January 31, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2

Set the way back machine for five years ago. The flux capacitor flutters with light and goes still. There...that was easy. So what did 2001 give us? In addition to the September 11th terrorist attacks, the first iPod and Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, Microsoft delivered Internet Explorer version 6. Fast forward to the present. After five years the advances in Safari, Firefox and Opera have eroded Microsoft's browser initiative and left it stagnant.

Nevertheless, Microsoft has been working on Internet Explorer 7 and released it's first public beta (Beta 2) today. In addition to tabbed browsing, improved security, integrated RSS and layout enhancements, Internet Explorer 7 will feature updated style sheet support bringing it more up to speed with the CSS 2 specification. These changes might not seem earth shattering but they are important. Given the fact that Microsoft controls over half the browser market any changes at all tend to reach a wider sphere of influence.

Overall, IE 7 seems like a nice incremental upgrade. The changes are not revolutionary, but merely put it back in the running with its competition. The Phishing filter seems like a nice idea in theory, although I haven't had much time to play with it yet. I appreciate the simple layout of buttons, integrated search and RSS...probably because I have come to expect this from other browsers. Again - not much innovation going on here.

The one new feature that I haven't seen anywhere else is the ability to "Zoom" in on sites. However, I am at a loss as to why this was even included. Perhaps it could be useful for those who are visually impaired? In my mind, however, the "Text Size" feature from Internet Explorer 6 sufficed for this purpose. Can anyone give me a good answer as to why this feature might be important?

I must admit that from a web developer's perspective I am most excited about Internet Explorer 7's CSS support. For myself, Firefox and Safari have always been quite responsive when I've pushed CSS technology...it is IE that has held me back. With the style sheet changes promised in this iteration of Internet Explorer I think it might help usher in a period of easier cross-browser development.

Check out this page to download and test IE 7 for yourself.