'Basic' tabbed browsing to come in IE7

A Firefox developer isn't impressed by the announcement though, labelling the move as nothing more than a cheap move to maintain the IE near-monopoly

Microsoft has confirmed that the upcoming version of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser will include tabbed browsing, a feature made popular by competitors Opera and Firefox.

Making the announcement in a Microsoft blog, IE product unit manager Dean Hachamovitch told users not to expect too much from tabbed browsing in the browser's beta offering.

"The tabbed browsing experience in the upcoming IE7 beta is pretty basic," he said. "The main goal for tabs in our beta release is to make sure our implementation delivers on compatibility and security. The variety of IE configurations and add-ins across the Internet is tremendous."

Hachamovitch said his team would seek feedback to help iron out bugs in the feature. "We’ve also looked closely at reported vulnerabilities in other implementations of tabbed browsing," he said.

The IE guru also explained the motivation behind keeping the feature — which has been available for some years in competing products — out of IE until now.

"Some people have asked why we didn’t put tabs in IE sooner," he said. "Initially, we had some concerns around complexity and consistency … will it confuse users more than it benefits them? Is it confusing if IE has tabs, but other core parts of the Windows experience, like Windows Media Player or the shell, don’t have tabs?"

Hachamovitch admitted he thinks his company made the wrong decision on tabs — a decision he is happy to reverse.

But the reversal is not good enough for at least one Firefox developer. The open source browser's release manager and quality assurance lead, Asa Dotzler, posted a response on his own blog to the IE7 update.

"I suspect that this announcement could be translated to "we decided late in the game that we needed tabs and they're nowhere near done, so don't flame us when you see them," Dotzler wrote.

The Firefox developer contended that Microsoft's motivation in adding the tabbed browsing feature was more related to preserving its software monopoly than providing services to its users.

"Does this mean that the IE7 user won't benefit? No, not at all. Just because their motivation is lame, doesn't mean that the resulting software will suck. But I do think that all software bears the mark of the motivation behind its creation."

"With Firefox, I think our motives are obvious to our users. People understand that we're working to make the Web better for them," he added.

However it appears as if Hachamovitch anticipated such criticism. He pointed out that users have been able to use tabbed browsing with the existing version of IE for some time by utilising freely downloadable third-party solutions like the one provided by Maxthon.

"I think all of these are great!" he enthused. "They demonstrate how extensible the IE platform is. They also provide tabbed browsing in IE on top of Windows versions [like Windows 98] that IE7 will not support."

Renai LeMay reported from Sydney for ZDNet Australia. For more ZDNet Australia stories, click here.