Bill O’Brien on IE7

Bill is skeptical of IE7, “Historically, developers do no real work on MS products until they’re gold because MS has a habit of changing things at the last minute.” I used to work at an ISV, so I know the feeling. But I think developers will see IE7 as an improvement, and in large part because of the sentiments he expresses. For starters, developers have asked for better CSS support for a very long time, and I don’t anticipate many web developers hesitating to adopt IE7 because “we need to see if this improved CSS support is fully baked”. And the syndication feed parser is, IMO, a no-brainer. Why write the code to parse five different feed formats when you can get it for free? It’s not as if everyone in the world needs to parse RSS, of course, but if you do, you want it to be consistent and reliable. Nobody today writes XML parsers, and RSS has reached that same level of maturity. It’s basic infrastructure now.

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Well, there is one caveat here regarding the feed parser. RSS 1.0, 0.9x, and 2.0 are “baked” formats. Supporting them is a no-brainer. But there is a danger in baking support for a format that is changing. We learned this the hard way, when we were first out the gate with support for XSL in the browser. We shipped IE with support for the most current W3C draft, but unfortunately the language changed drastically, after we were gold. The critics assumed that there was a nefarious plot by MSFT to fragment XSL, but it was simply a matter of us going gold before the standard did. I think we recovered admirably, and have still had the best in-browser XSLT (final standard) support, but it burned us pretty bad. I think of this when I see the comments about Atom lurching toward signoff. We can only hope the spec is gold before IE7. So to Bill’s point, there is always a possibility that things will change between Beta and gold; but you also have to deal with the possibility that the standards change — and in this case I’d rather take dependencies on a single API and manage that risk than deal with five feed formats and potential incompatibilities, changes, and risks there.

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