I interviewed Microsoft's Chris Wilson, the Group Program Manager for IE, to address the issue of Web standards compliance and IE7. There has been controversy about this lately, sparked by a Slashdot thread last week that claimed IE7 was basically non-compliant with CSS standards. I then repeated those claims on my ZDNet blog, but I have to admit that I (and Slashdot too) missed one vital point - it was largely based on an article Paul Thurrott wrote in August 2005, so it was outdated information. Chris Wilson was naturally sensitive to all the criticism and so he vigorously defended IE's standards compliance in his blog.This week
I hope my interview with Chris Wilson went some way to clarify Microsoft's current position on CSS and standards support for IE7. Although I personally still prefer Firefox's features - and the innovation and vision of browsers like Flock (one of my new sponsors btw) - I do think it's important not to unfairly tar IE7 with the same brush as IE6. Let's be frank, IE6 deserved to be tarred and feathered! Indeed Chris acknowledged that there were a ton of bugs in IE6 that caused web developers a lot of pain. But there seems to be a real conviction in the IE team to make IE7 as standards compliant as possible - while also trying to keep it backwards compatible with IE6 and their prior versions. That alone is a huge challenge.
Slashdot posted my interview with Chris, with an unfortunate title that was totally my fault: Microsoft Insists IE7 is Standards Compliant. I blame that heading on a tired mind, as it was late into the night my time. Sorry Chris and also to Slashdot's Taco, who was unfairly blamed for the heading. In any case, what Chris Wilson did say is that Microsoft is definitely improving its CSS and web standards support in IE7. He also wrote in a follow-up post on his blog that "in fact, I would insist that neither IE nor any other browser today is "compliant" with the CSS 2.1 standard. [...] I'd hope that every change we did in IE7 brought us closer to full compliance."
Paul Thurrott, one of the most influential Microsoft commentators in the world today, also has weighed in with his opinion. He thinks IE7 has its issues - what he calls "interface gaffs", along with features that Firefox has that he can't live without (such as inline search). But in terms of standards compliance Thurrott says IE7 is an improvement. He concludes:
"So will I be using IE 7? No, probably not: Firefox still "feels" better and it has features that are missing in IE 7. But I can't condemn IE anymore. Clearly, Microsoft cares about IE and is now updating it regularly. Clearly, they are listening to feedback, and this article is presented in that context, as feedback, as the start of a dialog. IE 7 isn't perfect, but it's not the monster IE used to be. I won't make fun of people for using it, and I won't feel stressed that it's going to compromise my system. And maybe, just maybe, I'll find myself back in IE again someday. You just never know."
I find myself in a similar position to Paul, although I am nowhere near as knowledgeable as him on these matters. My sense is that the IE team is working very hard to address the gremlins of the past - and in particular the standards monstrosity that was IE6. There is also still a lot of bad blood in the Web community about Microsoft's actions in the browser market in the past - I'm talking about the 90's here. But to be fair, they are reaching out to developers and others now, to make sure that IE7 is based on common Web standards rather than proprietary functionality. Of course it remains to be seen whether the final IE7 product will live up to the expectations, but for now they're making the right noises.
Personally I'm most interested in browser innovation - and that is where the likes of Flock and Opera are impressing. My interview with Flock's Geoffrey Arone covered that topic. I also discussed the future of browsers with Chris, which I will post about soon.