Lots of really great comments about things you all want to see put into Internet Explorer. Some other things from yesterday. First, Dean's team is also still responsible for Outlook Express too. Second, Dean showed me his Tablet PC. On it he had every single competitive browser like Opera, Mozilla, as well as a bunch of Internet Explorer derivatives. I didn't even know about many of these. He pointed out IRider, in particular as a favorite of his. Oh, and he uses the Google toolbars (both of them).
One of the team members wrote me today with a followup question. One of the tough things that Microsoft's teams must face is whether to develop functionality themselves or rely on third-parties to do it. For instance, do we put in pop-up ad blocking, or do we just say "get the Google toolbar, cause it does it?" Keep in mind, that if we roll in new functionality, we'll hurt competitors and partners who innovated in those areas.
Along these lines, it's useful to think about Internet Explorer as two separate things. One is the engine underneath. This engine gets used all over the place inside Windows (and by other apps). It's what renders HTML inside Outlook Express, for instance. The second is the browser application. It's easier to change the application. Harder to change the engine. Why? Because so many things rely on it. Dean told me yesterday that when they release a patch, it needs to be tested in 400 different iterations. The support matrix is horrendous and something we, as users, never think about.
Another thing that the commenters generally aren't thinking of is "how to get adoption." I keep pointing out that if we fixed the CSS and PNG issues, you still wouldn't be able to use those for years. Why? Cause consumers (and companies) really don't care about those issues and won't download a new version just cause you fixed one or two issues.
As a good example, Dean gave me a few companies with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of desktops, that still are using IE 5.5, or older. The fear of upgrading is something that the team is working hard on too. But, that means slowing down a bit, and releasing a browser that really is compelling for people to use.
One last thing, I find it very interesting that none of the commenters talked about what they'd like to see the IE team do with RSS or Atom syndication formats. Every presidential campaign website/weblog has RSS now. Yet I don't think people are looking at RSS as something that the Web browser should deal with. Why is that?
Anyway, great ideas. Keep em coming.
I've been adding a ton of feeds. Want me to add you to my list? Leave me a comment here.
Benjamin Mitchell writes about a cool new Website: TheServerSide.NET. This is a significant site, cause it's a .NET port of TheServerSide, which is a vibrant Java community. I got a sneak peak at the site the other day, thanks to Ted Neward, the new editor-in-chief, and they've done a nice job. I've subscribed.
So, Dean, the guy who runs the Internet Explorer team, invited me out to lunch today. It's not every day that you get invited out to lunch by the guy who runs the team that makes software that hundreds of millions of people use.
What did I learn?
First. There +IS+ an Internet Explorer team.
Second. They are working feverishly on fixing security, including the latest issue where a URL can spoof another site. Many team members were called off of their Christmas vacations to work on this issue. It's proving to be difficult, more on that in a second.
Third. The team's top priority is fixing security. Windows XP Service Pack 2 will deliver a ton of protection against spyware and other things.
Fourth. The team is looking to work with community members to improve Internet Explorer. That means blogs. That means taking harsh feedback. That means having a dialog about the future that's frank and as open as possible.
Fifth. I asked about features, but was asked to not blog about that part of the meeting. They are interested in hearing about what's important to do, though, and they read this, and other, blogs and are seeing all the feedback you give them.
Now, about the darn security fixes. These are tough. Tougher than it might seem on the outside. Why? Because Internet Explorer's engine is used in several different OS's. Dozens of different languages. Thousands of different applications. Changing one line of code in the inards of Windows means potentially breaking a large number of applications. That's unacceptable to the team. So, when they change things, they need to do it in a way that doesn't break things for customers.
I'm going to work with Dean to give everyone a more intimate look inside the IE team, but that'll take more time than just meeting for lunch and writing up a blog entry.
So, the door is open. What do you want from the Internet Explorer team? Keep in mind, when having a conversation with you, I'll be asking you to think like a Microsoft executive. Why? Because that'll get you to see some of the realities of deciding on feature sets for future versions. Dean's team really has a tough job, and I didn't appreciate it until he ran me through some of the implications of changing one minor little feature.
Thanks Dean for an interesting lunch. I hope to have many conversations with you and your team, both here on the blog, and in person in the future.