Most of the popular browsers these days are based on one of the two open source rendering engines - khtml/WebKit and Gecko. The most popular browser, however, is based on proprietary technology: Internet Explorer. Even though IE made some progress during the past few years, it's no secret that it took Microsoft far too long to counter the success of Mozilla's Firefox. Currently, Microsoft is working (and thus, spending money) on Internet Explorer 8, and this prompted an audience member during a keynote by Steve Ballmer to ask an interesting question: is it worth spending money on IE, with so many open source engines readily available? Ballmer's reply may surprise you.
Internet Explorer Archive
The IE team at Microsoft has released the 2nd beta Internet Explorer 8. Contrary to the first beta, which was aimed at developers, this one one is aimed at normal people like you and me. The list of new features and changes is decent, all focused around three themes (marketing alert): "We focused our work around three themes: everyday browsing (the things that real people do all the time), safety (the term most people use for what we've called 'trustworthy' in previous posts), and the platform (the focus of Beta 1, how developers around the world will build the next billion web pages and the next waves of great services)." Go get it.
"Poor Microsoft. This week, the Redmond, Wash., giant is gearing up for the next big release of its Web browser, a leap from Internet Explorer 7 to IE 8. When open-source competitor Mozilla released its last update of Firefox in June, the Web went wild: People downloaded more than 8 million copies in 24 hours. Microsoft's release might not have such a frat party feel. Even as it gears up to release IE 8, the developers behind the Firefox Web browser are experimenting with a new technology that sharpens the threat their browser software poses to Microsoft's most valuable businesses. The new technology, dubbed TraceMonkey, promises to speed up Firefox's ability to deliver complex applications." While many have abandoned Microsoft's browser offerings, Microsoft will be introducing an innovative new type of selective privacy mode called InPrivate with IE8.
"Internet Explorer 8 is set to be Microsoft's most standards compliant browser ever. After originally stating that IE8 would default to the same non-compliant behavior exhibited by IE7, Microsoft relented and plumped for standard-by-default. The first beta of IE8 was released in March and it did indeed default to standards compliance. Web developers have been clamouring for standards compliance for a long time; IE is a long way behind the competition, requiring considerable hacks and workarounds to get pages working properly. IE8 should make things a lot better - but it will still fall far short of the standards set by Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Some of these problems are technical, but others are cultural. Where the other browser developers are open and communicative, Microsoft is still leaving web developers in the dark."
Microsoft plans to make a key Internet Explorer default change to thwart attackers trying to hack into its Web browser. The software maker will enable DEP/NX by default in IE 8 when the browser is running on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, a major tweak aimed at mitigating browser-based vulnerabilities. DEP/NX (Data Execution Prevention/No Execute) is already available in IE 7, but it's turned off by default because of compatibility issues.
Ars takes a closer look at the Internet Explorer 8 beta (released yesterday), and concludes. "Niggles aside, IE8 is shaping up quite well. Clearly, a lot of work has been done on standards compliance, and it looks like it's paying off. If IE8's development continues down the path it's on, it will finally be a version of Internet Explorer fit for the 21st century."
Microsoft has released the first beta release of Internet Explorer 8 just a few moments ago. "Download Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 and put the web at your service for you and your customers. This beta is aimed at web developers and designers to help them take advantage of new features in Internet Explorer 8 that will enhance their websites. Download the beta version of Internet Explorer 8. Internet Explorer 8 is currently available in English and will soon be available in German and Simplified Chinese. Please continue to monitor this page for updates and availability of other languages."
Microsoft decided that due to their new interoperability initiative, they would reverse a previous decision to make IE8 default to the IE7 engine, instead of supporting standards-compliance by default. No article or musing I have yet read has delved into what is increasingly likely, the reason for this sudden change in decision -- and that is this: the mobile web is coming.
"We've decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we've posted previously. Microsoft recently published a set of Interoperability Principles. Thinking about IE8's behavior with these principles in mind, interpreting web content in the most standards compliant way possible is a better thing to do. We think that acting in accordance with principles is important, and IE8's default is a demonstration of the interoperability principles in action. While we do not believe any current legal requirements would dictate which rendering mode a browser must use, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue. As stated above, we think it's the better choice." Ars has more.
