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.