Just last week Microsoft’s Tony Chor was roundly chastised about the lack of information on Microsoft’s next Web browser in the comments to his rather self congratulatory posting on the IE Team Blog about the first anniversary of Internet Explorer 7.
But while Chor was loquacious about IE7, he gave short shrift to news about the next edition. “While we’re happy with how well IE7 is doing, as always, we continue to listen to our customers and find ways to further improve Internet Explorer. Look for more news on this front in the coming weeks.”
That drove some users to question Microsoft’s commitment to a statement made by Bill Gates last year that the company would upgrade Internet Explorer more frequently. In March 2006, Gates acknowledged that the six years between the release of IE6 and IE7 was too long an interval, then said Microsoft would crank out a new edition of Internet Explorer every nine to 12 months.
“Congratulations. In the same timeframe [since IE 7's debut], Firefox went 2.0, and launched 3.0 Beta, Safari has gone to 3.0, including a version for Windows,” said someone identified as Paul. ” Let’s see…six years for IE7, so you guys are on track to have IE8 by what, 2012? Your problem is you think in terms of years.”
So yesterday at a Mix n’ Mash event for bloggers, Molly Holzschlag complained to Bill Gates directly:
BILL GATES: I’ll have to ask Dean what the hell is going on. I mean, we’re not — there’s not like some deep secret about what we’re doing with IE.
MOLLY HOLZSCHLAG: But they’re not letting people talk about it. I do realize that there is a new engine, there is some other information, and this information is not being made public — we are being asked not to talk about it. So, I’m concerned about that.
BILL GATES: I’ll ask Dean what’s going on. I mean, is IE 8 represented at MIX? I assume it is.
JENNIFER RITZINGER: Yes.
MOLLY HOLZSCHLAG: To what extent?
JENNIFER RITZINGER: To be determined
MOLLY HOLZSCHLAG: So, at MIX08 then?
JENNIFER RITZINGER: There will be disclosure by MIX08.
BILL GATES: I’ll look into it.
MOLLY HOLZSCHLAG: Yeah, do. It would mean a lot to the design and development communities.
BILL GATES: I mean, I will look into it.
The Dean referenced is Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch who again at the IE Team blog tries a humorous response based on Gates revealing the “secret” IE8 name that falls flat and then promises
You will hear a lot more from us soon on this blog and in other places. In the meantime, please don’t mistake silence for inaction.
Not unexpectedly, the comments on that post aren’t any less grumpy. One of the more polite ones:
Wow, *that* was poorly calculated. For months, interested parties (including former colleagues) have begged and pleaded Microsoft for information about IE8. Now, with everyone’s attention and an opportunity to impress the web development community with substance, this blog instead opens with a substance-free post about product’s upcoming name. Did I miss the joke, or was the joke on me?
In case you are wondering what all the fuss is about, Web designers detest the difference among browser renderings of the same Web page because it leads to lowest common denominator code at best or special case code at worst. I’m hardly a professional Web designer, but I just finished cleaning up the CSS code for this blog to fix a problem that showed up only in IE7, but not IE6 or Firefox. The remedy for this is for Internet Explorer to be more compliant with recent Web standards and that’s what designers and developers want to know about IE8. Of course, everyone wouldn’t mind if IE didn’t regularly crash and burn while being used, but that’s a separate issue.
So what’s the net? Microsoft is promising some sort of disclosure of IE8 features by their MIX08 conference scheduled for March 2008. And oh yeah, the name will be Internet Explorer 8.