Microsoft have not so much announced, more let slip, that there won’t be any more updates to Internet Explorer.
The next version of the browser will arrive with the next version of the operating system. It will be closely tied to the operating system despite the fact that this is the very behaviour that landed them in an anti-trust case in the first place; an anti-trust case, it must be said, that they managed to lose with impunity (a neat trick if you can pull it off):
"Q: when / will there be the next version of IE?
A: As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation."
Now, to be fair, Internet Explorer 6 is a pretty good browser with pretty good standards support. I can’t agree with this however:
"Legacy OSes have reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1. Further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS."
This is just crazy. After all the years of browser wars and standards campaigns we’ve been through, this is a real kick in the teeth. It’s as if we’ve been cheering on somebody running in a marathon only to watch them give up a hundred yards before the finish line saying "there’s always next year".
I wasn’t hoping for any great leaps and bounds in IE’s capabilities. I just wanted to see CSS support for things like "min-width" and "max-width" and psuedo classes like ":before" and ":after".
Looks like I’ll be waiting a long time. So will all the people who signed the petition to get Internet Explorer to support PNG graphics properly.
I’m trying to see the positive side to this but it’s hard. As browsers have increased in standards compliance and users have gradually upgraded, I’ve enjoyed learning and implementing new standards-based development skills. As browsers improved, so did websites. I get the feeling that this exciting period is over and we’re entering the doldrums of browser development.
At least I’ve still got Safari, Camino, etc. to get excited about.
I guess I should be happy that I won’t have to learn any new client-side skills for a while, but I’m not. For a long time I’ve been evangelizing the use of XHTML and CSS as a way to future-proof websites for forthcoming browser releases. It looks like there won’t be any forthcoming browser releases for the majority of Windows users.
Maybe Microsoft are being remarkably prescient. Maybe they’re saying that desktop browsing is dead and we should be looking towards web services, mobile devices and other ways of accessing the web.
Or maybe they’re just being asshats.