August 3, 2005

Internet Explorer Bugs Fixed

Kind of slipped in along with the whole announcement about Windows Vista and the beta release, was news of Internet Explorer 7 and its own beta release. Now, IE6 was the most advanced browser available when it came out in 2001, but it has stagnated over the last four years, allowing Opera, Mozilla, and Firefox to surpass it by leaps and bounds. We’ve been waiting for IE7 forever now, and there have been rumors, and there have been announcements, and they said there wouldn’t be an IE7, then they said there would, and now finally there is a beta version and actual public discussion about the thing. But through it all what we’ve really wanted is some kind of statement from the IE team about what progress they were making on fixing the bugs that makes IE6 such a headache to use. And last week, we finally got that.

Chris Wilson on the IEBlog has posted a list of all the rendering bugs that have been fixed in IE7. Some of them were tiny little things, some have been major showstoppers that have slowed down advances in web design. But every one of the items on that list shows that the IE team has been listening to us all along, they just haven’t been talking back. I mean, people have been ranting about the bugs in IE6 for years. Just a simple “Thanks guys, we’re working on it” would have been appreciated. We didn’t get anything like that until now. Here are some highlights from the list:

  • Peekaboo bug
  • Guillotine bug
  • 3 Pixel Text Jog
  • Magic Creeping Text bug
  • Double Float Margin Bug
  • HTML 4.01 ABBR tag
  • CSS 2.1 Selector support (child, adjacent, attribute, first-child etc.)
  • CSS 2.1 Fixed positioning
  • Alpha channel in PNG images
  • Fix :hover on all elements

Bugs like “Peekaboo” and “Guillotine” have been causing people to tear their hair out for years. And the lack of support for fixed positioning, CSS2 selectors, and alpha transparency have stopped many great sites from being built, or made it necessary to use ugly hacks to hide certain styles from IE. With all of this fixed, and tabbed browsing and RSS support added, Internet Explorer is back on top of the game, able to compete with browsers like Firefox. But, I think it might be too late. A lot of people (like me) who three years ago would have never dreamed of switching off IE have since changed their minds and dumped it for Opera and Firefox. And I don’t see them (or me) going back any time soon. Those users are gone, and Microsoft might have been able to keep them if IE7 had come out in 2003 instead of 2006.

Another problem is that IE6 isn’t going away. So it’s great that Internet Explorer finally supports all of this stuff, but it only supports it for those people that upgrade. We’re not going to be able to use it universally on our sites, we’re not going to be able to ditch the ugly workarounds, we’re not going to be able to drop the hacks. All of those will still need to be there for the large number of people that don’t upgrade to IE7. And if IE7 really is only available for Vista, as they’ve said in the past, that’s going to be a huge amount of people that will be using IE6 for a very long time to come.

“Internet Time” is a myth when you’re waiting for standards.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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