Internet Explorer 7 has been around for over three years now in the development community and two and half as an official release. In that time IE7 has only managed to capture a mere 60% of the IE market leaving an astounding 40% of their user-base on a browser built in 2001. Contrast that with Firefox which has seen adoption of its latest major release (Firefox 3) reach 90% in its first year of availability.
As we knew when it was released, IE7 is not Microsoft’s heir apparent. And, in light of the condition of the IE8 betas, neither is it. There are all sorts of fun features in the future of web development that can’t be used yet and many of which will be beyond the foreseeable future if IE8 releases as is. Further market fragmentation by yet another standards incompatible browser (albeit increasingly moreso) creates costs in the web-centric development industry the the tune of millions each year in testing and quality assurance. My favorite new testing situation is IE8 running in IE7 (in)compatibility mode.
So, what if Microsoft just didn’t release IE8? (This is me, on my knees, pleading.) Pull a Netscape on us, skip a version (GOTO 9), and spend the extra time to create a more closely standards-compliant browser on parallel with other offerings. Conceivably, not releasing IE8 would save companies millions of dollars in transitional costs and do wonders for improving the browser landscape in the mean time with the attrition that IE would see.
And then, when IE9 does come out and Microsoft provides the world with compelling reasons to use their browser, I’ll be happy to use it instead of being resentful, and they can earn back their marketshare. What do you think?