an alternative browser, it’s not going to delete that browser, or they’d be in for some pretty major lawsuits.

On the other hand, if somebody’s still using IE6, or worse 5 or 5.5, then automatic upgrades would mean rapid uptake of IE7, meaning the older versions of IE would die out more quickly. And even if IE7 only fixes half a dozen rendering bugs, that’d still make it preferable to IE6, no?

February 15, 02h

> I don’t suppose Dean Edwards has a trademark on “IE7?”

A friend of mine (who is hot on that kind of thing) was convinced that I could successfully accquire that trademark. It’s not really a road I wanted to go down so I didn’t pursue it. Would’ve been a hoot though. :-)

Regarding this announcement from Microsoft - well it looks like what they used to call a security patch. Except they’ve given it a version number. Don’t expect any CSS enhancements. Ditto PNG. Best not to expect anything good really…

13
Renato says:
February 15, 02h

As a matter of fact, anyone who’d ever read “The Inmates Are Running The Asylum” (by Alan Cooper) and “The Design of Everyday Things” (by Don Norman), understands what that post (http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2005/02/15/373104.aspx) means: another software that brings more “creeping featurism” to frustrate the user’s experience.

February 15, 02h

My biggest fear is that IE7 won’t support CSS properly, but will fix existing CSS bugs it has. (For example, we won’t able to use the *html or underscore hacks anymore.) Of course, the alternative is to send an alternate stylesheet for an alternate browser, which will always be possible, but the more versions that exist the more stylesheets we’ll have to create. Hopefully we can still hack IE7 like we do with IE6 or IE5.5, but then again hopefully we won’t have to.

February 15, 02h

Hey all you pessimists, don’t forget, they could still decide to just use the Gecko engine in the blasted thing.

Stephen says:
February 15, 02h

Given the stated intention in the IE blog to listen out for feedback from customers, perhaps this is the time to get specific about the expectations of IE7 from those who seek better support for web standards.

To my mind, that means more than just saying “100% compliance” with CSS2 etc.; it means taking a view on prioritisation of fixes, additional support, and how IE7 should best be delivered (automatic updates or not?) to serve the interests of web users (first) and web authors (second).

Maybe mezzoblue.com site is the place to set out the stall…?

17
Jim says:
February 15, 03h

Next year will be PNG 1.0’s tenth anniversary. I’m hoping a decade is long enough for Microsoft to implement it.

February 15, 03h

"Obviously, they will address CSS issues, but clearly not all. They will also rip every feature out of [Firefox](http://getfirefox.com “Take back the web with Firefox”), and just use it very poorly. It will turn out ugly, and nobody will turn back from Firefox, even with tabs and a very complex plugin structure it will, without a doubt, have. Lacking XUL will make it virtually impossible to write a plugin for the common-man, as opposed to the ease in doing so for Firefox. Themes — they’ll be simply unusable, if they tackle that at all."

I wrote more: http://nokrev.com/archives/2005/02/microsoft-is-on-ie7.html

You should really use trackback, so I don’t have to be ajerk and do this. Also, if you comment with a quote at the beginning, the preview seems screwed up.

February 15, 03h

If, like Jon H and Dean E say above, this is just a security patch, what the heck are they doing announcing this as a new version?

If this thing comes out, and there is no improved CSS support or PNG support, then MS are going to be crucified! When will they learn?

Is this truly only a way to pull back some of their market share without actually doing any work on the rendering engine? Are they that evil?

I can’t wait to see how this one pans out?

Ethan says:
February 15, 05h

Hey, Andrew—not to sound like a Microsoft apologist, but it bears remembering that they’re not the first browser company to toy with their version numbers.

