It was waaaaay back in February 2005 that Bill Gates told the RSA Conference in San Francisco that Internet Explorer 7 would debut a year ahead of schedule in order to combat the serious security flaws of the ageing IE6 browser. He was referring to summer 2005, but in true Microsoft style IE7 is finally here in Autumn 2006.
In the 20 months that has passed since that conference little has changed from the original IE7 spec (something we should perhaps be grateful for considering the downscaling made to Vista) and we will see a raft of new features including RSS and tab support (welcome to 2004), customisable search engines (welcome to 2003), a streamlined interface, anti-phishing tool and security fixes (and I’m sure, inevitably patches) galore.
Five versions will of IE7 be made available to the public – though not yet the ridiculously named IE7+ edition for Windows Vista which adds a protected mode, parental controls and improved network diagnostics and confuses the hell out of everyone – and they can be downloaded here. Windows 95, 98 and Millennium are not supported for obvious reasons but neither is Windows 2000 which is harsh. As for XP users they must have Service Pack 2 installed, but quite frankly if you haven’t already you’ve got a death wish.
Ultimately with Firefox 2.0 going into an unexpected third Release Candidate last week the availability of IE7 could be seen as a big fillip to Microsoft but this long overdue browser is already so far behind the offerings from Mozilla and Opera that it will take several years to make up the distance.
Incidentally, if you don’t download IE7 now it will be installed as an automatic update sometime over the next month. Resistance is futile my children, but use is optional.