The rumours are starting to fly thick and fast about the upcoming IE7.0. Although Microsoft have only said that the new version of the browser will focus on security issues, the web development community has been hoping that MS will take the opportunity to improve some of the areas in which IE lags behind its competitors, such as CSS support and user interface. Although entirely unconfirmed, suggestions are starting to leak out from Microsoft partners who may be seeing early versions of the browser. Microsoft Watch write that IE7 will have tabs, International Domain Name support, and a built-in RSS aggregator. Moreover, it will be able to correctly display transparent PNGs. The big question for the web community, that of better support for CSS, remains rather up in the air; it looks like the IE team will improve CSS support but won’t at this stage commit to implementing the whole of the CSS standard.
While an improved Internet Explorer should be a cause for rejoicing, it doesn’t mean that the world suddenly becomes entirely rosy. Not every Internet Explorer user will upgrade to IE7, especially since the new version will only be available to Windows XP SP2 users. The Counter’s browser stats for February 2005 show that IE6 has about 80% of the market, with IE5.x and Mozilla/Firefox holding approximately another 10% each, and other browsers at 1% or less. While browser statistics are notoriously unreliable for making proper decisions, they can give a rough air; IE5.x has about as much public usage as Firefox does, and we’re not about to ignore Firefox. It’s likely that a similar trend will apply to IE7; even assuming that Internet Explorer maintains its very dominant market position, we’ll have IE6 (and probably IE5) to support for some years yet.