Microsoft makes a browser going by the name Internet Explorer. You may have heard of it. Now, many of us will never use IE (maybe except for testing or some such) but what Microsoft does with the browser still matters to us all. We know this is so because IE is the browser most people use due to being the one included by default in Windows.
So we know why the development of IE7 matters, but what should we hope for, first and foremost? Looking at the IE Blog, it seems like it’s a situation of “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” there – if they write about how they’re implementing features like tabs they get criticised for doing that and not the standards. If they write about how they finally support transparent PNG images they’re swamped with comments about wanting more features. Can’t remember right now what they’ve written about bugfixes in their standards support, but there has been some. And comments from non-satisfied readers. Not easy being an IE developer, eh?
But roughly speaking, there are three options: Implement features that users want, implement more standards support (that is, at least to the same level as the alternative browsers) and combining these two options, doing both.
Focusing on the features will give the users who won’t switch to other browsers a nicer browsing experience, but… Other browser makers won’t be resting on their laurels, but continue to make their browsers better, with both more support for standards and more and better functionality in the interface, making the browsing experience better and better for their users. In the browser or as plugins, IE will be playing catch up in this field no matter what.
Focusing on the standards will also be a catch up game, but to a lesser degree; while there may be suggestions for new features here, standard definitions doesn’t add up that quickly. The problem by focusing on standards is of course, that using the browser doesn’t really get any nicer by it. Combining both would be the best – if the resources are there. But Microsoft too has limited resources, so what should be done by them? Where shuld the focus be?
The main focus should – IMHO – be on standards support, with some implementation of the “must have”-features, such as tabs. The browser features to make it nicer to use the browser itself, of course, but not spending too much time on it, because there are more important matters. This being the implementation of (bug free) standards support, of course. This will help everyone; IE users will start experience what users of alternative browsers already experience, and more importantly, it will be easier for web developers to make web sites that takes advantage of what is possible, without leaving IE users out in the cold. A win-win-situation. What the IE team actually will do remains to be seen – we can only cross our fingers and hope for the best. And maybe they write something in their blog…