IE 7: Three cheers for Molly Holzschlag and Chris Wilson

As everybody and his dog know by now, IE 7 Beta 1 has been released. Read Chris Wilson's entry over on the IE Blog for the details. Since I do not have a copy of it, I will not discuss it in detail. It is my strict policy to discuss only browser features and bugs I've actually seen for myself. Expect a full report as soon as I've got it installed on my computer, but not before.

The MSIE team seems to have used my site for bug testing, although almost all discussed bugs come from Position is Everything, and rightly so, since Big John and Holly Bergevin have far more interesting and detailed bug reports than my own CSS section.

Meanwhile this good news is being overshadowed by an apparently quite vicious campaign against Molly Holzschlag, who seems to have had the temerity to suggest that the IE 7 beta is actually good news for web developers and the standards movement in general, a message that encounters quite a bit of resistance among web standards fascists.

Fortunately I haven't read any of these negative messages, or I'd be tempted to kill the perpetrators by inventing a way of delivering vicious kicks and punches in some deadly Asiatic style over the Internet.

Encouraging Molly

Molly, you're doing a fantastic job. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I'm occasionally in the same position, and I've learned to ignore these rants, difficult as that may be from time to time. One of the best things you can do is laugh at the trolls. This is hard to pull off at first, but it becomes easier with time.

Look at it this way. The people who attack you show they are locked in outdated thought patterns. By viewing Microsoft as The Great Enemy, they prove that they have a narrow-minded black and white vision and cannot be bothered by any grey in between. They see web development as a sort of fantasy story where pure Good opposes vile Evil, and guess who is the good guy? Apparently they need this simplistic world view to feel good about themselves.

If you can, laugh it off.

A beta

IE 7 is in beta. That means that not all bugs have been solved yet. People seem to have trouble seeing this, and expect a beta to be perfect. Let's therefore repeat a bit of ancient history.

All these cases clearly show that browser vendors occasionally release sub-optimal products, and follow them up later with far better releases. Then why are we so surprised when this happens again?

The real reason for the IE 7 beta is improving relations with web developers. The message is: "See, we're listening to you. We're working on standards compliance". The only correct answer is: "Great! Thanks!"

Encouraging Microsoft

I had the good fortune of meeting Molly during the @media 2005 conference, and when we'd talked for about one minute we discovered that we had exactly the same feelings about the relation between Microsoft and the standards movement. Now that Microsoft is emerging from its corporate hardshell, it should be encouraged to come out into the light, to share its problems and hopes with the web development community. This has been Molly's approach from the start, and I, for one, fully support her.

I mean, who could have thought even one year ago that the program leader of MSIE would openly discuss the problems facing the new IE version? I didn't, that's for sure. Nobody else did, either.

Chris Wilson and his team are taking a for Microsoft unprecedented risk by discussing as yet unreleased software in a publicly accessible blog. Why do they do this? To improve their relationship with web developers! There is no other reason.

What is the result? Silly people (and there are a lot of them in web development land) troll Microsoft for not solving everything at once and bringing world peace in one sweeping move. Come on! Microsoft has taken a giant step.

Now it's our turn. We have to say Thank You. It's the polite thing to do when someone goes out of his way to accomodate you and your viewpoints.

Chris Wilson, thank you for taking these risks. Your message is appreciated, and it seems that even the comments on your most recent blog entry reflect this, something I hadn't expected. Remember that, although trolls sometimes form the majority of blog commenters, they do not form the majority of web developers. Most people actually like what you're doing.

Three cheers

So let's hear it for Molly Holzschlag and Chris Wilson.

Hurray!

Hurray!

Hurray!

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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1 Posted by Joe D'Andrea on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

Chris Wilson's post is a very big deal because it offers commitment to a list of specific and measurable goals. Far beyond "improved CSS support." Thank you, Chris.

Molly Holzschlag's post is a very big deal because the vitriol had already risen to obscene levels. If anyone is qualified to thwack that collective over the head (with a crunchy rice cake!), it's Molly. Thank you, Molly.

2 Posted by Molly E. Holzschlag on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

As for the thoughts for me, a most sincere thank you.

I do want to mention that Brian Goldfarb from Microsoft is playing a huge role in this as well. There are a number of other developers involved too, but Brian especially deserves some encouragement and public recognition so I thought I'd take this opportunity to say so.

These guys are stepping forward during a new and blurry time for Microsoft, which as a company never allowed transparency much less autonomy of voice to the public. To pioneer these waters is brave. It deserves to be cheered.

Thanks for seeing that, ppk.

3 Posted by Kaniaz on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

What can I say? I agree.

