Microsoft has finally started talking publicly about the next release of its Internet Explorer Web browser, and expects to deliver the first beta for IE 8 in the first half of 2008.
The IE (Internet Explorer) development team is also pledging that while IE 8 will deliver advancements and enable Web developers, designers, and Internet Content Providers to develop across multiple platforms and versions and provide richer user experiences, it will not break the Web as happened with the current IE 7 due to the improvements it made to CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment about the companys future plans for IE 7, particularly with regard to patches and updates, saying there was “nothing new to share at this time.”
In a move the development team is citing as a milestone on its blog, it says that IE 8 in standards mode now correctly renders the “Acid2 Browser Test,” which determines how well a browser works with several different Web standards.
“Showing the Acid2 page correctly is a good indication of being standards compliant, but Acid2 itself isnt a web standard or a web standards compliance test. The publisher of the test, the Web Standards Project, is an advocacy group, not a web standards defining body,” Dean Hachamovitch, the general manager for the Internet Explorer team, said in the blog post.
To read about the controversy over Outlook 2007 not using the same standards as IE 7, click here.
While acknowledging the many kinds of Web standards, ranging from true industry standards to de facto standards, open standards, and others, Hachamovitch said the key goal was interoperability, so developers did not have to write the same site multiple times for different browsers.
“With respect to standards and interoperability, our goal in developing Internet Explorer 8 is to support the right set of standards with excellent implementations and do so without breaking the existing web … We must deliver improved standards support and backwards compatibility so that IE8 continues to work with the billions of pages on the web today that already work in IE 6 and IE 7 and makes the development of the next billion pages, in an interoperable way, much easier,” he said.
Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis at the NPD Group agrees, telling eWEEK that the IE 8 Acid2 test announcement is a big deal for Web developers as they will now have to spend less time tweaking their sites to work in multiple browsers.
While acknowledging that Acid2 “isnt the be-all and end-all test of compliance to Web standards, in fact some of its tests arent even finalized yet,” Swenson said it was a good test suite to check browsers test for compliance to some major, modern standards.
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Internet Explorer 8 Beta
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The announcement also had implications for the recently filed Opera antitrust lawsuit against the software maker, which said Microsoft needed to adhere to common Web standards. “Well, this announcement makes the Operas suit look pretty weak. Clearly, Microsoft is committed to supporting many modern Web standards,” he said.
There has also been much criticism about the deafening silence coming from the team with regard to the roadmap for Internet Explorer. Jurgen Altziebler, the interactive experience director for CoreBrand told eWEEK that IT managers need this information.
“The IE 7 team has been very quiet since the latest release. IT needs to know the roadmap for Internet Explorer, especially now where everything is about building smart, Web-based enterprise applications,” he said.
In a reference to the criticism about the lack of public information, Hachamovitch said the team wanted to talk about facts rather than aspirations.
Read here about why security remains a challenge for browser developers.
“Were posting this information now because we have real working code checked in and were confident about delivering it in the final product. Were listening to the feedback about IE, and at the same time, we are committed to responsible disclosure and setting expectations properly,” Hachamovitch said.
“Now that weve run the test on multiple machines and seen it work, were excited to be able to share definitive information,” he said.
NPDs Swenson also points to how far Microsoft has come on the Web development front, saying that IE 7 looks like a modern browser with modern features.
To read about Microsofts decision to make IE 7 available to all Windows XP users, click here.
“Expression Web creates beautiful, standard-compliant code. With Expression Blend, Visual Studio, and XAML, you can create sexy, rich Internet applications. Silverlight has a streamlined and efficient download experience, a small footprint, and an amazing video codec that many Web developers are raving about,” he said. “Granted, Microsoft still has a long way to go, but it really is amazing how far theyve come in so short a time.”
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