Internet Explorer 7 Cometh

After all but abandoning Internet Explorer since releasing version 6 on August 27, 2001, Microsoft is readying an October launch of Internet Explorer 7. As this article details, the problem is, it’s not ready for prime time, and they’re making it an automatic download. Heck, the video actually demonstrates a rendering bug right under their noses â?? on the IE7 development team’s blog, no less. Support centers â?? brace yourselves!

For us web developers, the promise of Internet Explorer 7 is grand, because the prior version (used by >80% of the world, sadly) is the biggest piece of crapola because it doesn’t adhere to any semblance of standards. This arrogance on the part of Microsoft requires countless hours of testing and tweaking code to create web sites that work well regardless of the browser being used.

Finally, Microsoft has pledged to release a standards-based browser.

But, that just ain’t so. I’m not breaking any news here, for sure. Any web developer worth his salt knows IE7 is another half-baked MS product that only goes part-way to standards compliance. The perfect example of this is the Acid2 Browser Test from the Web Standards Project. This is a tough test that until recently no browser could properly render. But, everywhere but Redmond change happens rapidly, and other companies take this seriously. Even tiny iCab, written by Alexander Clauss, can render the test properly. As an illustration of how broken IE7 (Microsoft’s latest) is, let’s compare the output.

First, the reference rendering, which is basically a smiley face, show below:
Screen shot showing Acid2 Browser Test reference image (a smiley face)

Now, compare Apple’s Safari (v2.0.4), the default browser on all Macintosh computers:
Screen shot showing a perfect Acid2 Browser Test result for Safari 2.0.4 (Mac)

And Opera 9.02 on Mac (same results on Windows):
Screen shot showing a perfect Acid2 Browser Test result for Opera 9 (all platforms)

And iCab 3.03:
Screen shot showing a perfect Acid2 Browser Test result for iCab 3.03 for the Mac

And FireFox (Mac and Windows are the same):
Screen shot showing a less-than perfect Acid2 Browser Test result for Firefox 1.5 and 2.0 (all platforms)

And, finally, Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1:
Screen shot showing a totally unrecognizable Acid2 Browser Test result for Internet Explorer 7 RC1

Above test notwithstanding, I just had to post the following video, which I think speaks for itself. It is a direct screen capture of the official Microsoft IE7 team blog. There, the program manager for IE7 announced on October 6th that “IE7 Is Coming This Month…Are You Ready?”. Erm, yes and no. Yes, in that the betas and release candidate that I’ve seen do a much better job at rendering web pages to standards (certainly not perfect as the above test illustrates…but believe it or not, WAAAAAY better than Internet Exploder 6). But what makes this a bit worrisome is that the plan, according to Microsoft, is to deliver new browser via Automatic Updates. So, users will have no easy choice. Meaning, we will conform, like it or not. Well, this isn’t really a departure from Microsoft’s tactics, so why complain now? You git what you git and you don’t throw a fit.

Except, the browser really isn’t ready for prime-time. It has numerous bugs, a fact that Monday’s (October 9th) blog posting by IE7 Program Manager Uche Enuha highlights so very succinctly. Seems that on first visiting the comments page, certain content mysteriously moves into a no-display zone on the left side of the screen. A reload corrects the anomaly. But I, for one, don’t want to have to re-author my sites to detect IE7 and force every page to reload so that the end user can actually see my content completely. That’s way too reminiscent of the current approach to Internet Exploder 6.

Video showing a rendering bug in Microsoft Internet Explorer 7

Hint to the Microsoft development team: Look at anchors.

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