4 Posted by Small Paul on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

Amen. And Chris's post! Wow! Surely most web developers, if asked to come up with a wish-list for CSS support in IE7, would have written down the aims that Chris stated.

The direction the IE team are moving in is exactly the right one, and something that we wouldn't have dared dream of even a year ago.

5 Posted by JD on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

Amen.

I am so glad to see one balanced post on this news. If you have seen Dave Shea's post, it's full of negativism.

http://www.mezzoblue.com/archives/2005/07/28/ie7_css_upda/index.php

I sometimes find it unbelivable that people hates Microsoft so much.

Your positive post is appreciated!
JD

6 Posted by Jim on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

> All these cases clearly show that browser vendors occasionally release sub-optimal products, and follow them up later with far better releases.

There is a massive difference between these situations and the IE7 beta. The IE7 beta shows virtually no improvement after fours years of nothing. When the other browsers you talk about were released, sure, they might have been crap, but they had significantly improved over their previous versions, which were nowhere near as old as IE6. The IE7 beta has not significanly improved over IE6, and when it was released, there was little reason to assume that further betas would.

> The real reason for the IE 7 beta is improving relations with web developers. The message is: "See, we're listening to you. We're working on standards compliance".

Again, when there is virtually no improvement over previous versions, and virtually no communication (which was the case when the beta was released), it *doesn't* sound like they are listening.

I was one of the ones that criticised them for not getting their arses in gear, and while I now know that they had tricks up their sleeve that they weren't telling us about, I still feel justified in my criticism. They weren't communicating and beta1 is a joke for web devs.

That's going to change now. That's *great*. But that doesn't change the circumstances in which the beta was launched, and doesn't magically make the criticism unwarranted.

7 Posted by Mark on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

> The IE7 beta has not significanly improved over IE6, and when it was released, there was little reason to assume that further betas would.

This is the key point. Molly apparently had inside information that the rest of us (like Dave Shea) did not. I think Dave's response was perfectly appropriate, given what was publicly known at the time. When beta 2 comes out, I would hope that standards advocates (like Dave) would do an equally detailed post pointing out all the bugs that have been fixed -- assuming Microsoft follows through with what Chris has promised.

8 Posted by Faruk Ates on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

Mark,

While that's certainly true, the webdevelopers could've also displayed some good faith in the IE Team rather than opting to flame them. They did tell us for a while now that much better standards-support was coming.

Sure, you may say "Microsoft has always made hollow promises in the past" and you'd be right. However, in the past, Microsoft never treaded these waters. Never before did they discuss one of their products with the public so openly, asking for input. Never before did they sit around the table with the web standards movement to discuss matters. Microsoft is changing, it's only fair we AT LEAST give them the benefit of the doubt for a change.


PPK: great post! *cheers along for Molly, Wilson and Goldfarb*

9 Posted by Dante on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

This is indeed excellent news. Most of the time I'm not Molly's biggest fan, but this time I'll join in and give my three cheers.

The piece I read on Mezzoblue had me feeling distraught, but Chris's post on the IEblog is the best news I've read in a while.

The only bad thing is that Dean Edwards could be out of a job.

10 Posted by Jim on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

> the webdevelopers could've also displayed some good faith in the IE Team rather than opting to flame them.

I think giving the benefit of the doubt to Microsoft is a bit irrational, don't you? Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

> Never before did they sit around the table with the web standards movement to discuss matters.

Er, they've been a member of the W3C for years. They *helped create* the specifications they have been eschewing.

11 Posted by Fuzztrek on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

I hate IE. However, I most certainly do not hate the team, who didn't even exist until a few months ago. I hated the stagnation in the web that I believe IE caused. Knowing that things are back in motion is very exciting. Chris' entry surpassed my greatest expectations, which is always a good thing ;) Regardless of the end result, at least things are moving in *some* direction.

IF the team was intact for the last four years and working on IE, I would be much more upset. As it stands, I do feel the web deserves better than this. But really, there's no point in blaming anyone.. it won't do any good. For me, I guess lowering my expectations down to an alpha channel paid off in the long run :)

12 Posted by Isofarro on 30 July 2005 | Permalink

Jim said: "I think giving the benefit of the doubt to Microsoft is a bit irrational, don't you?"

No.


13 Posted by ppk on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Jim,

This is exactly the nonsense that we have to forget now. It's a new day, and Microsoft is willing to change.

Great, isn't it?

14 Posted by Jo on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Two remarks crossed my mind:

Dean 'IE7' Edwards, why doesn't he work to improve IE7 alongside Microsoft developers. He would be a great asset.

