How far along is Microsoft with the next version of Internet Explorer (IE) -- which might be IE 7.5 or IE 8.0, depending on what Microsoft decided to do since last time we heard anything truly tangible from the IE team (which was about a year ago)?
Posters on Microsoft's Channel 9 site are asking for an IE update. Among them is Dave Massy -- a former Senior Program Manager on the IE team who resigned from Microsoft in February 2007. Massy posted some of his qualms about the IE team's silence this week on his new personal blog:
"I do agree though that the IE team needs to start talking to the developer community on a much more consistent basis. After the release of IE7 all online chats stopped. The online chats had been taking place every month since well before IE7 was under development. After the release of IE7 the bug reporting system was withdrawn. There have been vague promises that it was only temporary but it has now been almost a year and no replacement is in sight. The IE team does not have to give exact details of IE8 but their complete silence shows a complete lack of respect for the developer community."
Developers need some concrete direction, Massy said:
"(C)ompanies are struggling to know which way to go around key strategic issues such as Vector Graphics Technology. Adobe are about to finally kill their SVG plugin and developers don't know what to use instead. Is IE8 going to provide an answer and support SVG natively as other browsers are doing? It's little surprise that web developers feel jerked around by IE. The longer the silence continues the more even I who was once part of the team starts to question if the IE team can deliver on any part of what is needed in the next generation browser."
Massy points to Al Billings, another former member of the IE team (now working for the Mozilla Foundation), who also has been questioning why the IE team has been so quiet. Billings blogged:
"IE7 was done, really done, by the end of the Summer in 2006. Heck, it was done except for bug fixes when I left in May, 2006. It is now, officially, the Fall of 2007. It has been more than a year since work finished on IE7. More than 200 people work on Internet Explorer (heck, if you count 'contingent staff' as well as employees, there were more than 120 QA people on IE in mid-2006 and I bet over 100 developers). They’ve all been working on something for a year now. You wouldn’t know it by any public announcements, demonstrations, or posts on their blog. Most of what gets posted there is a retread on IE7 features and not terribly often at that."
One poster on Billings' site, "Trevor," said he'd even be happy with new information from the IE team on something as seemingly innocuous as which bugs they've fixed in IE 7:
"Being 'secretive' on new features is fine, but providing info on bugs that have been fixed, should be a #1 priority! It helps build confidence in the IE Team, and the IE Browser. Best of all, they don’t need to worry one bit about another browser copying them."
To be fair, Microsoft officials did share some broad and open-ended design goals for the next version of IE at Mix '07 in early May. Chris Wilson, Platform Architect for IE, said Microsoft was investing across layout, object model and Ajax development with IE 8.0 and that IE 8.0 would be more compliant with CSS 2.1 layout standards. He also said Microsoft was planning to allow developers to add extensions to IE more easily.
Wilson said to expect Microsoft to be investing across layout, object model and Ajax development fronts in IE 8.0. Specificially, Wilson said Microsoft is investing in making IE 8.0 more compliant with CSS 2.1 layout standards. Microsoft also is working to make the IE 8.0 object model more interoperable with that used by other browsers, and is looking to provide more client-side application programming interfaces (APIs) to support local storage for mash-ups, Wilson said.
In May, Microsoft reps said they were looking to release the next versino of IE two years after IE 7.0 -- which would mean some time in 2008. If that date is still good, it seems like the new release should be in testing outside of Microsoft at this point. (Anyone out there in a private alpha/beta/CTP?) Or maybe there's no word because the next IE has been pushed back?
IE team: What's the word?