Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Team reports on a new IE installer release. They’ve changed a couple of defaults, updated their tutorials… and dropped the requirement for Windows Genuine Advantage validation:
Because Microsoft takes its commitment to help protect the entire Windows ecosystem seriously, we’re updating the IE7 installation experience to make it available as broadly as possible to all Windows users. With today’s “Installation and Availability Update,” Internet Explorer 7 installation will no longer require Windows Genuine Advantage validation and will be available to all Windows XP users.
As much as I prefer alternatives like Firefox and Opera, I’ve been frustrated at the relatively slow uptake of IE7. It’s just insane that 6 years after its release, we’re still stuck designing for IE6 as the world’s most-used browser.
So who’s still running IE6?
- People running older versions of Windows that can’t run IE7, and who haven’t switched to something else. (This is a pretty small percentage, judging by OS stats.)
- People who don’t know how to upgrade to IE7, or why they should.
- People who actually want to stay with IE6 (whether for technical reasons or just stubbornness)
- People who would be happy to upgrade to IE7, except they can’t/won’t run WGA (on principle, or because it’s broken on their system, or because their OS is pirated).
I don’t know how big each group is, but Microsoft seems to think it’s worth going after #4.
It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s a jump in IE7’s marketshare relative to IE6. Maybe we’ll reach that next milestone sooner than I expected.
Last weekend I did a redesign of my comics fan site, Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning. It was prompted by two goals:
- Get rid of the non-working compatibility cruft for Netscape 4 (some of it was actually making things worse in NS4)
- Make navigation easier.
Microsoft will be releasing the long-overdue Internet Explorer 7 any day now (possibly as soon as Wednesday, if rumors prove correct). It will only be available for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003, and the upcoming Windows Vista.
I know there are people out there still using Windows 2000, Windows 98, Windows Me, and other older systems that won’t run IE7. Why not take the opportunity to check out something new? Firefox 2 is also due out this month, and Opera 9 just came out this summer.
Despite what you may have heard, the vast majority of websites really do work on all major browsers. And with alternative browsers gaining popularity, the number of websites that block anyone but Internet Explorer is shrinking.
Opera and Firefox will bring you tabbed browsing, RSS Feeds, security and privacy controls, built-in searching, pop-up blocking—all the advantages IE7 boasts over IE6. Plus you get more customization, built-in spell checking, download management, session saving, and support for up-and-coming web technologies like SVG graphics and WebForms 2. Opera adds blazing fast display, voice commands and mouse gestures (leave that keyboard behind!), and per-site preferences.
Check out Opera. Check out Firefox. Or check out a dozen other alternative web browsers. Try them out, and see what works best for you.
Microsoft is really pushing for people to make sure their websites and apps are compatible with IE7. Apparently this is a real concern for a lot of people who relied on certain proprietary features, bugs, and quirks in IE6. I guess they figured they wouldn’t have to worry about future versions. (Hmm… I wonder where they got that idea?)
The fact of the matter is, I’m not worried. I tested my personal sites and the sites I’d built for work months ago, using the IE7 betas, and more recently with RC1. I made a couple of minor changes to some stylesheets, but that was about it.
Why? I’ve been writing standards-based code for years. I validate it from time to time, and I test to make sure it works in the latest versions of Firefox, Opera and Safari as well as IE. So the code was already portable.
Plus, anything new I’ve built since January has been designed with IE7 in mind from the beginning.
Most of the changes were to workarounds for IE6. Either stopping them from running on IE7 (if the bug was fixed), or keeping them running on IE7 (if it was done using a CSS hack).
I just read an interesting post from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team on The IE7 User-Agent String. This statement in particular illustrates a problem not unfamiliar to Opera users:
There are a few remaining sites which fail to recognize IE7 because they are performing exact string matches to look for specific IE version strings. Those checks will need to be removed or updated to accommodate IE7.
Yes, you read that correctly: there are websites out there using bad browser sniffing code which will send the wrong code to Internet Explorer 7. In fact, they go on to say that they’ve released a tool which will let IE7 pretend to be IE6!
To enable you to workaround any remaining sites that block access to Internet Explorer 7, we developed the User Agent String Utility. The utility comes in the form of a small executable that opens an IE7 instance that sends the IE6 user agent string. It also provides a mechanism for you to report problem web sites to Microsoft so that we can follow up with the affected site owners.
I’ll admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude, but it also points up just how bad a strategy browser sniffing can be when done thoughtlessly: It effectively builds an expiration date into your website after which even the browser you designed it for will run into problems.
*This post originally appeared on Confessions of a Web Developer, my blog at the My Opera community.