In a recent blog posting , Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) Lead Program Manager Chris Wilson revealed many of the technical improvements that Microsoft will add to IE 7.0 for its final release. Almost all the improvements are related to bugs in IE's implementation of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), an HTML-like technology that Web developers use to create Web sites. Many of these bugs aren't fixed in the currently available IE 7.0 Beta 1 release, Wilson noted. Wilson's post raises some serious questions about IE 7.0, not the least of which is this: If IE 7.0 Beta 1 doesn't include the fixes that most Web developers need, why did Microsoft release IE 7.0 Beta 1 only to a small group of Web developers and other testers, not to the general public as originally promised?
Wilson's post is disappointing because Microsoft doesn't plan to fully support the latest CSS standard in IE 7.0. Instead of using well-established Web standards, IE 7.0 will continue to foist proprietary technologies on Web developers, forcing them to choose between two competing ways of creating Web sites. "In IE 7.0, we will fix as many of the worst bugs that Web developers hit as we can, and we will add the critical most-requested features from the standards as well," Wilson said. "Our intent is to build a platform that fully complies with the appropriate Web standards, in particular CSS 2. I think we will make a lot of progress against that in IE 7.0 through our goal of removing the worst painful bugs that make our platform difficult to use for Web developers."
The most critical point in Wilson's post, in my mind, is Microsoft's admission that it will fail the crucial Acid2 browser-compliance test , which the Web Standards Project (WaSP) designed to help browser vendors ensure that their products properly support Web standards. Microsoft apparently disagrees. "Acid2 ... is pointedly not a compliance check," Wilson noted, contradicting the description on the Acid2 Web site. "As a wish list, \[Acid2\] is really important and useful to my team, but it isn't even intended, in my understanding, as our priority list for IE 7.0." Meanwhile, other browser teams have made significant efforts to comply with Acid2.
Microsoft blames backward-compatibility problems for the stalemate over true Web standards compatibility. Put succinctly, the company has gone its own way for so long and now has to support so many developers who use nonstandard Web technologies that it will be impossible to make IE Web-standards-compliant without breaking half the commercial Web sites on the planet. Furthermore, by halting all IE development for several years before reconstituting the IE team to create IE 7.0, Microsoft has set back Web development by an immeasurable amount of time.
My advice is simple: Boycott IE. It's a cancer on the Web that must be stopped. IE isn't secure and isn't standards-compliant, which makes it unworkable both for end users and Web content creators. Because of their user bases, however, Web developers are hamstrung into developing for IE at the expense of established standards that work well in all other browsers. You can turn the tide by demanding more from Microsoft and by using a better alternative Web browser. I recommend and use Mozilla Firefox, but Apple Safari (Macintosh only) and Opera 8 are both worth considering as well.
I'll update my IE 7.0 preview on the SuperSite for Windows today to reflect recent IE 7.0 developments. My IE 7.0 review will be available later this week.