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February 15, 2005

ie 7 this summer?

The IE blog is reporting that Microsoft will be releasing an IE 7 this summer. It appears that their plans to use Longhorn as the delivery vehicle for browser upgrades has been reversed.

The only question I have is will they actually improve their rendering capabilities, or will this be a UI hackjob to bring their five year old app up to a contemporary featureset.

Actually, I have one more question. Why are they leaving out over hundreds of millions of users by not offering this to users of Windows pre-XPSP2? (it sure does sound to me like this won't even be available for XP users pre-SP2. do you all read this differently?)

Scoble's posted too. I expect Cnet to have something up today.

And here's the press release.

update: After re-reading, it sounds like this might be a bit further off than I originally thought. If they release a beta in summer, take feedback, release another beta, and take feedback, then I don't see them getting this thing out the door until 2006 at the earliest. Doesn't that line up with their plans for Longhorn ship dates? Or has that slipped out even further?

update2: and Cnet has a story up with the reasonable title of "Reversal: Next IE update divorced from Windows"

Analysts credited Microsoft's change of heart to the progress of the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser, which has made incremental but steady market share gains against IE in recent months. In a survey conducted late last year, Firefox nudged IE below the 90 percent mark for the first time since the height of the browser wars in the 1990s.

David makes a great observation in the comments, "This feels very much like a 'hang-in-there' message to all the corporations and orgainizations out there thinking of switching to a Better Browser(tm).... The description of what they are planning on releasing sounds very much like a glorified XP SP3." It does sound a bit like that, doesn't it :)

update 3: Mozillazine has the story up too.

update 4: Ben and Blake have posts up too.

The Register

Posted by asa at February 15, 2005 09:44 AM

This could be what I've been hoping for as a webdesigner for a long time now ... standards support? I sure hope so.

That said, I doubt that they will be able to provide anything to switch me from Firefox. If they do, it's been fun working on Firefox-related stuff, and I'll be sure to check in once in a while.

Better get cracking on Firefox 1.1, hm? :-)

Posted by: Foxtrot on February 15, 2005 10:01 AM

"We want security on top of the compatibility and extensibility IE gives us, and we want it on XP. Microsoft, show us your commitment"

AFAIK 'compatibility' in this context means no parser / rendering engine / DOM changes.

Posted by: jgraham on February 15, 2005 10:06 AM

"If they release a beta in summer, take feedback, release another beta, and take feedback, then I don't see them getting this thing out the door until 2006 at the earliest."

or ~4 years later, if they plan on borrowing a trick from google :)

Posted by: Anders on February 15, 2005 10:30 AM

"Why are they leaving out over hundreds of millions of users by not offering this to users of Windows pre-XPSP2?"

I would guess because IE in XP SP2 already has the new security stuff in XP SP2, and there's also media stuff in there, and other bits of XP UI. Therefore, they'd either have to make a somewhat different IE7 for Windows 2000, or they'd have to make a bunch of other stuff that is already XP-only work in 2000. Either of those means more work for them, and helps people to continue using 2000, which they want people to upgrade from.

Posted by: michaell on February 15, 2005 10:45 AM

"If they release a beta in summer, take feedback, release another beta, and take feedback, then I don't see them getting this thing out the door until 2006 at the earliest."

Yeah, this feels very much like a 'hang-in-there' message to all the corporations and orgainizations out there thinking of switching to a Better Browser(tm).

Posted by: David Naylor on February 15, 2005 10:53 AM

In fact, the description of what they are planning on releasing sounds very much like a glorified XP SP3.

Posted by: David Naylor on February 15, 2005 10:55 AM

congratulations with the 25.000.000 Firefox downloads today. we are the champignions, no time for loosers (IE))

Posted by: aasgier on February 15, 2005 11:25 AM

Mozilla should ship firefox 1.5 before MS ships IE7 :P

Posted by: JoŽl Kuiper on February 15, 2005 12:06 PM

It looks that I was right - just cosmetic visible changes, several changes under the hood - and it look like they are mostly security related, I guess that there will be just tweaks of rendering engine.

