September 30, 2004 4:00 AM PDT

IE gaps that need to be plugged

While Microsoft is attempting to make standalone browsers a thing of the past, Web developers and surfers alike are trying to push the company to bring Internet Explorer up to the present.

With no major upgrade in three years, apart from last month's XP Service Pack 2 security release, IE is showing its age. Despite this, Microsoft's browser software remains the industry standard, with 95 percent of the market, even though small competitors like the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox, Apple Computer's Safari and Opera Software's browser have apparently made inroads.

Microsoft has steadfastly refused to issue another standalone browser and has reserved the recent security upgrade to IE for people with the Windows XP operating system--about half the 390 million users of Windows worldwide, according to research firm IDC.

But if Microsoft could be persuaded to update IE, what features would Web developers and surfers like to see?

Perhaps first on Web surfers' list is tabbed browsing. This feature, offered since the earliest versions of Opera in 1996 and subsequently by Mozilla-based browsers and Safari, lets the user open multiple Web pages within the same browser window. Fans of tabbed browsing say it reduces clutter and helps organize pages gleaned from search results.

Microsoft acknowledges the appeal of tabbed browsing.

"Once you start doing tabs, you never go back to a browser without tabs," said Gary Schare, director of security product management for Windows. "But like anything else, it's a matter of resourcing and prioritizing what we work on."

Schare recommended third-party browsers based on IE that provide tabbed browsing, such as NetCaptor and Maxthon.

Another feature high on many Web surfers' wish list is live bookmarks, such as those available in Firefox, which display dynamically updated content from RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds along with the browser's bookmarks (or, in IE parlance, "Favorites").

If you want to get Web developers riled up, ask them about IE's support for CSS (cascading style sheets) and the PNG image format.

With CSS, bugs have lingered for years. Developers call IE's rendering of certain PNG images "ugly."

"It has been *seven years* since 'native PNG' support was announced for IE 4.0," wrote a respondent to a hotly discussed Microsoft Web log on the subject. "While I am pleased that development on IE will continue, and I'm hopeful that the issues I have with it will be addressed, I'm not holding my breath. Microsoft has squandered much of the public support and trust it once had, and it will take a lot more than vaporous quasi-announcements to win that back. The vague pronouncements released so far have been meaningless, except in a touchy-feely PR sort of way. There has been zero commitment, after making us wait many years," the respondent wrote.

Microsoft acknowledges the hue and cry over standards support but insists that it's acting prudently in holding back full CSS and PNG support.

"There are certainly aspects of IE rendering that developers would love to see some changes to," Schare said. "The challenge is that changing the way IE works along those lines has huge ramifications for backwards compatibility for Web sites that people have been building for years and years."

While developers call on Microsoft to give IE a general makeover, and Microsoft insists that its browser feature development efforts are strictly reserved for Longhorn, some people are posting wish lists of their own, including some on Microsoft's own Channel 9 blog site.

22 comments

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Weird
A company like M$, with countless developers, pockets deeper than any sea, and they cannot put tabbed browsing in, and claim resources on top of that?

Also, no CSS and PNG support to keep backwards compatibility. Huh? Why can the others do that then?

Oohh, I remembered, IE optimized websites are not following standards.

M$ is turning into a dinosaur.
Now, where's that comet?
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Think back
Your "snapshot in time" view is fairly inaccurate.

"Also, no CSS and PNG support to keep backwards compatibility. Huh? Why can the others do that then? Oohh, I remembered, IE optimized websites are not following standards."


First of all, IE does support CSS and PNG. It was the first browser with a good CSS implementation, and developers everywhere were eager to use it. Then, when standards *changed*, Microsoft was in a pickle because if they changed their initial implementation, they would break thousands of people's web sites. The fact is, the standards were modified AFTER support was added to IE. And IE has displayed .png files for a long time.

If standards don't exist before you release your product, and the consumers love your technology implementation and then use it, you become successful and grow your user base. If later, somebody decides to define standards that are different than what you have on the market, it is those standards that cause alternate incompatible browsers to appear, giving the minority of people who sat around waiting for somebody to define standards something to complain about.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
non-standards
MS don't want to follow the standards. They want to eliminate them and make everyone use their own MS standards.

And they don't put tabbed browing into IE because their goal i$ to dominate the browser market, and they've achieved that!
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Link Flag
Weird
A company like M$, with countless developers, pockets deeper than any sea, and they cannot put tabbed browsing in, and claim resources on top of that?

Also, no CSS and PNG support to keep backwards compatibility. Huh? Why can the others do that then?

Oohh, I remembered, IE optimized websites are not following standards.

M$ is turning into a dinosaur.
Now, where's that comet?
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Think back
Your "snapshot in time" view is fairly inaccurate.

"Also, no CSS and PNG support to keep backwards compatibility. Huh? Why can the others do that then? Oohh, I remembered, IE optimized websites are not following standards."


First of all, IE does support CSS and PNG. It was the first browser with a good CSS implementation, and developers everywhere were eager to use it. Then, when standards *changed*, Microsoft was in a pickle because if they changed their initial implementation, they would break thousands of people's web sites. The fact is, the standards were modified AFTER support was added to IE. And IE has displayed .png files for a long time.

