Open letter to the IE Team

Dear IE Team,

I have carefully followed the development of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) and really liked what I’ve seen. Especially the CSS bugfixes are wonderful, the tabs are really needed, and the team talking about the development on your blog is really nice too. You are doing a great job and you should receive credit for it.

One thing keeps bugging me though. Soon you will release the browser on Windows Update and people will automatically start upgrading, replacing their old browser (IE6) with the new version. I use Windows Update so my version will be upgraded too, and there’s the problem: I’m a web developer and I need to test my sites in more than one version of each browser. IE7’s ability to replace IE6 instead of working standalone will for me be a pain. As I see it I have the following options:

  • Get another computer. On that other computer I could have the old version of IE installed, with security bugs and all, and then move from computer to computer while testing.
  • Install a virtual machine on my current computer. This means I could have the old IE6 on the virtual machine and test there. While this sounds pretty good it still means I have a reserve a large part of my computer for IE6 testing, something that feels very strange to me. I looked up what Microsoft Virtual PC costs and found $129, an expence that a student can’t take just like that
  • Drop support for IE6. If you really could get all your current users to upgrade this would be a viable option. The problem is that you will not, at least for the comming five years. You will have the non-XP Windows users that won’t get the oppurtunity to upgrade, you will have the modem users that will not have the bandwidth to upgrade and you will have the clueless people that will have no idea that there is an upgrade available. This is not a problem for you, because you are just working with the new version, but it is a problem for me as a web developer, because I have to deal with the old version for a long time still.
  • Hack IE7 to work standalone. I have found some tutorials on how to make IE7 standalone but the problem with that is that it’s a mess. Look at it, copying of registry entries, DLL files, and EXE files around. If this is what you want us to do, why not ship a nice and thoroughly tested version of this script yourselves?

So, this is my dilemma. Which of the options do you want me to use?

37 responses to “Open letter to the IE Team

  1. Obviously I don’t know how MS will proceed, but my guess is that they will not do much about it. Probably let this issue slide; reason being it can be costy to implement a ‘make everyone happy’ solution.

    My prediction is that MS will let it slide and let IE6 turn into what’s happening with IE5 and at some point stop supporting it (i.e. IE5mac). Which seems to be a decent plan (not necessarily for the developers) for the next 3+ years.

  2. You could always upgrade to IE7 and then keep older versions of IE as standalones:

    http://browsers.evolt.org/?ie/32bit/standalone

    When I was working with Windows, I had IE 4-7b1 on a single computer. Conditional comments don’t work, unfortunately (the browser identifies itself as the highest installed version), but other than that it works like a charm.

    Also, your comment entry box is really slow for me (like, less than a character a second). Not sure why, but I had to type this up in a text editor. (FF 1.5.0.2, Linux)

  3. @Coda Hale: I was not aware of that evolt had a standalone version of IE6. I’ll try it out and let you know.

    Also, I have disabled Live Comment Preview, I hope I didn’t lose any comments because of that :/

    (I like the link section on your site, it’s soo long in source and so short on the page ;)

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  5. @Coda Hale: It seems to work. It doesn’t feel much better than hacking IE7 to standalone though, in fact, what evolt has done is just that, hacked IE6 into standalone. If a group of skilled hackers can do it, why can’t Mircosoft put out a supported version?

  6. Another good solution would be to install a stand alone copy of IE6. They are already available as well as the previous versions.

  7. erm, apparently that was already mentioned above, I just didn’t notice comments were on the side instead of below the article.

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  10. This is definitely a problem that has been weighing on my mind for some time. However I think the answer may lie in simply finding the IE6 rendering engine skeleton, as oppose to the entire piece of software. I have the rendering engine happily runs stand alone.

  11. @Steve Tucker: Yes, I belive that IE6 standalone is the current best solution. What still feels bad is that it’s a hacked version by someone else than the IE Team. I’m sure they could make a standalone version themselves with some work. Support not needed. Thanks for your comment.

  12. MS Virtual Server is free.
    VMWARE Player is free
    VMWARE Server is free.

    So running a VM session really isn’t such a biggy

  13. @mjb: Where do you see that MS Virtual PC is free? According to MS own pages about the product it says $129. I doubt MS recommends me using some other companies software…

    Also, it is a biggy since I havn’t been forced to use one before. All other browsers work without the need for a virtual PC…

  14. @olivier: I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. Customers ofter run companies and know that what matters is if you make money or not. Disabling a site for ~70-80% of users makes you lose a lot of money so it’s a definate no.

  15. Was this supposed to be humorous, or does the fact I laughed mean I’m strange?
    [obviously laughed at IE, not Emil]
    Did you get a response?

  16. @Ruby: No response. And that’s even after Robert Johansson wrote about it on 456bereastreet and me contacting both the IE Team through their blog and by private mail to Chris Wilson.

  17. @John van V: As I replied to oliver, it doesn’t work like that. IE7 contains great improvements for their rendering engine and will make it a lot easier to develop cross browser sites.

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  19. it is ’cause MS does not care, just want’s to cash in, they do not give a damn about developers and poor guys e.g. small companys who cannot afford prof. designers. i have to learn html and css by myself in spare time and it is laborous to get the same look and feel across the browser.
    but did MS answer you? would be cuiros to read it.

  20. @norbert: No reply. I sent it to their blog and directly to their manager. Roger Johansson featured it on his blog too so it should have reached them. Strange move not replying to a simple question…

  21. hi emil,
    strange move yes but it shows the attitude of global players. it is allways good to know what to have and expect from others (and form oneself).
    As others already said, one should not neglect 90 % of MSIE users – at least when one depends on some kind of income to make a living.

  22. Hello Emil,
    Great site.
    I wonder if you finally installed the free Virtual PC from Microsoft and if so, how do you evaluate it.
    Thank you.

  23. @John Doe: I don’t know frankly. IE7 is better than IE6 but it still has compatability problems with other programs I hear, so just try it both ways and see which one you like best.

  24. @Johnny: One semi-reply was that they released an image with IE6 included. I still think needing a disk image just to try a different version of a program is far too much work.

  25. Hi,
    So whats better for now? Do I need to first upgrade to IE7 and then isntall that evolt’s standalone version of IE 6?
    Would I be able to run both versions of IE side by side by doing this?

  26. Thanks Emil ! I wish that IE team responds to your letter soon… which doesn’t seem possible since they haven’t done anything even after two years of ur letter and millions of feed backs they might have recieved about this issue!

  27. Get a program called MultipleIEs, it allows you to open any old version of IE along with your version of IE.

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