*cough* http://netscape.com/ *cough*

February 15, 05h

What I wonder, though, is why they wouldn’t fix all the outstanding bugs. (a) They have to know about them, (b) they’ve had the IE team back together for quite a while, (c) the bugs are relatively trivial to fix from a coding perspective. I think we’ll get a good package with IE 7…

Derek says:
February 15, 06h

Digital Web has an interesting take:

http://www.digital-web.com/news/2005/02/misinformation_about_the_ie7_announcement/

“…[apparently no] other platforms other than XP with service pack 2 (“Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows XP Service Pack 2 customers”). The release is also identified as simply a beta to go along with the Longhorn beta release (“The beta release is scheduled to be available this summer.”). The release has only been identified as a security update, which means the rendering engine could still be identical to that in IE6 (“Internet Explorer 7.0, designed to add new levels of security to Windows XP SP2 while maintaining the level of extensibility and compatibility that customers have come to expect.”). That said, I think it may be Fall before we see any new IE7 (non-beta) and I am not so convinced that it will be a standalone browser at all… much less offer any improved standards support…”

February 15, 07h

I see this IE7 thing as a contingency plan; ie “those Firefox guys might get big. Let’s not take any risks”.

Still, Dave, I think 2007 is the minimum. It never hurts to be optimistic…does it?

24
Greg says:
February 15, 07h

I predict by the time IE 7 comes out, they will in fact support CSS 2 correctly. However that said, by that time all other major browser players will be supporting the new CSS 3 standards, and thus we will still be left doing work arounds for IE’s stupidity.

Doug says:
February 15, 07h

I was wondering when one of you was going to pick up on this story. I’m going to be optimisitc and believe that standards support will be improved. Looks like Firefox lit a fire under their ass…

February 15, 07h

IE 7 will only be available to to XPSP2.

That being said it’s not going to do web developers any good when we still have to deal with people using windows 2000 and 98 et al. on outdated browsers that dont support the standards that we are trying to use.

Unless IE7 is a standalone and made available atleast for win 2000 then in my opinion its a lost cause to hope for a new rendering engine and CSS/PNG support.

…goes back to promoting firefox…

February 15, 08h

2010. 2010. Sad, but I think it’s true. I got excited when I heard the news about IE7, but now that I have looked into it a bit more, I agree with Keith D (http://www.7nights.com/asterisk/archive/2005/02/ie7). Big whup.

February 15, 11h

I was wondering; what if Microsoft fixes some of the CSS problems, e.g. the * html and the other hacks, but doesn’t really solve some of the most important viewing problems, and still generally doesn’t have good CSS2 support? Then we won’t have any hack to use at all.

But on the other hand, as Andrew said, when they’re doing it as a new version, why should it then just be a security release? I don’t really think so. There must be something new.

29
Trent says:
February 16, 01h

“I contend that the public doesn’t care about standards and CSS and so on.”

Very true. But remember when Steve Ballmer jumped around the stage chanting “Developers! Developers! Developers!” Well, web developers have been leading the mass exodus away from IE. I know I’ve gotten all my family members to use Firefox. If IE7 doesn’t throw a bone to the developers (CSS, PNG, etc…), MS will be sorry.

Personally, I wish MS would never release another browser and just let IE die. (Yeah, I know: fat chance). I don’t care how standard-compliant IE7 is…it’s just going to be another browser to consider, and it’s going to have it’s own bugs.

February 16, 01h

I’m hoping they don’t touch the rendering engine.

The IE7 release is going to be coded in a relatively short timespace and I would rather MS start from scratch if they are going to change the rendering engine.

If they do change the rendering engine, I could see it breaking all the current CSS hacks without fixing the bugs they are used to workaround.

February 16, 02h

Reading the IEBlog post, all that says to me is we’re building on the security updates…

I reckon IE7 will just be more security updates. I doubt the new version number is anything but a publicity stunt to get all the masses of the great unwashed hooked back into MS

As for the auto-update - thats great if it doesn’t break anything, otherwise we’ll be hacking the registry as before with SP2 to delay it… and doesn’t XP ship with IE6? if so we’re not gonna see any change to the market share of IE5/5.5!

February 16, 03h

Although I once assumed that IE6 rendered consistently across operating systems, I have of late noticed some differences between my Windows 2000 environment and XP (whenever I happen to jump onto it).

However, due to the fact that I can’t be bothered adding yet another combination to my test suite, I haven’t fully investigated the extent of these differences.

