First IE7 beta disappoints

I've had the opportunity to take the first beta of IE7 for a quick spin. After a couple of days of sporadic usage, I'm not all that impressed. In fact I'm rather disappointed. Basically for all the same reasons as before; the lack off support for the established web standards.

There are several positive aspects with MS' return to the browser scene. Though most of the things I find positive is more related to the process than the actual result. I highly appreciate MS' new and (more) open development process, just the fact that the MSIE development team have and actively use a blog cannot be praised enough. The newly announced WaSP / MS task force is also very promising, though it probably will take some time before any results from this collaboration will finds its way into the browser. Basically the new openness is highly appreciated, and possibly this represents a major shift in how MS' co-exists with it's users.

When it comes to the browser it still looks very much like the previous versions IE, with the obvious the addition of tabs, the new search box and complete rearrangement of the (currently stripped down) toolbars. Other much talked about new features is enhanced security1, better control of printing and some kind of RSS support. I haven't really tested or seen much of these features (probably related to the way I'm running IE7, alongside other versions of IE), though I haven't really looked for them either. It really doesn't matter as it's very unlikely that IE will ever be my primary browser again, I'm really only interested in how it renders webpages.

I was very disappointed to discover that many of IE's rendering bugs and difficulties still are present, and as far as I've noticed very little functionality have been added. I guess that for most web developers, the only changes of value is a couple of CSS bug fixes (the "Peekaboo" and "Guillotine" bugs according to Dave Shea) and support for alpha channel transparency in a PNG images. From an announcement posted on the IEBlog it's clear though that the next beta will include fixes several other well known IE CSS bugs, add support for a few more elements from the CSS 2.1 specification (:hover on everything, element selectors and fixed positioning) and lastly add support for <abbr> tag.

A lot has progressed on the web during the four years since IE6 was launched, from my point of view this is in no way represented in IE7. The thing is, even though transparency in PNG images, support for abbreviations and the additional CSS 2.1 stuff is all functionality I've been missing in IE, after four years of nothing it just seems a bit sparse2. Had it been months (as opposed to years) after the initial release of IE6 and we were talking about IE 6.1 it would have been great, but in 2005 I'd actually expected a bit more. This might sound a bit harsh, but from the look of things right now, IE7 will just be yet another less capable browser with its own set of bugs and workarounds. In the end only resulting in more work3 without any actual additions to my toolbox.

I hope that I'm proven wrong, that IE7 will conform to web standards, that it will make it easier to create cross-browser accessible websites and that there's been a definitive shift in how Microsoft relates to the web. Though currently, I have my doubts...

Footnotes

  1. I haven't tested for any of the new security improvements, but according to Microsoft-Watch, key security enhancements includes reduced privilege mode (as the default mode), no cross-domain scripting access, improved SSL user interface and integration between IE and Microsoft AntiSpyware. (locate)
  2. I do understand that the MSIE team had to start somewhere, that they had/have a lot of catching up to do, that things take time, that it's hard complying with the standards and that developing a new version of IE is troublesome for a million other reasons. (locate)
  3. One of the first things I noticed with IE7 was that the icons in my drop-down menu was missing. Turns out that one or another of my fixes for IE6 craps out and completely hides the icons in IE7. I haven't researched where it actually fails, but I'm guessing its the PNG transparency fix... (locate)

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