Anyway, MS knows that it loses most of the users because of security problems, so it tries to hit where it is most profitable. But as image of being not secured can't be changed within the day, and as time passes there are more chance that web developers might build parts of the sites that work normal only in standard-compliant browser... it is possible that MS will have more troubles in the future.

But if web developers decide to keeping full compatibility with IE, and after a time IE7 proves to be secured, then it will probably keep IE market share from further eroding. Of course, unless something else happens - like that major sites issue their customized version of Firefox (Ask, Google, Yahoo).

Posted by: Ivan Icin on February 15, 2005 12:30 PM

BTW, Asa, since you're tracking this stuff. Chalk up another win for Firefox. West Coast broadband provider Speakeasy ( is now providing a branded version of Firefox to thier customers, including a Speakeasy plugin that I assume handles configuration to make use of thier DSL lines. See for details. I find this of interest, since my employer uses Speakeasy to provide broadband connections to some of our remote offices.

Posted by: dmccunney on February 15, 2005 12:49 PM

My favourite comment about this IE7 announcement is the last two words of Ben's blog: "Game On"
I'm glad to see that the firefox team will be happy to see some competition and this can only be great for browser users like me as browsers get better and better.

Posted by: Steve on February 15, 2005 01:14 PM

So far this announcement only mentions security issues, but I don't see how those would justify a new version number, despite the obvious marketing bump of having one. A rearchitecture of ActiveX and the security zones would, as mentioned above, more properly be termed XP SP3, and a couple of anti-phishing UI changes do not a new major version make.

Instead what this says to me is that MS has changed course and will be delivering XAML on Windows XP. That's not surprising--it's easily more of a no-brainer for their strategy than porting Avalon and Indigo, which they've already announced--but it is potentially very, very dangerous for the future of the open web.

Remember, MS has very different strategic goals for a web browser than we do. They see the browser as a way to lock developers into Visual Studio and users into Windows. That is the entire purpose of their browser strategy: to spread incompatible proprietary technologies. That they are willing to give up on Longhorn upgrade sales in order to increase uptake of XAML shows that they are worried, but that doesn't mean they won't succeed. Will be interesting if they are willing to sacrifice upgrades from Win2000 users as well. My bet is yes.

Posted by: Dave H on February 15, 2005 02:01 PM

I believe in the 'hang-in-there' theory: Firefox has become visible in Corporative radars, and Micorosft has to move now. In my opinion, in the end this is good news in (almost) any case:
* If Microsoft somehow manages to make Trident jump through hoops and delivers a good browser, we get a better web. And that's a good thing, no matter how you look at it.
* If this is a 'hang-in-there' and they don't deliver, the backlash will be _enormous_.

The worst-case scenario would be that they only add eye-candy and security stuff, leave all rendering improvements out AND somehow convince the general media and populace that this is acceptable. It will be interesting to see whether they try this and at least as interesting to see wether it gets bought...

Dave H: Maybe your thinking is a little too black and white? Maybe they are trying to give their customers what they want (a decent browser) _and_ at the same time create a market presence for their rich client language by deploying the client... like Mozilla is doing with XUL.
I don't believe Microsoft has an interest in 'killing www as we know it' - some people inside Microsoft of course might be megalomaniac enough to try turning it into "MS Web", but there are a lot of bright people in that company who can see that (in general) internet just offers more value through collaboration.

Posted by: Jussi Kukkonen on February 15, 2005 02:37 PM

Forgot this:

Asa, please congratulate the people at Mozilla Foundation for me: If one ever had doubts about the quality of the product, marketing and the whole package the Mozilla community & Foundation are producing, this clears them: You have just forced the largest software company in the world to change their plans.

Posted by: Jussi Kukkonen on February 15, 2005 02:51 PM

I smell fear. :))) This would be definitely great for browser users. I don't want to switch to IE all the time for some sites. I want to use just one browser. Either Firefox will fix these, or IE will fix things that force me to Firefox.