33
Trent says:
February 16, 03h

Hopefully, IE7 will spark lots of reviews in the media that say something like, “IE7 is an improvement over IE6, but you’re best bet is to get Firefox.” Firefox will probably get more mainstream publicity from IE7 reviews than anything else.

34
Greg says:
February 16, 04h

To get around IE’s set of problems I prefer just to post my screen shots out of photoshop and just image map them..

Sure the down side is that it’s all just an image, but hey the upside is that it’s all just an image too.

Saves me tons of time with all of the IE CSS hacks and hey, the client isn’t any wiser.

:)

35
Greg says:
February 16, 06h

I can see why some are worried that an IE upgrade will fix some of the CSS bugs, but still not completely support standards. Afraid of what it will do to existing designs and how future sites will be coded.

But you will always be able to utilize “Conditional Comments” to target specific IE stylesheets and specific IE versions. Sure you’re not keeping it all in one stylesheet, but to me Conditional Comments are a cleaner way of doing sites with CSS anyway. Now I also don’t support IE/Mac either, but who cares about that browser.. certainly not me. My stats don’t warrant it enough although I do support Safari and Mozilla on the Mac. You have to pick and choose your battles.

I welcome an upgrade to IE, however I also agree that it will be about 5-10 years before it can be supported as the minimum browser requirements.

February 16, 06h

Does anybody else see this as a massive fake-out? I mean, given the tenor and tone of the IE discussion around the web standards circles over years, Microsoft is well within its rights to expect pessimism from us.

However, what if they’re counting on that? What I mean is, they have to know that not many mainstream news sources or people care about our negative feedback about this announcement at this point.

But… what if they DO in fact have improvements in the rendering engine that we won’t know about until right before the annoucement? We’d fall all over ourselves heaping praise upon them, which would tie in nicely with the inevitable marketing/promotion campaign that would go along with the release. “IE - Now approved by Web Standards advocates everywhere!”

After all, this is in keeping with their release of information up to this point. For a long time we’ve heard that there will be no new IE… until is happens. Kind of like “no, we’re not going to make a Flash-based iPod” right before they do.

Personally, though, I’m as skeptical as most of you. I consider the lack of compatibility and interoperability to be a conscious choice on the part of Microsoft (feature vs. bug, ya know). Their business model for the browser depends on it working that way.

I’m dying to be proven wrong, though. As many people have pointed out, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Microsoft to add a standards-compliant rendering mode triggered by a DOCTYPE and/or mime type of application/xhtml+xml, while keeping the current rendering engine for all other cases. (*crosses fingers)

February 16, 07h

I can’t help feeling that if the rendering engine was to be rewritten, they’d have paraded it a lot more before now.

As it is, I expect it will just be a lot of fixes (maybe) bolted onto the IE6 frame.

It will be the vicious marketing campaign that sells this thing. They’ll lob lots of nasty FUDs at the Firefox and Opera camps, and depend on their spin doctors for the rest.

February 16, 07h

This is probably the most hilarious thing I’ve read in a while:

“Why? Because we listened to customers, analysts, and business partners. We heard a clear message: “Yes, XP SP2 makes the situation better. We want more, sooner. We want security on top of the compatibility and extensibility IE gives us, and we want it on XP. Microsoft, show us your commitment.””

Who the hell is saying that except for microsoft? Seriously, it’s just a browser. I don’t want “security on top of the compatibility and extensibility” - I just want to look at porn that downloads at a reasonable rate!

The thing that really pisses me off is this; crappy spin about them listening to “customers” who want extensibility.

Dave S. says:
February 16, 07h

A little more positivity, people. The negativity has played out, let’s try balancing it now okay?

February 16, 08h

Assuming that this update will focus on security fixes, I’m hoping something will be implemented to thwart common phishing techniques eg. the window.createPopup() trick used to spoof the address bar (see http://www.doxdesk.com/personal/posts/bugtraq/20030713-ie/)

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of phishing e-mails lately, presumably as more banks (or scammers) come online.

