Much in the same way that the mass produced pap of Robbie Williams outsells the more sculpted and inventive rock of Hard-Fi, Internet Explorer has been getting away with murder for years. Certainly market share has been slipping, but its monstrous lead remains both imposing and undeserved. Today’s latest beta of the embarrassingly overdue IE7 is going to convert few sceptics.
Officially dubbed a ‘pre-Beta 2’ (‘additional fit and finish work’ is still needed for the official badging), the latest publicly available download of IE7 is for all intense and purposes the company’s next big step. But its slow adoption of features long held by the likes of Opera and Firefox make it feel like watching your father dance in an underground hip hop club.
Running the tagline ‘Making the web work for you’, IE7 PB2 cringingly copies Mozilla’s browser ever more closely with each incarnation. For a start, not only does PB2 feature tabbed browsing and RSS feeds along an additional browser panel that is curiously similar to the Firefox’s ‘Bookmarks Toolbar Folder’, it now also offers a search box with user definable search engines (Mirror, Mirror on the wall...).
A little less libellous is PB2’s integration of RSS across the operating system so that feeds in IE are available in any other application, though the ‘page zoom’ feature (which does exactly what it suggests) has also been an age in waiting. The ability to set multiple homepages over multiple tabs may appeal to some however, while the beefed up security (mostly through native support for XMLHTTP so ActiveX controls can be disabled by default) will afford users of the Swiss cheese-esque IE6 better sleep at night.
Microsoft is actively encouraging early adopters to download IE7 PB2 now (check the link below) and with it weighing in at just 11.2MB that is probably fair advice. After all, there are still the odd web pages which refuse to load in Firefox, Opera, Netscape, AOL…