So, Microsoft released a [not so] public beta of their next browser version

And as you probably have already heard, Microsoft IE7 (only available to certain pre-registered MSDN subscribers, but can probably be gotten to using BitTorrent) does offer some changes from previous versions (unlike IE6, which can not be distinguished from IE5 without closer inspection).

For starters, they completly ripped off the Mozilla tabbed browsing behavior. Their only different take on this is to [stupildy] put the main menu inside the tabs (!!) along with most of the interface, excluding the back/forward buttons, the address bar and the “new” search box (and if can’t imagine how bad it looks, check the screenshots in one of the blogs about the new release, for example: mezzoblue).

The only real improvment I saw was that the back button pull down menu (to go quickly backwards in history) and the forward button pull down menu where unified into a single pull down (located after both buttons) which shows both forward and backwards history in a single menu with the current page showing marked. This is a huge usability improvment and I wonder why the IE guys where the first to think this through ? I really hope Firefox developers would pick on that for their coming version (1.5).

And now for the rants: they basically have fixed almost nothing in the rendering engine for the first beta (nothing being – just two jarring bugs out of the scores that were fully documented).
But Chris Willson, in the IEBlog lists some 20 or so issues that they plan to have for the release (including stuff that he appears to be claiming already fixed, like the ABBR HTML tag, which aren’t in the current Beta).
Apparently, this was enough to make all kinds of people – notably Chris Kaminski from the Web Standards Project – gasp in pleasure and excitement (check out the embarassing cheers at the bottom of his post). I would just like to compare the “new openess” breezing from the Microsoft campus with what other web browser products (Mozilla, KHTML and even Opera) have been doing for years: when we end up comparing apples to apples, Microsoft gets an F for “flanking” in communications with the web developer community.

Its not that I expect Microsoft to let the web developer community to actually participate in the development of the browser (unlike what Mozilla and KHTML are doing) – they are a commercial company and they can do whatever they want with their product, including keeping it behind closed doors forever. But I am annoyed that as soon as they let out a single press release (well basically this is what IEBlog is all about: its press releases for web developers), the entire community falls to their knees, yelling “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”.
It looks like a lot of people (in web developers’ blogs and comments) take this “new browser” initiative to mean that Microsoft is going to repent all sins, create the best standard compliant browser (if not in the current release, then surely IE7.5) and be nice all around. I’m a bit more skeptic. As after 4 years of non-development all they can come up with is a feature rip-off from the technology leaders with nothing better then IE6 rendering engine, I’m thinking that they’re going to pull another EEE – They are going to provide to the users what, on the face of it, looks like something comparable to Firefox or Opera and count on the multitude of brainless lusers to accept what is being forced feed to them in their OS of non-choice instead of checking what the competition actually has to offer.

And there isn’t a lot we can do about it. I think the only viable course of action open to the web developer community is to build standard compliant web sites, without resorting to internet explorer specific hacks, and when IE users complain – tell them to upgrade to an “uplevel browser” (Microsoft’s definition 😉 ) that is standard compliant.

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