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3/20/2010
10:55 AM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
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Internet Explorer 9, The Next Generation

After years of dormancy, Microsoft has kicked its Internet Explorer development into overdrive with IE8, and now with a test drive version of IE9. Since the MIX conference earlier this week Microsoft's IE blog has been abuzz with frequent updates about the status of IE9. But will this time be really different?

After years of dormancy, Microsoft has kicked its Internet Explorer development into overdrive with IE8, and now with a test drive version of IE9. Since the MIX conference earlier this week Microsoft's IE blog has been abuzz with frequent updates about the status of IE9. But will this time be really different?Just as with IE8, there is a lot of catch-up being played with IE9. Finally, IE9 will support rounded corners, a feature that's been in Firefox since 2004. The Microsoft blog goes to great pains to show that the IE9 implementation does a much better job at handling the, uh, "corner cases" than most of the other browsers, and I agree it does. But I think most web developers would have been happy with IE7 handling the most common cases four years earlier.

As a web developer, my greatest frustration with IE in the past has been that there doesn't seem to be any worthwhile place to report bugs. With the other browsers, there are official bug trackers that allow anyone to file a bug and see its progress. Technically, Microsoft has something similar with Microsoft Connect, but my experiences there in the past (with products other than IE, to be fair) have been very disappointing. Others have experienced the same frustrations with IE recently, though.

There are some encouraging signs that this failure to communicate may be changing. The blog entries are a good start, telling us what's going on with IE9. But Microsoft did that with IE7 and IE8 as well, so it's not enough by itself. We need two-way communication with Microsoft, with an official public forum for reporting problems and tracking bugs. It looks like Microsoft is answering that need. As someone who reads bug reports for a software project, I fully understand the IE team's frustration with "low-quality feedback" that arises when people post bug reports that don't have enough information. But underneath that pile o' poop is a pony or two.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign that IE9 might be different is this Reddit thread where a member of IE's Javascript team makes an impromptu appearance and gives out some really useful advice. I know that developers can't spend too much time dealing with user questions on a regular basis and get their development work done, but it's clear from this thread that two-way communication between developers and users can be a great experience for both.

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