Random Thoughts

IE7 – what’s important?

I’ve been thinking – and procrastinating. I had a comment to a post in Scobleizer’s blog, about the Acid2 test and Opera’s challenge to Microsoft:

What is left now is for MS to ace the Acid2 test with IE7, and make it secure to counter the reputation in that field, and optionally add features so that it will be an attractive browser to use.

And Robert Scobleizer answered thus:

Yup, although I’m still not sure just how many Web standards we’ll be able to support in the next version. Supporting Web standards are important, but not the most important thing on the list. By far security is more important. So we’re continuing to work on that first and make sure we nail that. Just wanna let you know that figuring out software development priorities are tough.

Believe it or not, but the IE team does not have unlimited numbers of really smart developers.

Now, I do know that expecting that IE7 will completely support CSS1 and CSS2.1 right away is not realistic, but I started thinking: What is the most important thing? This does depend on your point of view, I guess, but there is one thing that gives us a hint, I believe: Why did MS change their mind and decide to release IE7 for Windows XP after all, and not wait for Longhorn as previously stated? Personally, I’ve got no doubt the popularity of FireFox is at least partly to blame.

Security is of course important – very important – and when there are warnings from many against using IE due to security risks, it’s especially important to eliminate threats. There will be many scrutinising eyes at the release of the new version, and I don’t think MS can take any chances not getting that right.

But security isn’t all, is it? Security isn’t the only reason people have downloaded FireFox and Opera – what more is there? There are some who are enticed by the tabbed browsing alone, and have said they would switch back to IE if it got tabbed browsing too. More are enjoying other features, either built in or via extensibility (plug ins) – and then there are those who like the fact that the alternatives support standards much better than IE.

I have no idea how many of the FireFox users and Opera users care about standards support or even know what the standards are about. How many have just heard about FireFox and/or Opera and that it is so much better than IE, or got it recommended, and just decided to try it and see without knowing much more than the names and that they support tabbed browsing? But when it comes to web designers and developers, standard support is very important, and some are getting very impatient with MS. From time to time, and from many different sources, I’m hearing the equivalent of “Screw Microsoft, IE can get served a less advanced web page. I’ll support the standards.” The voices uttering these opinions are not getting fewer.

This is also an aspect Microsoft have to consider: When users visit such pages with standards compliant browsers, and then see a usable, but less advances/pretty/whatever result in IE, which browser will they use? How will they react? While many users don’t care or know about the standards the web pages are built on, their experience with the browsers that support standards (or not) will be an influence. So while security is a necessity, standards support shouldn’t lag too far behind. And maybe have a look into which browser features are popular – when standard support is in place, that’s where the browsers are going to win and lose users. All in my humble opinion, of course.

In any case, it will be intereting to see the result of MS’ work on IE7, at least.

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