Well, well, well. It’s been a long time since Internet Explorer 6 appeared, and for a long time it appeared that Microsoft had lost all interest in developing it any further. At one point, they indicated that the only way Windows users would get a new version of IE would be to upgrade to the next version of Windows, which won’t be around until late this year at the earliest.
Now for anyone who pays much attention to web design, security, usability, or indeed much else on the internet, this looked like a Very Bad Move. It’s not at all surprising that Firefox has been gaining market share over IE. Anyway, it seems the muttering and complaining got a bit too much for Microsoft, and a while back they announced that a new version of IE would be released for Windows XP. Some time ago, an initial beta version was released, which I took a quick look at, then promptly forgot about, as it didn’t really do much.
But now, there’s a preview of Beta 2 available. And for some reason or other, I decided to give it a try. And do you know what? I like it. Tabbed browsing is all present and correct, and the new user interface works nicely for me. More importantly, some of IE’s deficiencies in CSS rendering have been fixed, with more improvements promised for the final release.
It’s far from perfect, but it’s good enough for me to be using it to type this post. More details and updates on the IE Team Blog, which is itself a remarkable sign of openness from Microsoft.