Full PNG and better CSS2 support would be nice, but perhaps the developer world will sleep better at night knowing their grandmother’s new computer is (hopefully) safer by default.

February 16, 08h

Never underestimate Microsoft’s ability to come late to the game with a competitive product. (case in point: IE5). Granted, I don’t *want* that to happen, since look where IE5’s world domination left us for a few years.

But it is nevertheless somewhat likely (case in point: IE5).

Jon Berg says:
February 16, 09h

I think if Microsoft wants to be a browser player they have to make updates more often than when they ship new operating systems. From my point of view the security issues are more important than the latest rendering tricks. The security issues in IE is the main reson why I have converted to Firefox. What is the main difficulty of making the security super tight in a web browser?

BugTomek says:
February 16, 09h

We’ve got strong reasons to be pesimistic: there is no word about making IE7 more standards-aware and whole thing looks like it was made in a rush just to stop people leaving IE for Opera or Firefox.
On the other hand MS can make IE a best browser in the market again at not that big cost as it seems. They have whole lot of hidden freatures in IE6. Making them easier avaible for end-user or changing some of them to meet w3c standards can make a whole lot of difference. Think of such things like XMLHttpRequest, XML support, zooming a whole page(like in Opera) or text shadowing.

February 16, 10h

To Cameron:

If you’re talking about the 1px alignment bug with a css centered background, I think that’s due to the “plastic” looking Windows XP theme being applied, as it seems to disappear when the classic theme is applied (same look as in Windows 2000).

I think this is because of a difference in scrollbar width that they didn’t account for. While we’re all well-aware of IE6’s many bugs, that’s one in particular that stuck out to me.

And to comment on the topic of IE7, I hope they get it right this time around, and don’t create the need for a whole new set of hacks to be implimented.

Derek says:
February 16, 10h

I share concern about it too.
IE has taken a bludgeoning about it’s security issues (insecurity issues, rather), and I think definitely FireFox has caused a hurting at Microsoft. I think that security is their priority, or should.

If they amped up security, and left the css support the same, I could live with it just fine. But as was mentioned, trying to offer better support may open up a new can of worms for designers.

IE has many good points, but they unfortunately seem to be a sort of oxymoron (tying in with the operating system is good, not fixing security in the browser is bad, etc). And it seems that MS has been a bit sloppy since ‘winning the browser war.’

Of course, there’s realy not a lot that can be done about it, except hope it’s more safe and doesn’t introduce new bugs in an attempt to support css better.

Patience, I guess.

February 16, 10h

While the IE7 spin machine is revving-up is a good time to hold MS’s feet to the fire, on every street corner and blog possible. It wouldn’t just be *bad* if IE7 tweaked the rendering engine just enough to set every developer scrambling, it’d also be *wrong*.

A move like that is anti-competitiveness by stealth. Grabbing the PR spotlight is one thing, but sucking up a lot of our energy and attention (for what, a year, maybe?) for purposes serving only Microsoft is *wrong*. They’d be leveraging their position again, yet in a way too arcane to arouse public or regulatory attention. That can’t be allowed to happen.

This all smells like the Social Security Privatization game here in the U.S. Everybody’s in a supportive or oppositional lather over a plan with no announced details. Luckily, folks are beginning to smell the BS, but it’s taken a lot of effort by alternative media to get us there.

So we’ve got to get the word out: Nobody should be comforted by MS non-announcements; they should instead be skeptical and pissed over wanton spin-doctoring. Folks — ordinary folks — should come to see amorphous IE7 talk as a negative.

Isn’t MS a member and funder of W3C? Aren’t there honest folks working on MSIE? Yes, and yes. Where are they on this nonsense?

LQ

February 16, 12h

Much is said about so-called standards, tabbed browsing and so on all of which I salivate over. I also want to see Microsoft release an IE.NET SDK (F*ck COM and C++ Okay?).

I contend that the public doesn’t care about standards and CSS and so on. Only the results that are produced. The public does care about the following priorities however…

** Security
** Print Control
** Acessibility

As we all understand the issues regarding security and print control my final comments address accessibility.

