Web developers always complain about the amazing ways in which different versions of the infamous Internet Explorer break their websites. Currently there are three versions of IE found in the wild to give nightmares for any decent web developer – versions 6, 7 and 8. I think the problem with IE is not just about the IE team’s reluctance to conform to the latest web standards.
The biggest problem with IE is that its release cycle is a total failure. It is obvious to everyone but Microsoft. Below listed are the years in which three different versions of IE were released:
- IE6 – 2001
- IE7 – 2006
- IE 8 – 2009
Compare this to the recent major point releases of Google Chrome:
- Chrome 3 – 2009
- Chrome 4 – 2010
- Chrome 5 – 2010
- Chrome 6 – 2010 (expected)
Some might argue that it is not fair to compare just these dates without knowing the details of the version-ing system the browser teams use, but let me tell you that this argument would still not help turn the blame away from the IE team. Google Chrome released many small updates even between these major releases and sometimes even in a weekly basis.
The web browser should not be considered as just another desktop application. It is something that billions of people use every single day. It is the most important application in your computer. It is something that should be updated at least every month or so rather than every 5 years. Currently the patches from Microsoft for IE are related only to security issues. Meanwhile Firefox too is thinking about making their update mechanism silent and automatic (ie without user intervention) similar to what Google Chrome does. If the IE team is not going to release updates for their browser frequently enough why bother releasing it at all?
Now think about it in clear terms – A lion’s share of users are not diligent enough to care about the version of the browser they are using. Outside the tech world, many do not know about the availability of better browser versions. You have to update the software without the user taking the initiative. How hard is it to figure out this?
If you go to the IE9 site, you will see the following score for IE9 preview version in the Acid3 test:
Impressive? Barely so. The current version of Google Chrome (5.0) already passes the Acid3 test with a score of 100! On top of that there are still no reliable reports on when this priceless edition of IE9 will finally ship after all these months of working on polishing the CSS rounded corners. Yes, there are lengthy posts in the IE team blog about how closely they follow the specs of CSS rounded corners, while they don’t dare to open their mouth about the <canvas> tag!
IE9 boasts hardware accelerated graphics rendering for faster performance, but what that means is that IE9 will not be available for windows XP users. Keep in mind that Windows XP is the most used operating system in the world. This in turn means that when IE9 is released, web developers will have to support four different versions of IE.
One part of me prays that they ship a better version of IE soon, while the other paranoid part of me prays that they stop shipping IE altogether. Keeping the history of IE in mind, I do have reasons to be paranoid.