Thursday, July 28th 2005

A Few Words on IE7 Beta 1

If you didn’t already know, Microsoft has just shipped beta 1 of IE7. In fact, I’ve already had a visitor here using IE7. Being a website developer (although an amateur) I have been hoping that they would improve their severely broken CSS support. Back in February, when the planned update to IE was announced, it was unclear to what extent the rendering engine was going to be improved. Sadly, it now seems all too clear.

Reading the official what’s-new page, it seems us web-devs will just have to hope for a speedy release of IE8 with some real improvements:

CSS Updates – Internet Explorer 7 includes fixes for issues with the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) feature. Both the peekaboo and guillotine bugs have been addressed, and work on other issues is under way to provide web developers with reliable and robust CSS functionality.

Oh, so both the peekabo and the guillotine bugs have been fixed? Well, that really is good news. But it also makes it quite clear what the prime objective for IE7 is: to stem the flood of people moving to Firefox. They’ve thrown in some tabs and a search box, hoping that doing so will be enough to plug the never-ending leakage of IE’s market share. In fact, IE7 Beta 1 is, at least on the surface, pretty much a Firefox clone.

Over at the IE Blog, someone has now posted a screenshot of how IE7 fares with the Acid2 test. Not surprisingly, by now, it sucks just as hard as IE6 does.

Back in March, Chris Wilson said:

Additionally, with every subsequent major release of IE, we have expanded and improved our implementation of web standards, particularly CSS and HTML.

Well. I don’t claim to know every detail of the IE version history, but my feeling is that the improvements made to the IE7 rendering engine (so far, at least) makes it one of the IE releases which made the smallest improvement over the previous version.

Quite obviously, Microsoft woke up far too late to be able to make any real improvements to IE. When they finally got started, there just wasn’t time to address such nonessential things as standards support. At least, this is the interpretation I make of the comments made by the IE developers. They’re always mentioning a lack of resources and making there’s only so much we can do-type of statements.

However, there may still be some improvements before the final release though. A quote from the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 1 Technical Overview gives us at least some hope:

The final release of Internet Explorer 7 will focus on improving the developer experience by reducing the time needed for developing and testing on different browsers.

If there’s any truth in that statement, Microsoft are going to make pretty serious changes to the rendering engine before shipping the final. Also, if they deliver on that promise, it would get them in line with their new Microsoft does (almost) no evil policy. (I’m talking about fully documented & open XML document formats in the next Office, improved standards compatibility of Microsoft.com, MSN Virtual Earth being virtually cross-browser and with open API’s, etc.) Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But, I tell you this – if they make the final IE7 fully CSS 2.1 compliant then I won’t say another negative thing about Microsoft here for at least six months a whole year. And that’s a promise.

Update: Just remembered another good thing Microsoft has done recently. They remade msn.com, in a strive for total standards compliance! XHTMLstrict, baby, strict! Of course, there are still some errors – but they have been narrowed down to seven in all. Not bad for such a large website front page!

No Responses to this post:

  1. Anonymous says:

    If IE7 final would be fully CSS2.1 compliant, I’d be willing to do a whole lot more than just stop talking negatively for a few months. 😉

  2. David Naylor says:

    Yeah, I guess you’re right. 😉

  3. Daniel Talsky says:

    Well, that’s an easy statement to make, but the fact is, they might make it MOSTLY css 2.1 compliant,which is frankly all we can hope for.Why? Because their Visual Studio generated code would break in a fully compliant browser. If they retooled IE to have a standards focus, they’d have to retool all their other products as well. And provide a migration path. I mean, really.

  4. David Naylor says:

    Yes, to be honest, I’m not realistically thinking they would implement full CSS2.1. They might do parts of it though. At least that’s the impression you get from what they’re saying right now.