I wonder how many of us know or understand that the lack of browser support for accessibility is as serious as I contend? The US federal government has the power to forbid the use of any software that does not support accessibility. The states are sure to follow.

How many know and understand that lack of accessibility is resulting in punitive actions which will continue to become more and more severe? This has occurred in the UK and recently here in the US.

Microsoft has clearly led the world in assistive technology. They should implement all future releases of IE keeping this in mind.

February 17, 06h

My prediction:

IE7 will catch up on 80% of what FireFox has done and will do next to nothing innovative. By the time the next IE comes out, FireFox and friends will once again have moved light years ahead. Long live open source browsers!

February 18, 04h

Internet Explorer.. err what is that.. oh its that alternative browser to opera …. Opera is the fastest and safest browser in the world.. anybody who knows I.E 7 will be released at such and such a date will already by using opera.

Jinu Johnson
http://injinuity.blogspot.com

BugTomek says:
February 19, 02h

There is interview with Bill Gates on abc.com (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=506354&page=1) where he speaks a little about IE7 and Firefox. Nothing special, just typical “we want to be the best”. What is worth to note there is that he said: “…best in security, best in features”, which makes me some hope for IE7 being not only a security update.

Lach says:
February 20, 02h

“We’d fall all over ourselves heaping praise upon them, which would tie in nicely with the inevitable marketing/promotion campaign that would go along with the release. “IE - Now approved by Web Standards advocates everywhere!””

I think you over-estimate the amount of influence we have over web users’ opinions. Yes, Firefox has seen some movement of late but only with the mainstream media doing a lot of reporting on it, and only after it become good enough on its own.

I don’t know about you, but if I didn’t know what a web standard was, I sure as hell wouldn’t change browsers because somebody I’d never heard of was telling me that broiwser x supported them.

kevinius says:
February 21, 03h

“I’ve predicted 2010”

euh, why should we wait so long? It took css design about 1 year before everybody made the switch from table to css design. The same can happen if we all work together, start a site-concept like csszengarden so people will do the switch.

kevinius says:
February 21, 05h

“I’ve predicted 2010”

euh, why should we wait so long? It took css design about 1 year before everybody made the switch from table to css design. The same can happen if we all work together, start a site-concept like csszengarden so people will do the switch.

54
Matthew says:
March 02, 02h

>> My biggest fear is that IE7 won’t support CSS properly, but will fix existing CSS bugs it has. (For example, we won’t able to use the *html or underscore hacks anymore.)

Ack! I hadn’t thought of that. The last thing we need now is another bagful of hacks.

I, too, had been hoping that the XP auto-update feature would result in Internet Explorer 7 becoming the majority version very quickly. Now I’m not so sure.

Time to plug FireFox harder than ever I guess.

55
Duncan Wilcox says:
March 17, 03h

I’m kinda late on this thread, but I have been thinking about it a little, so here goes.

My guess is that Microsoft will either:

1) leave CSS alone, including all quirks, hacks, * html, etc.

-or-

2) bring CSS support at least at the mozilla/safari/opera level

The reason is very very simple, a substantial number of websites are now CSS based and make extensive use of IE-specific hacks, fixing those hacks without fixing CSS would make the IE7 user experience significantly worse with no real benefit for anyone.

If I can add another guess, I’d say that Microsoft will go for option 1, the only timeframe for release that has been mentioned is summer/autumn of 2005 and while Microsoft does have considerable resources and might have been working on IE7 ever since they started working on XP SP2, I somehow doubt that they have had enough time to rework CSS and JS support to be compatible with standards-based sites — all without ever leaving a trace in the form of different user-agent strings or other information collected for statistics.

September 23, 03h

I am using the beta version (MSDN Subscribers). Happily I am seeing absolutely no deference in rendering of tables or layers that would have been a nightmare to manage. As I use more an more browsers Opera became 100% add free and I have to say it has the best of both worlds and the ability to read from the page by simply selecting the area and press V. Go download it!