The Danger Of A Better IE?

Roger Johannson is asking questions about the danger of a better IE, and it’s an interesting question. I’ve got no love for Microsoft. I long ago gave up Windows as my platform of choice, and I’m no fan of IE 6 (in fact, I’ve never used it as my default browser – went right from Netscape 4.7 to Mozilla).\
But, I’m a pragmatist. Today, IE 6 is holding me back. I can’t use all the cool CSS stuff I’d like to, because I work for a really big mainstream consumer service. I have to use hacks, kluges and sometimes (heaven forbid) extra markup to execute the designs I’m given to build.\
Do I like it? No. I positively hate it. Since I’ve been a member of the CSS Working Group, I’ve grown even more impatient. I want everything now, even stuff we’ve just talked about and not actually put down in a spec. I want to be able to use 24-bit PNGs and multiple backgrounds for more than Dashboard widgets (I built my first one last week, you should see it soon). I want to be able to stop using huge nests of descendant selectors to style navigation lists. I want to be able to use child, sibling, CSS3 attribute selectors, and all the other cool stuff we’ve been waiting years for, and can play with in newer browsers like Firefox and Safari, but can’t use in “real” products because IE is where most of the users are.\
In the end though, I’m a pragmatist. I have to support IE and Windows, and I hope that IE 7 is everything we hope it will be (and that everyone upgrades right away). I’m willing to give Redmond the benefit of the doubt, and even help them. I want IE 7 to fix all of their problems and add all of the things from CSS2, and the CR’ed CSS3 modules so the web can move on. Will it happen? I don’t know. Even if they just finish their CSS 2.1 support and fix the box model issues, I’ll be satisfied (but not thrilled… no clapping from me).\
If they fix their issues (security, standards support, stability, etc), good for them. I’ll clap louder than anyone. But, I’ll still use Safari and Firefox. I’ll still preach standards. I’ll still build for every browser that I can (within reason).\
No one should delude themselves: we’re stuck with IE 6 for a while (my guess is three to three and a half years). It’s going to take a long time for people to upgrade to IE 7, even if it’s the best browser ever to grace the Windows world. It took at least four years for IE 5.5 to go (mostly) away. It took longer than that for Netscape 4.x to go away. There’s a large percentage of the computing universe that either doesn’t know how, or refuses, to upgrade anything: their computers, their OS or their software. If Microsoft doesn’t change their minds about only releasing IE 7 for XP SP2, I could be wrong, and it will be 5-6 years before we can stop worrying about IE 6.\
Let’s put our prejudices aside for a minute and hope (selfishly so for those of us who build web stuff) that IE 7 is great. Let’s hope that it supports all of the stuff we want, and beats back the spyware/virus/adware scourge. Let’s hope they get it right, because the alternative is much, much, much worse than a better IE.

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.