I totally agree on people that always first criticize IE WIN (largest market share in browserworld) for its buggyness, whilst other browsers also have CSS or scripting bugs that need to be gradually improved in due time.

One reason that also could be mentioned to explain the improved communication between IE developers and the developers' community, is the growing market share (estimated at 8 to 9 %) of Mozilla Firefox (we all know the inmense popularity amongst newbie developers and internauts) and the far lesser used Opera 8 (for me: a better browsing experience, it is faster plus unexplainable it is not so broadly known and used by Window-users). Another reason is browser standards, IE developers need to make public that this is also their concern.

15 Posted by Molly E. Holzschlag on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Jo: FYI Dean "IE7" Edwards is a member of the WaSP / Microsoft Task Force.

16 Posted by Jo on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Does that imply that eg all his Js fixes that accumulated in a IE7 Js version will weight on further improvements in eg Javascript caveats in Microsoft's version of IE7 and up? Members of a task force are they the real developers or advicers to the development team of Microsoft.

17 Posted by Matt on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

I have the "chance", if you wish to call it this way, to be using Internet Explorer 7 Beta.

To see if it was that good, I removed my IE hacks from my pages to give only standards-compliant code. As with IE6, IE7 completely messed up my page and I had to put back each and every single hack for IE7 to work fine.

IE7 is nothing more than the same crappy browser that was launched 4 years ago plus (maybe) one bug fix. It has a new user interface (which most people I know cannot bear) that is only designed to bring back people from Firefox to IE.

Although I do not support people who send insult letters to members of the IE team, I must say that they [the IE team] have done everything to make web developers hate them and now they are doing much too little and way too late.

Sure, "it will be fixed in the next beta", "it will be done for the next version". That's what they say since years.

We can't say that the people out there at Microsoft have done everything in their power to simplify the life of web developers. For instance, when they implemented their own version of the box model in 99 instead of following the standards and the other browsers.

18 Posted by Dante on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Jo: Dean has said on his website that he was offered a job by Microsoft, which he turned down because he didn't want to work in America.

19 Posted by Dead Duck on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

PPK, I have the greatest of respect for you, and your site has been of enormous help to me. Thank you.

That said, I am unexcited about IE7. By Chris' own admission, it largely does not offer standards compliance, but security fixes. Why? Because that dumb company still insist on keeping IE integral with the OS. All the time they do that they'll always be more focussed on secrity than compliance.

Furthermore, they're tying the new browser to XP/SP2, thereby cutting off a lot of people who won't, or cannot, upgrade their OS. This really shows M$ in their true light.

All the time that IE7 is a security fix rather than a standards compliance change, all the time that it disenfranchises much of the IE userbase, all the time it's more than just a web browser, IE7 is nothing to get excited about.

20 Posted by Fuzztrek on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Matt: Chris' post states the following:

"Though you won’t see (most of) these until Beta 2..."

21 Posted by Lee on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

As web developers we all want browsers that are standards compliant.

So anything that Microsoft does to move in that direction ... even though it feels like it's taken so long to get there ... it's a great thing.

Thank you Chris and thank you Molly!

22 Posted by Tino Zijdel on 31 July 2005 | Permalink

Here's my 3 cheers for the IE-team. Although their first info on the beta 1 also had me very disappointed Chris' update on what's to come in beta 2 is much more than I first expected. I hope they will live up to their promise that standards support will be even better in future versions; in fact I even have the feeling that they will. Being the cinic that I am I have on several occations expressed my doubts, but hereby take them all back.

23 Posted by kazu on 1 August 2005 | Permalink

Thank you very much for this great sumary. I, of course, 100% agree with you. Now it's our turn to do something positive for Microsoft, web standards community and ourselves.

24 Posted by Jacob on 1 August 2005 | Permalink

I must admit, I dislike Microsoft, but this is more due to their market monopoly than anything else - their recent software has become quite good.

For the web, I'd say IE7 is brilliant news (though I've not seen it myself). However, I do worry that if MS release a decent browser, Mozilla and Opera (etc) will lose users (or at least not gain any more), and compared to IE they've got few enough of those as it is.

As for Molly - I read her site sometimes, and whether I agree with her points or not, I've never found reason to start such a "vicious campaign" (and I wouldn't even if I had). Compared to many online communities, the web development group seem to be quite friendly, and insulting comments (whether intentional or not) often seem to be followed by public apologies. Lots of people here have different viewpoints, and I like the fact that most people accept this. What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter what people think of Molly's opinions, it doesn't justify any kind of personal attack (such as hate mail). End of story.

25 Posted by Bruce on 1 August 2005 | Permalink

The interesting thing is that the IE team are doing exactly what they should be doing according to their business imperatives.