Microsoft has sent an e-mail to a select number of its previous beta testers regarding the upcoming release of IE8 beta 1. "We are nearing the launch of Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 and we will be making it available for the general public to download and test. IE8 Beta 1 is focused on the developer community, with the goal of gaining valuable feedback to improve Internet Explorer 8 during the development process."
There's been quite the noise on the internet that Microsoft would be supposedly forcing IE7 on customers via Windows Update. Ars dove into the issue, and hands out milk and cookies to everyone while explaining there's nothing to worry about. "They key to understanding what's happening in two weeks is WSUS. WSUS is not synonymous with Windows Update. WSUS is a management tool that works alongside Windows Update to allow IT admins to control how patches and updates are applied across a deployment. If you're an IT shop, run WSUS and have it configured to install update rollups, then you'll be getting IE7 that day. However, by default, WSUS is not set to automatically approve update roll-ups. Equally as important, users who aren't in tightly managed business environments (e.g., most users) will not wake up to find that Internet Explorer has been installed on their Windows XP SP2 systems without their say-so. Fret not: Microsoft isn't making you do it. They're not making anyone do it, not even WSUS users."
"In Dean's recent Internet Explorer 8 and Acid2: a Milestone post, he highlighted our responsibility to deliver both interoperability (web pages working well across different browsers) and backwards compatibility (web pages working well across different versions of IE). We need to do both, so that IE8 continues to work with the billions of pages on the web today that already work in IE6 and IE7 but also makes the development of the next billion pages (in an interoperable way) much easier. Continuing Dean's theme, I’d like to talk about some steps we are taking in IE8 to achieve these goals."
"As a team, we've spent the last year heads down working hard on IE8. Last week, we achieved an important milestone that should interest web developers. Internet Explorer 8 now renders the 'Acid2 Face' correctly in IE8 standards mode." Insert freezing and hell joke.
"With the introduction of Windows Vista, Microsoft has added a new form of mandatory access control to the core operating system. Internally known as 'integrity levels', this new addition to the security manager allows security controls to be placed on a per-process basis. This is different from the traditional model of per-user security controls used in all prior versions of Windows NT. In this manner, integrity levels are essentially a bolt-on to the existing Windows NT security architecture. While the idea is theoretically sound, there does exist a great possibility for implementation errors with respect to how integrity levels work in practice. Integrity levels are the core of Internet Explorer Protected Mode, a new 'low-rights' mode where Internet Explorer runs without permission to modify most files or registry keys. This places both Internet Explorer and integrity levels as a whole at the forefront of the computer security battle with respect to Windows Vista."
The Windows Debugging guru and reverse-engineer Skywing has posted an article on Vista's new Integrity Level system to put a limited form of MAC security on the system. Read the article to find out how Vista restricts IE from accessing your files even though it is running under your account.
"It seems Microsoft is putting IE8 development into gear. Participants of the Windows Server 'Longhorn' beta program on Microsoft Connect have just received an email notifying them that a new survey for Internet Explorer 8 has been published on the program site. The survey contains a few questions on the current usability of IE7 and asks the users what new features they would like to see in IE8. The survey also asks users to rank the importance of several planned features. The email mentions that the survey should be completed before Thursday, March 1st, 2007; giving us a vague peak at the timeline for IE8."
A store owner in a bad neighborhood must balance safety against commerce. Too many locks and bars will keep away customers with the crooks. Based on Microsoft Watch reader feedback, Internet Explorer 7 sacrifices too much usability in the interest of safety.
Groklaw has an article arguing that Microsoft has not yet complied with the DOJ order that users must be able to remove Internet Explorer from Windows. "So he explained the blue and white screens of death, what a dual boot startup is, commingling code, and then tying or bundling, specifically tying Internet Explorer with the operating system. He explained how you can't use Add/Remove to get IE or Media Player off your hard drive, but that you can use SPAD, 'set program access and defaults', to choose Firefox or another browser as your default browser instead of IE. However, IE remains on your hard drive."
Microsoft's latest release of Internet Explorer will drive demand for internationalized domain names, according to industry experts who are predicting a sharp increase in sales of foreign language domain names. That's because IE 7 has built-in support for IDNs, as does Firefox 2.0, also released in October.