Microsoft’s IE About Turn

Microsoft, apparently reacting to the rise of Firefox and criticism over security, has reversed engine and said the next Internet Explorer update would come before the next version of Windows, according to CNET:

Reversing a longstanding Microsoft policy, Bill Gates said Tuesday that the company will ship an update to its browser separately from the next version of Windows.

A beta, or test, version of Internet Explorer 7 will debut this summer, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect said in a keynote address at the RSA Conference 2005 here. The company had said that it would not ship a new IE version before the next major update to Windows, code-named Longhorn, arrives next year.

More on the official IEBlog.

Of course, it’s not just about security. CNET points to complaints about the fact the last version was only available to those who already had XP or had paid for an operating system upgrade, while others have complained about IE’s lack of adherence to web standards such as CSS, PNG, XHTML and XML. To that I’d the tendency to develop pages, either on the Net or within Office, that can only be viewed with IE.

As one poster to the (rather pompous and PR-spun) blog posting announcing the upgrade put it:

But how long do you have to hear people scream and scream and scream that they need and want an updated IE? You play it as if you guys are doing your customers a favor! Get real! You’re only doing it because [Firefox] is gaining popularity.

Stick to standards and don’t add any MS proprietary bs to it and I’m sure you’ll win back a lot of the fans you’ve lost.

(For a glimpse of the legitimate concerns, as well as the rather, er, strong emotions elicited by the topic of browsers, the dozens of comments that follow the blog posting are worth a read. Reading them you can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the IE developers who post to the blog; it must be demoralizing to get as many flames as compliments. And I wonder how many more were deleted for language. )

And while we’re on the subject, what I’d like to see next are companies — particularly those in banking and public databases — ensure their sites are compatible with non-IE browsers. It’s shoddy, lazy, and poor business practice to exclude users based on what browser they’re using. Perhaps we should be building a directory of those websites that don’t support all W3C–compliant browsers?