February 15, 2005 12:46 PM PST
Reversal: Next IE divorced from new Windows
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benefit only those people who either already owned XP or who had paid for an operating system upgrade, leaving about half the Windows world out in the cold.
Microsoft on Tuesday acknowledged that those complaints about XP exclusivity lingered, particularly among enterprise users of Windows 2000.
"Right now, we're focused on XP SP2," Dean Hachamovitch, who heads Microsoft's IE team, wrote in the company's IE blog, in a posting dated Tuesday. "We're actively listening to our major Windows 2000 customers about what they want and comparing that to the engineering and logistical complexity of that work. That's all I can say on that topic."
But IE 6 has earned enmity among developers, and not only for its security lapses. Web authors have long complained about Microsoft's spotty implementation of various Web standards including Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image format, Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML).
As the company reversed itself on issuing a standalone IE, Web authors wondered aloud whether version 7 would fix those bugs along with the security holes.
"Any released information stating your commitment to modern coding practices--meaning XHTML, CSS, XML, not to mention full PNG support?" asked Web designer Brady Frey in response to Hachamovitch's blog posting. "Aside from security, this has been the reason why we've dropped IE's usage company wide--I have the choice of building one Internet application for all users, or one for IE users. We don't want to waste money doing both anymore."
Microsoft's Nash declined to shed any light on the question of features in the IE update, restricting his comments to planned security enhancements such as better defenses against phishing scams and improved spyware protection.
"Right now, the focus is security," Nash said. "There may be other things that are in there, but the goal is on security."
Nash said the shift in IE release plans was a response to customer pressure. Demand for the antiphishing features, Nash said, came not only from individual customers but also from companies that deal with a lot of personal information over the Internet--businesses like financial institutions and Web retailers.
"They had a lot of influence as well," Nash said.
The company plans to target phishing scams in two main ways. First, the new browser will look for techniques commonly used by such scams, such as having Web links that don't match the text of the hyperlink, as well as links that point to numeric Web addresses. Microsoft also plans the equivalent of a blacklist, which would identify and call out URLs associated with known scams.
Apart from promising a test version by summer, Microsoft remained coy about its plans for releasing the final standalone IE 7.
"Yes, we have a date in mind," Hachamovitch wrote in the IE blog. "I'll talk about the date after we get feedback from customers and partners. We're going to release a beta and listen, then refresh the beta and listen some more. We'll ship when the product is ready."
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