Internet Explorer 8.0: The silence is deafening

Internet Explorer 8.0: The silence is deafening

Summary: 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)? Windows users and developers are getting restless.

TOPICS: Browser, CXO, Microsoft

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)?

Internet Explorer 8.0: The silence is deafeningPosters 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 After the release of IE7 the bug reporting system was withdrawn.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?

Topics: Browser, CXO, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Let the sound of crickets ring! (NT)

  • IE7... LOL

    Microsoft should just buy Opera and be done with it. Also, why CSS 2.1 and no 3? Heck how about an up-to-date JavaScript engine?
    • CSS3 isn't finished yet - and *nobody* really supports it.

      "Also, why CSS 2.1 and no 3?"

      CSS3 hasn't been finished yet. It's still very much a work in progress. Nobody, not even Opera, supports it.

      I [i]have[/i] seen one or two commands in the occasional browser - but nobody has nowhere near a complete implementation - and quite frankly, since the specs are not finalized, they can change unexpectedly, leaving both browsers and web authors struggling to fix everything that got broken due to the changes.

      It's best that we wait for them to get finished before we start implementing them.

      Quite frankly, though, I'd like to see W3C move faster on this and get them finalized ASAP. The new specs look awesome, and I'd love to start using CSS 3!
      • I'll have to take a look

        It will be interesting to see if CSS3 has anything to offer for the poor beleaguered web application developer community. While CSS1-2 is better than nothing (but not by much) for text formatting and some page layout tasks (which is what it was designed for), it does not even come close to converting html into an application delivery platform. Ajax is a hack--an impressive hack, but still a hack, limited in scope and stability. Macromedia Flash is really quite nice, and what web application developers should probably be using, but then we'd have to live with vendor lock-in.

        I hope someone in the Open Source community reverse-engineers a Flash reader and compiler (and doesn't get sued). Then we could dump html, CSS, and stupid pet ECMAScript tricks and never look back.
        • Heard of Laszlo?

          Took a look at it a couple years back. It's definitely what you're looking for if you're into that sort of things.
          too_much green_tea
      • About CSS3

        Actually, the reason CSS3 is done in huge sections instead of as one monolithic spec is so work can be done on the important parts of CSS without having to wait for small, unusual sections to be finished. CSS3 Selectors has been in CR for a while now, waiting for implementations (IE7, Mozilla, Opera and Konqueror/Safari all implement sections of it), and IIRC the Text and UI sections are going to be ready for CR pretty soon.
  • IE7...The Silence Is Deafening

    In my place it doesn't exist..long live Firefox.
    • In my place..

      we aren't even allowed to run IE 7...definitely long live FF!!
      Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
      • In my place..

        FireF*ck still can't beat Opera .......

        Better download manager and faster in rendering...
        But still, FF have a better ad-blocking add on.
  • Holding On to IE6

    I support about 100 or so desktops and IE6 lets you do a runas admin, then you can basically go and do whatever you need without having to log off the user, etc. Its a real time saver. You can say runas anything else all you want, nothing works as well as this little trick.

    IE7 kills this. Im sure anything after that kills it as well. Im holding on to this tool for as long as I can.
    • You need to start moving away.

      The ease of use you describe is also why IE 6 and it's lesser versions are the hole into the OS delivering a sea of drive by malware. For all it's faults, IE 7 is the only version anyone should use.

      • Start Moving Away To Firefox

        IE version anything is not a good idea. Check out Firefox, it rocks!
        • Except...

          It does rock. I use it all day, every day. Except it doesn't rock with SharePoint. Or Outlook Web Access (sure it works, but it sucks in comparison to how it works with IE). Or other internal web-based apps that, for whatever reason, were developed only to work in IE.

          Not really FF's fault ... but that's the way it is.
          • "doesn't rock with SharePoint..."

            "[i]Or Outlook Web Access. Or other internal web-based apps that, for whatever reason, were developed only to work in IE...[/i]"

            Both of these are MS server products. Now do you think that MS would even allow non-MS browsers access to the proprietary API's that are the foundation of MS lock-in strategies?

            Personally, I am glad that Opera and Firefox are not riddled with ActiveX extensions and all of the security nightmares they bring.

            As for Sharepoint and Exchange (Outlook web access too), you're best bet is to run Windows 2000 in a virtual machine to create a sandbox for IE and Outlook (mostly for IE). This works quite well and I use this approach to minimize vulnerabilities.
          • Sharepoint?

            Why is your company consigning to be locked into the Windows monopoly for another 10 years or so? Sharepoint is more like a virus than anything; it forces Microsoft technology on everything that it touches, due to the same techniques Microsoft has used on every other market they've tried to enter; secret protocols, slight changes to standards...
        • Ease of moving to Firefox?

          I just ordered a new laptop, which comes with Vista, and the latest IE version, that Toshiba provides from Microsoft this month. Any advice or links available, to get away from IE smoothly to Firebox, since this is new to me? Advice type sites with 'how to's' would be appreciated. Any tips on what to avoid or look out for, doing this would be great too!
          Thanks, from WEBWALSH

            Download and install. Easy as that.
          • ???

        • Opera is #1 in security

          Opera is the best choice if security is a concern. I believe security researchers only just recently found the first security vulnerability in any version of Opera that has ever been released to the public. Firefox has had a couple dozen. And as for IE? Is anyone still keeping count?
  • Because their focus is elsewhere

    Instead of being value focused in the software they produce, Microsoft is flailing around trying to find revenue growth.

    So how can they be bothered with something as petty as making Vista worth the extra money and getting IE to a place it doesn't suck.

    But why bother fixing IE when users can just download Firefox?

    MSFT stock is under-performing its peers in the sector. Most likely because they are no longer focused on quality software. Now their focus is the bottom line and turning their customers into a bottomless cash machine.

    But instead of building value, MSFT builds Zune.