(updated October 19, 2006)
AFTER years of serving their websites to the vagaries of Internet Explorer 6, many companies may soon find that their sites no longer work properly for millions of computer users around the world.
That’s because giant Microsoft Corp., which controls more than 80% of all browser installations, is introducing a new version of its Internet Explorer browser that may not be compatible with websites built specifically for the current version of its software.
Companies with faulty sites have little time to address problems. Millions of Web users around the world are expected to switch to Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) almost overnight at some point within the next few weeks.
The rapid adoption is expected because most PC users will receive the new browser as a high-priority automatic update, the same service Microsoft uses to issue security patches for its software.
On October 18, 2006, Microsoft released IE7 for Windows XP as a standalone download. The company said it would “begin distributing Internet Explorer 7 as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates in November 2006.”
New Features In IE7 May Cause Sites to Break
Many websites are likely to break in IE7 for a wide range of reasons. A few common problems include:
- Websites that are not set up to recognize new browsers and so will not allow people using IE7 to access their sites. On Microsoft’s IE team blog recently, one commenter pointed to the website of telecommunications giant Bell Canada as an example of this problem. People using IE7 are greeted by a page that tells them their browser is not supported and urges them to download IE6.
- Websites are using code that is not supported by IE7. With the new browser, Microsoft is moving closer to adopt open international Web standards. However, many websites don’t comply with these standards. This may mean these sites will produce unexpected results or even be completely garbled in IE7. Ironically, companies which followed our advice to test and upgrade their their sites for the open source Firefox browser will likely have no issues since IE7 supports the same standards.
- New security measures in IE7 may cause website users to experience unexpected security warnings that they didn’t see before when using your website. For example, some websites use ActiveX controls on their sites for navigation, animation, multimedia and other features. Since ActiveX add-ons increase security risks, IE7 blocks most of them by default. Users will see a warning and will have to click to accept the plug-in from the website and then verify that they want to install and run the add-on. Inexperienced web users and those concerned about malicious software on the Web are likely to abandon sites that rely on them installing ActiveX add-ons. Some might believe your website has been compromised or infected by a virus, a potentially serious issue for financial services and e-commerce websites.
These are just three of the many IE7 issues website owners need to be aware of. Microsoft has provided several resources to help website owners prepare for IE7′s impending launch. These include:
- Information Index for Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1
- Internet Explorer 7 Readiness Toolkit
- Cascading Style Sheet Compatibility
- Overview of Security and Compatibility
- Microsoft’s Anti-Phishing White Paper
- ActiveX Security: Improvements and Best Practices
We recommend that you download a copy of IE7. You should familiarize yourself with the browser’s features and test every page of your site.
Also remember that making sure your site will work is only the first step in getting ready. You also must make sure your site is ready to take advantage of IE7′s new features.