Next versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox taking shape

Next versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox taking shape

Summary: Microsoft and the Mozilla Foundation are pushing ahead with their respective next versions of their Web browsers. Their methods are different, but many of their priorities are -- at least in theory -- quite similar.

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TOPICS: Browser
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Microsoft and the Mozilla Foundation are pushing ahead with their respective next versions of their Web browsers. Their methods are different, but many of their priorities are -- at least in theory -- quite similar.

The Mozilla Foundation has published to a public wiki a list of its developers' plans for Firefox 3 (code-named "Gran Paradiso). Gran Paradiso is slated to be available in the third/fourth quarter of 2007 timeframe.

Microsoft disclosed last summer that the IE team is working on the next two releases of Internet Explorer (IE). But the company isn't expected to show a prototype of its work until the Microsoft Mix '07 conference in late April 2007.

Microsoft's reticence to share its timetable or even the planned version number of the next version of IE doesn't mean that information isn't starting to percolate, however. ActiveWin.com is reporting that Microsoft has decided to call the next version of IE "Internet Explorer 8.0" and that its target release date is 18 to 24 months from the IE 7 release, making IE 8 a 2008-2009 deliverable.

(Supposedly, there's already an alpha build of IE 8 circulating inside Redmond's hallowed halls, as well. Anyone out there seen it?)

On the Mozilla Foundation's "must-have" priority list for Firefox 3:

• Improved interaction with add-ons, in terms of installation, configuration and management

• Support for extensible bookmarks, bookmarks and history annotation.

• Support for Web services so they can act as content handlers

• Better Web printing support

• An MSI installer for Windows systems

• Built-in support for Microsoft's CardSpace, as well as OpenID

• Replacement of TalkBack with Airbag, the Google-backed open-source crash reporting tool

On the "highly desirable" feature list for Firefox 3: Improved password security; private browsing mode; Web-page archiving; blacklisting of malicious Web sites; microformat detection framework and microformat handling capabilities; and moving help content from the client PC to the Web.

The Mozilla folks are planning to release a new version of Firefox on a yearly basis, according to information shared on the wiki, "since it helps drive upgrades and adoption." That means Firefox 4 in 2008.

At this point, Microsoft has shared publicly some fairly vague details about the IE team's future plans. Even though Chairman Bill Gates said last year that he hoped the team would be able to release a browser on an annual basis, the IE developers have been reluctant to commit to that timetable.

The IE team has said it will up IE's compliance with Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) standards with future releases. IE team members also have said they'd consider a number of user-requested features shared via online chats over the past few months, including:

• "Locking" a page to prevent users from accidentally navigating away from it

• Adding a "Find on Page" capability

• Improving username/password management

• Restoring the "Image Toolbar" provided in earlier IE 7 test builds

• Changing the download mechanism, perhaps eliminating the initial download to the "temporary Internet files" folder

• Adding easily editable config files (similar to Firefox's userChrome.css and UserContent.css)

• Enabling draggable tabs from one IE window to another

• Configuring tabs so that each has its own private cookie cache

• Introducing new status bar info, possibly with fields such as "last accessed by user" and "window last updated"

• Enabling add-ons, such as stocks, movies, etc., a la Firefox

Any other IE features you'd like to see added to Microsoft's short list for IE 8?

Topic: Browser

About

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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