The Slumbering Giant Shifts in His Sleep

A few days back, I noticed an entry at stating that “The IE Team is listening.” I thought it was a nice sentiment, but didn’t really think much of it (sounded more like a PR ploy to tell people that the thousands upon thousands of bug reports and feature requests weren’t just directed to /dev/null… or whatever the corresponding MS term is). MS had long stated that no new IE development (aside from the obvious security fixes) would take place, and that the next major version of IE (or whatever they end up calling it) would be Longhorn only (no Mac version, no Sun version, and surprisingly, no pre-Longhorn Windows version). I guess I figured any feature requests & bug fixes (like the awful PNG alpha transparency bug required feature) would just be worked into this new version for Longhorn.

However, I stumbled across a link to one of the “former” IE Team member’s blogs (who has been working on Longhorn). Apparently, development of IE is restarting. He mentions rejoining the team, being excited about working on IE again, and reiterates the words of Robert Scobble in the aforementioned WaSP article. One can take this as an about face by MS (which could be a very good thing), signaling that new versions of pre-Longhorn IE will surface, or it could be taken as MS simply focusing more attention on the version of IE for Longhorn (although it would seem a bit odd to create an IE team outside of the Longhorn team just to work on Longhorn’s browser). I’m hoping for the former, as I’d love to see an IE6.5 or 7 with really good standards support, better security, and blasted alpha PNGs!

While I’d love to see an open source project such as Mozilla become the dominant browser, a renewed push by IE can be a very good thing. When IE updates, the large majority of IE users tend to automatically upgrade (mostly out of fear of security holes that are somewhat part of the whole Microsoft experience). And if the IE team is actually listening to us standards nuts (some sort of a cashew, I hear), the forthcoming versions of IE can only get better. Contrast this to when Netscape made the huge leap from that monstrosity that is Netscape 4 to the Mozilla-based Netscape 6. I’d bet it would be safe to say more people upgraded to IE5+ than upgraded to NS6+, if they upgraded at all (it has been an oft documented fact that curmudgeons that don’t upgrade from NS4 drive me absolutely insane).

I can only hope the team is actually listening and really want to try. Some of comments on the IE team member’s blog are a bit discouraging. For example, his response to people saying they want “better standards support,” stating that such a request is vague and hard to implement. I’m sorry, but it’s not. Hop on over to the W3C, buddy… tons of software developer based guidelines on what “better standards support” actually is. Anyone who has perused the W3C site can tell you it isn’t the best reference for site developers; it is directed toward the implementers of such standards.

One rather misguided soul commented on the blog, “The problem with the ‘standards’ is that there are too many of them and often contradicting. For example, should IE implement XHTML 2? Or CSS 3?” How are CSS and XHTML contradicting? One is a presentational (style) language, while the other is a markup (structural) language. They work together (in fact, CSS is rather vital to XHTML, as well as XML, XSLT, etc). Apparently there are “too many” standards… um… sure. Just like there aren’t enough features that MS developed only for IE. Right. I won’t go into a web standards propaganda tirade, but I will say this: standards (all those “too many” of them) are meant to create an open standard, so that all the proprietary hacks and features that browser makers made in the Browser Wars aren’t needed and their features are open to EVERYONE. And the strange thing about all these “innumerable” standards… they break down to focusing on XML. If you get XML right, you are only a short way from all those “extra’ standards out there, like MathML and SVG, which are just derivatives of straight-ahead XML. [The commentator also mentioned wondering which version of these standards should be used. Well, the idea is to support as many as possible, but preferably the current W3C recommendation. I’ve yet to hear about any XHTML2, as he mentioned, even in conceptual write-ups. The W3C is currently working on xhtml 1.1 and the modularization of XHTML. CSS3 hasn’t even been finalized, so why not at least get CSS2.1 out of the way?]