If standards don't exist before you release your product, and the consumers love your technology implementation and then use it, you become successful and grow your user base. If later, somebody decides to define standards that are different than what you have on the market, it is those standards that cause alternate incompatible browsers to appear, giving the minority of people who sat around waiting for somebody to define standards something to complain about.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
non-standards
MS don't want to follow the standards. They want to eliminate them and make everyone use their own MS standards.

And they don't put tabbed browing into IE because their goal i$ to dominate the browser market, and they've achieved that!
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Link Flag
Why IE isn't updated often...
With Windows 95, IE was originally shipped as a separate disk (95 upgrade before A B C was added to the end). Later, Microsoft integrated it into the install of Windows.

Before Microsoft integrated it into the Windows default install, Netscape was able to retain its market share. Users had a choice between Netscape, which tended to be conservative and to follow standards, and Microsoft which tended to have huge security issues and implement proprietary extensions without regard to the standards process.

IE is not updated because Microsoft has no reason to upgrade it except as an OS release. There is nothing for a typical end user in Longhorn; a typical end user doesn't have a reason to upgrade. By tieing IE, Outlook Express, etc. to the OS and not upgrading them unless you upgrade the OS, Microsoft gets a sale. It's that simple.
Posted by tharcod (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why IE isn't updated often...
With Windows 95, IE was originally shipped as a separate disk (95 upgrade before A B C was added to the end). Later, Microsoft integrated it into the install of Windows.

Before Microsoft integrated it into the Windows default install, Netscape was able to retain its market share. Users had a choice between Netscape, which tended to be conservative and to follow standards, and Microsoft which tended to have huge security issues and implement proprietary extensions without regard to the standards process.

IE is not updated because Microsoft has no reason to upgrade it except as an OS release. There is nothing for a typical end user in Longhorn; a typical end user doesn't have a reason to upgrade. By tieing IE, Outlook Express, etc. to the OS and not upgrading them unless you upgrade the OS, Microsoft gets a sale. It's that simple.
Posted by tharcod (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All IT should be Web Based!!
The Wars in IT are not good for us Customers.
All IT should be WEB Based. There should be no difference between Browsers Operating Systems Etc..
Serious IT Managers should Demand this.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Domination
Eliminate the competition = domination

Companies should work together instead of fighting this IT war.
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Link Flag
All IT should be Web Based!!
The Wars in IT are not good for us Customers.
All IT should be WEB Based. There should be no difference between Browsers Operating Systems Etc..
Serious IT Managers should Demand this.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Domination
Eliminate the competition = domination

Companies should work together instead of fighting this IT war.
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Link Flag
Mozilla firefox is the future
Forget IE forever, get Mozilla Firefox. It's an incredible browser. If you have the new netscape you are using mozilla already. If you haven't checked it out yet, you owe it to yourself. www.getfirefox.com
Posted by TaeBo- (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Firefox deployment withint an Active Directory Domain
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webheat.co.uk/firefox.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.webheat.co.uk/firefox.php</a>

Features a .msi Windows Installer for Firefox that I built.

Please test and feel free to deploy.
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
Mozilla firefox is the future
Forget IE forever, get Mozilla Firefox. It's an incredible browser. If you have the new netscape you are using mozilla already. If you haven't checked it out yet, you owe it to yourself. www.getfirefox.com
Posted by TaeBo- (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Firefox deployment withint an Active Directory Domain
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webheat.co.uk/firefox.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.webheat.co.uk/firefox.php</a>

Features a .msi Windows Installer for Firefox that I built.

Please test and feel free to deploy.
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
Browse Happy!
Find out why Internet Explorer is unsafe and explore your
browsing options here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://browsehappy.com/browsers/" target="_newWindow">http://browsehappy.com/browsers/</a>

Use browsers that adhere to web standards and avoid sites that
only support IE!
Posted by edgedesign (290 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Browse Happy!
Find out why Internet Explorer is unsafe and explore your
browsing options here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://browsehappy.com/browsers/" target="_newWindow">http://browsehappy.com/browsers/</a>

Use browsers that adhere to web standards and avoid sites that
only support IE!
Posted by edgedesign (290 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go a step further and remove IE
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.vorck.com/remove-ie.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.vorck.com/remove-ie.html</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://nuhi.msfn.org" target="_newWindow">http://nuhi.msfn.org</a>
Posted by fdv (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go a step further and remove IE
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.vorck.com/remove-ie.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.vorck.com/remove-ie.html</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://nuhi.msfn.org" target="_newWindow">http://nuhi.msfn.org</a>
Posted by fdv (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fear for web standards
The problem with Microsoft is that they'll never fully use standards as they want to develop their own code and eliminate the competition. Standards make sense, especially with new technologies coming out all the time but it's all domination and profit with MS. Designers will be forced to abandon css/xml and code for Microsofts incompatibe web. And as long as other companies survive in the web market, we'll always have incompatabilities. The web should not be cominated by any one company.
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fear for web standards
The problem with Microsoft is that they'll never fully use standards as they want to develop their own code and eliminate the competition. Standards make sense, especially with new technologies coming out all the time but it's all domination and profit with MS. Designers will be forced to abandon css/xml and code for Microsofts incompatibe web. And as long as other companies survive in the web market, we'll always have incompatabilities. The web should not be cominated by any one company.
Posted by JJedy (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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