Wednesday, September 8, 2010

IE9 Beta Coming, But Microsoft Just Wants You to Dump IE6

Internet Explorer logoWe're a week away from Microsoft's beta release of Internet Explorer 9 (public beta, not just a preview release aimed at developers). This release promises extensive support for another "beta" standard, the incomplete HTML5 specification. IE9 is also supposed to come with broader CSS3 support, SVG support, and even embedded audio and video support. All of these are to be expected, however, given how long it has been since the browser was updated and how long we typically wait for new versions. You may want to visit the Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive page to see see how it fares in the Acid3 and CSS3 tests.

Within the last two weeks Microsoft has been posting and updating content in its guide explaining how to take sites that support primarily IE6 and convert them to support IE8: Addressing Application Compatibility When Migrating to Internet Explorer 8 at MSDN (build date: 9/2/2010) and at Technet (updated August 25, 2010). This is driven by the push to get business users and IT shops to upgrade to Windows 7, something many organizations resist because of the forced upgrade to IE8 from IE6. Given how many organizations built IE6-only proprietary support into their intranets and internal applications, their reluctance to rebuild those applications makes sense. Microsoft's browser-specific features from 10 years ago are holding up adoption of its latest operating system.

Let's quickly recap the timeline of Internet Explorer's release dates, and perhaps you can marvel at IE6's staying power, or probably just recognize that this geriatric browser exists in the wild solely because of Microsoft's push to get people to code specifically for it a decade ago (I lump IE4 and up into that push).

Internet Explorer version Release Date
IE4 September 1997
IE5 March 1999
IE5.5 July 2000
IE6 August 27, 2001
IE7 October 18, 2006
IE8 March 19, 2009
IE9 beta September 15, 2010

I am wondering how long before we get an IE8 to IE9 conversion support guide from Microsoft, and how long before the key message in that document is to just use web standards.

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