Posted by: Jing on February 15, 2005 03:17 PM


Sorry to sound overdramatic. It wasn't my intent to portray MS or XAML as singularly evil; they're not, and XAML will succeed only to the extent that it offers compelling advantages over what's already out there--HTML+JS, XUL, etc. (Unfortunately, I think it will.)

But of course MS's end goal is not to create a great rapid development language for full-featured web applications and distribute it for free. They're trying to sell their products, specifically VS, Windows Server and Windows clients. And given their monopoly marketshare and the software industry as it exists today, the main task for them to sustain that business is to prevent migrations away from their products to open source alternatives. And their strategy for doing that, now as always, is to push proprietary technologies that only work with their software stack.

Or do you think MS will distribute a free XAML client for Linux? Even the suggestion is ridiculous.

MS's goal is not specifically to ruin the open web; it is to maintain marketshare and sell software. But that goal is under fundamental threat from a standards-based cross-compatible Internet, so they will try to kill the open web as a means to that goal. That was the raison d'etre for ActiveX, and for MS's incompatible Java VM. And it is the reason for XAML.

Similarly--and this may surprise you--but the reason for the Mozilla Foundation is to prevent exactly this from happening. No, really: here is Mozilla's mission statement: "The mission of the Mozilla project is to preserve choice and innovation on the Internet." Not to make the best browser available--that's just the means to the end, by making sure non-IE marketshare is high enough that web developers have to code to open technologies. The purpose of Mozilla is to stop MS from making the web proprietary. Period.

Right now Firefox has already won this battle as it relates to HTML+JS. Unless it is much better than anyone anticipates, IE7 will not be enough to change this. The battle for rich-client web apps, on the other hand, has barely started, and XAML is the leading contender.

Stopping it needs to be the Mozilla Foundation's top long-term priority.

Posted by: Dave H on February 15, 2005 03:38 PM

Asa & all,

Here's a neat summation that Cnet has posted appropriately titled "Is Microsoft reacting to Firefox's popularity?" It has links to several articles about IE trouble, and several articles about Firefox's popularity. Mostly already articles we've all read, but nice to have them in one spot.

Posted by: Jude Cooks on February 15, 2005 04:02 PM

Actually, I have one more question. Why are they leaving out over hundreds of millions of users by not offering this to users of Windows pre-XPSP2?

To impose their will. Force people to spend money to upgrade their OS. You think they give a rat's ass about the consumer? (asking rhetorically)

Posted by: geo on February 15, 2005 05:12 PM

I don't see firefox moving in many "corporate radars" at all. Perhaps they decided to release this because Longhorn had gotten pushed well back of it's initial release date. In any case, a security "upgrade" isn't a bad thing. Although 25,000,000 people have downloaded FF, hundreds of millions are using IE still.

If IE7 came out with all the "stuff" FF had then perhaps it would be in reaction to FF.. but I doubt it.. their more interested in Security and compatibility. so much so that they did delay Longhorn and they are making serveral pillars that were suppose to be exclusive to Longhorn onto Windows XP.

They are not offereing IE7 to pre XPSP2 users because obviously they want everyone to update to SP2.. I imagine there's still a large number of windows xp users that haven't upgraded to SP2. You don't need to spend money to upgrade to SP2 ;-) if you already have XP.

Posted by: Hellsbellboy on February 15, 2005 06:30 PM

Maybe we should've mentioned from the start that Firefox draws web pages properly. Or "features full support for modern technologies such as CSS2, XHTML and PNG that allow authors to enrich the web experience" or somesuch.

Posted by: Greg K Nicholson on February 15, 2005 07:47 PM

Greg, we have. :)


Posted by: Asa Dotzler on February 15, 2005 08:26 PM

Dave, agreed on everything you just said.

Hellsbellboy: you say IE7 is not a reaction to Firefox. If it's just a security update, why is it not just another Service Pack for IE6?
You also say that they're doing this for compatibility AND that they're not offering IE7 for pre-SP2 systems because they want people to upgrade... You can't have both, please pick one ;)

Posted by: Jussi Kukkonen on February 16, 2005 01:17 AM

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