Web designers are not the core market for IE. Businesses and the end-consumers are the core audience, and their number one bugbear with IE has been security. That's why my Dad switched to Firefox - not because he cares about the hover pseudoclass on arbitrary elements. So the IE team's main focus in beta 1 has been security, as it should be given their business needs.

Of course, *our* needs are web standards, and that's why it's so encouraging that MS are talking to the WaSP. But they've only been talking for a short while, so those who berate the IE folks or the WaSP for not achieving miracles are misguided, or naive.

When I worked for a computer book company, I chased many Microsoft betas, and saw massive change in products betwee betas 1,2,3, RFC 1, etc.

Maybe those who got so outraged by IE7b1 were thinking that it was like Firefox, and that a beta would be a pretty much stable feature-complete product. Neither MS or the WaSP should be held accountable for those people's ignorance and inability to understand the way that MS do their business.

I've had high hopes for IE7 since it was announced. I'd like to see min-height and min-width there, too. Maybe they'll make it to beta 2.

Most shocking, of course, is the ommission of support for text-decoration:blink, which is part of CSS one. So on second thought, let's lynch them.

26 Posted by Fuzztrek on 1 August 2005 | Permalink

I think what's so hard for us to understand is that.. we know Microsoft is this big huge company and all, yet they can't build a web browser! Can't we have our cake and eat it too? Security should be a priority, of course. But why does that mean sacrificing the rendering engine?

27 Posted by 4rn0 on 2 August 2005 | Permalink

I must say I'm very happy with the direction Microsoft seems to be heading. I'm very excited and really hope the IE7 team can live up to the promised CSS improvements!

That said, I also really, really hope they run the whole nine yards: fixing CSS bugs is all I could ask for, but if they don't fix the CSS hacks many webdevelopers use to cope with IE (* html etc.) our jobs are not going to get any less difficult the coming years.

28 Posted by Bruce on 2 August 2005 | Permalink

Fuzztrek - I didn't say that you can't have security and css support. I said that Microsoft's priority was security as #1, then backwards compatibility, then standards support.

beta 1 has focussed on security and backwards compatibility. beta 2 focusses on standards support.

I'm no fan of MS's business practices, but their approach here seems to me to be entirely reasonable and rational.

Except for the disgraceful ommission of support for text-decoration:blink of course.

29 Posted by ppk on 2 August 2005 | Permalink

At Sitepoint you can find a list of solved issues with links to the bug reports:

http://www.sitepoint.com/blog-post-view.php?id=286168

As I said, most of these reports come from Position is Everything. Only one, the Bottom Margin On Hover, comes from my Bug Report.

30 Posted by Stephen Hill on 2 August 2005 | Permalink

I would just like to point of that IE7 now support PNG Transparency correctly:

http://entropymine.com/jason/testbed/pngtrans/

Weldone MS, I hope you can support CSS2 Aswell.

31 Posted by Tom on 4 August 2005 | Permalink

From what I've read I am very optimistic about IE7, people were far too quick to say it's shite. I

f the second beta does most of what they said there going to, then Microsoft I tip my hat.

32 Posted by Mosey on 15 August 2005 | Permalink

With reference to comment #30 - I'm excited enough about IE7.0 to post a comment in these deep waters - I would love to use png images for many things (even icons) due to its properties but feel compelled to restrain myself at present to cater for those with IE browsers. I hope many people will move towards this new and hopefully soon to be improved version of IE to replace their current version.
I would not declare myself as a webdeveloper - but rather an average webuser who enjoys setting up a site or two that receives a medium amount of traffic - enough to consider browsers/fixes and others - as well as move towards the 'strata' of standards compliance and accessibility.

33 Posted by spongepuppy on 21 August 2005 | Permalink

I've noticed that many of the people who 'hate' IE tend to be people who do not use it, and who see their browser of choice as the 'right' one and the remainder as the 'wrong' browser. This attitude will persist for as long as there is more than one browser on the market, and for as long as people cherish their browser choices as a statement about themselves as a person.

Having said this, web developers should, by now, have enough professionalism and maturity to appreciate that browsers themselves exist to serve the requirements of consumers - in whatever capacity its makers see as appropriate. Three cheers for Molly indeed - as dialog between browser makers and developers can only be a good thing (even if the motivation behind it is cynical).

For web developers/designers who are still bitter about achieving cross-browser parity in page appearance, I suggest a change of career: print design is quite rewarding because you can be assured that everyone gets to see the design as you'd intended (except for blind or partially-sighted people, who probably can't read most websites anyway, and have given up trying).