Internet Explorer and why they are behind on features.

Internet Explorer is a thorn in the side of any web developer. I have come out in its defense on some of the thing I think is unfairly said about the world’s most popular browser.

I recently watch a video called “Internet Explorer the story so far”. What was most interesting about the video was that it explained Microsoft’s philosophy about updates to their browser.

Some of the important things were:

  • Enterprise users expect a stable version which is tied to a version number. They also expect a set of features with that release which are set in stone.
  • Microsoft ship IE with their Operating system so they have a obligation to provide web browsing features with their OS.
  • He said that they would rather not ship a feature, if it was buggy or incomplete.
  • They were trying to engage developers with the version previews of newest browser.
  • Provide previews of the browser so developers can send Microsoft feedback.
  • They were sorry for pre-IE9 mistakes.

Worth watching the video, except I think people are more likely to still complain about IE, rather than looking for the differences between the customers that Microsoft makes IE for and who their competition make their browsers for.

Microsoft provide a decent out of the box browser that can be easily administered by system administrators, while other browsers produce their browsers for various different sets of non-corporate users.

Microsoft are trying to do to two things.

  • Ship a standard set of features the browser supports per release.
  • Make sure they implement well understood and defined web standards.

The are trying to walk a tight-rope between the needs of enterprise computing and of those of modern non-corporate customers. Personally I think that the modern versions of IE (9 & 10) are good browsers and while the inspector tools aren’t lagging behind, for the majority of users it will deliver a very pleasant browsing experience.

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