IE7… Don’t Get Excited Just Yet

So, today Microsoft reversed their plan-of-record and announced that there will after all be another standalone version of Internet Explorer independent of Longhorn, the next slated version of Windows. You can read the details for yourself on the IE Blog. The Firefox primates have gotten the monolith’s attention. But don’t get too excited just yet.
There are 3 main areas in which Internet Explorer could use some updating and enhancements:
1. Security fixes
2. New user features (e.g. tabs)
3. Rendering engine fixes (e.g. full W3C standards compliance)
If you look carefully at their announcement, they only thing they’re talking about at this point is #1, fixing some? all? of IE’s security problems. Personally, I don’t care too much about this because I don’t use IE myself. For the 90% of the user population who do still use IE, this is a big deal, but I would expect any software company to fix these kinds of problems with their product.
As for #2, adding new features, again I don’t care too much because I’m a very happy Firefox user. If Microsoft really wants to stop the loss of their IE users to Firefox, then they had better address #2, but their announcement doesn’t mention it.
As a professional web developer, I’m most concerned about #3, the continuing lack of standards compliance in Internet Explorer’s rendering engine. In the past few years, IE has become a significant roadblock to the continued development of the web, in much the same way that Netscape 4 was before that. And again, Microsoft’s announcement today says nothing about fixing this set of problems.
So for me, this announcement is a big yawner, not worthy of the headlines that it will garner. They are fixing the things that they have to fix in order to head off potential product liability lawsuits, but they aren’t doing anything about fixing the more strategic problems.