IE7 Review at eWeek

Jim Rapoza at eWeek has provided one of the first reviews of IE7 beta that takes a hard look at IE7 compliance with Web standards. This is very important because with the exception of the CNET review, many reviewers have been ignoring or kid glove treating the lack of standards implementation in IE7 – a paltry few CSS 2 errors were the only fixes in beta 1. WaSP-the Web Standards scrutineers were naively overjoyed to see even some promises for CSS only fixes (forget E4X and JavaScript updates, no long overdue DOM rationalizations, no SVG, no XHTML, etc).

Jims review was much appreciated – so I sent him the following note:

Jim –

It was good to read in your IE7 review and particularly “the baby steps”
comment on Microsofts squaring off with standards. You are one of the
first reviewers to have extensively taken Microsoft to task for its
gross omissions in bringing IE7 upto standards. More than tabs or
phishing filters , the most needed improvements in IE7 are all the
standards they have neglected to conform to despite long ago promises to do so.

I believe IE7 is a stalking horse – designed to see how far away from
standards and therefore how disruptive it can be. It is similar to
Microsofts J++ and antiquated JVM which it issues with every copy of
Windows – designed to poison the Java compatibility well. Ditto for
Microsofts versions of DOM, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. All depart from
standards significantly enough to add 20-40% more work on cross browser
projects.

But even more important to Microsoft is its dominance of the browser
marketplace. Its 80%++ browser monopoly has allowed it to dictate which
new developing Web technologies get adopted. And Microsoft has been like
the Capital One commercial guys – always saying NO to new browser based
innovations: XFORMS, SVG in the browser, JPEG2000, JavaScript 2.0 and
E4X, mouse gestures as developed by Opera and followed to some extent by
Mozilla, and many others.

Now why would Microsoft, which has investments in ASP, JScript, BizTalk
and other Web development tools, want to do this ? Because the Web,
unless carefully controlled for new technologies by Microsoft, is their
worst enemy – it moves people away from the PC desktop. Microsoft has
said so publicly – advancing the argument that the new Smart Client as
enabled in Windows XP and the upcoming Windows Vista – is a better
solution than the Web interface – despite the Webs cross platform
capabilities, significantly lower operational cost, and powerful
serverside integration capabilities.

Microsofts argument is that the PC client can have much richer GUI
interfaces, can support offline as well as online operations, and
provides better response time. Of course it is ironic that Microsoft
technology in the form of AJAX and Internet browser promoted Flash have
given Web developers good-if-not better GUI interfaces, response time
capabilities, and offline/online operations.

But their bottom line is this: for the past 5-6 years Microsoft has been
an enemy to Web development by doing the following:
a)using ActiveX and privileged state status in IE way back in 1997-98
despite many warnings from developers and the security community – and
thus having to backtrack for the past 3 years after waves of virus and
hack attacks have been IE based using these very same vulnerabilities;
b)failing to deliver on its promise to end the browser wars and support
full set of W3C standards as it overtook Netscape in market share
leadership;
c)since 2000 stopping all development on IE except for security fixes –
in effect freezing web technology surrounding the browser.

For these and the reasons cited above I believe we, as reporters of the
Web scene, owe it to our readers to be especially careful in reviewing
IE7 and make sure it is up to Web standards – and anything less is just
unacceptable and our rating of the browser should in functions and
features reflect a suitably low rating.

In addition, we should be demanding 3 things of Microsoft:
1)Full implementation of HTML, full CSS 2.0, DOM rationalization, E4X in
JavaScript, SVG in the browser;
2)In Visual Studio, Biztalk, and all the other major Microsoft Web
Development tools there should be a standards switch. When turned on it
would not allow MS extensions which are non Web/W3C standard and would
provide W3C substitute standards. Both Adobe GoLive and the new Macromedia
Dreamweaver 8 do a good job of flagging non-Web Standards but also provide
some hints/suggestions for workarounds.
3)An accounting from Microsoft why major standards such as JPEG2000,
JavaScript 2, XFORMS, XHTML, XPath 2, and other standards are not being
implemented by them. They can no longer offer the excuse that
development on IE is suspended.

Microsoft wants to be the major deciding player on Web standards,
innovation and development. Why else would they update IE except for
the fact that FireFox and company started to take major market share
chunks. Now what we as Web reporters have to ask – Does Microsoft
deserve to be the custodians and stewards of the Web browser and
therefore a huge chunk of the Web itself ??

I am not sanguine about Microsoft being the BandLeader of the Web
Parade.

Jacques Surveyer

In general, this is what “standard” reviews of IE7 (and other browsers) should be measured on. How well do those reviews assess not just the product but also its integration and fostering of existing standards and new Web technologies. Based on beta 1 , IE7 is ” just good enough” and hardly a bold new vigorous development and exploration of what the Web can deliver through a browser. In fact, IE7 appears to be a cynical lets deliver “just enough” to stem the browser market share losses in order that we can continue to control Web PC development by virtue of our monopoly control of browser market share.

Really now, is that what we as Web users want to support. If not, switch out of IE and you will find some very attractive alternatives. Mozilla. Opera. Safari.