By Kevin Yank

XMLHTTP to go native, and other IE7 goodness

By Kevin Yank

AJAX developers, rejoice! Microsoft has officially announced that XMLHttpRequest will be a native object in IE7, meaning it will work even when ActiveX support has been disabled in the browser for security reasons. This brings the browser’s support for remote scripting–the technology at the heart of AJAX applications–up to the same standard as that offered by Firefox, Safari, Opera, and similar browsers.

Once IE7 is widely adopted, this will help to eliminate a lot of cumbersome browser detection code that is currently required to implement AJAX across all popular browsers.

Another similarly welcome announcement is that the select element (used to create menus and drop-down lists) will be a lightweight component in IE7, meaning that HTML elements (such as DHTML pop-up menus) will be able to overlap these menus and lists and correctly obscure them when they do. Currently in IE6 and earlier, menus and drop-down lists always appear on top of all other HTML content unless you use one of several rather ugly hacks to work around the problem.

Finally, fans of the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox will be pleased to hear that Microsoft are about to release a beta of their own Web Developer toolbar for IE6 or later. Watch this space!

  • mwolfe

    finally IE does something right, they go and copy firefox! Hows that for innovation. But hey, at least they are making a step in the right direction. It sure will make it easier for developers.

  • Well, Microsoft is in business of taking other people innovations and making them runo on Windows. You can’t blame them for doing their job.

    I would really like to see a Microsoft product which isn’t either a) originally by another company that they bought, or b) a rehash of some other program/service. I’m not bashing them here, I’m really curious about that one.

  • chrisb

    jeez, fanboys :|
    the functionality was in IE before firefox existed.. it makes perfect sense to make it a native object now that it’s more widely used

  • This is good news … that the most widely used browser is not entirely dead.

  • This is what bothers me, we all love it when we get the latest in the greatest – don’t we remember that we still have a lot of OLD stuff that we don’t have in IE. I won’t be pleased with M$ until I can server application/xhtml+xml.

    AJAX is nice, but I think they should be implementing the basics.

  • patrikG

    With the release of IE7 being some time later this year it seems unlikely, but nevertheless, I wonder whether the features announced will actually be implemented. I just have to think of all the features Longhorn was supposed to come with – and what it has been whittled down to.

  • TheLunchBox

    I love these debates about IE and Firefox issues. It’s funny that everybody always makes Microsoft sound like a bunch of retarded monkeys, but the fact of the matter is they still absolutely dominate the desktop market for OS and browsers so they can’t be doing everything wrong.

    I also think it’s funny that developers complain about IE not having good CSS support, native XmlHttpRequest, a developer tool bar, and a javascript console, but when they finally add them you complain that they’re copying firefox.

    I still think open source is great, most of my sites are done on LAMP, but keep in mind that most open source projects are made with developers in mind, and Microsoft has to think of the 98% of people who aren’t developers who don’t care about a javascript console and have never heard of CSS2.

  • TheLunchBox, you litrally expressed my feelings :)
    especially the one about complaining if not being done and complaining when done!
    I am not a Microsoft fanboy, but I think MS has contributed ALOT in IT..

  • Luis Morais


    Let us not miss the point here, what we should be after is complicance with web standards. It doesn’t matter if it is a leading browser or another that only 5 people use. What Microsoft is doing is following the W3C standards although late this is welcome. Whoever wants to use Firefox (like me) as their favourite browser still has the freedom to do so, the advantage here is that when it comes to uniformity all of us win along with the user.

  • Allow me to expand slightly on your list BerislavLopac:
    a) originally by another company that they bought,
    b) a rehash of some other program/service or
    c) (in the case of xmlhttp) a rehash of their own technology that someone else got to work properly ;)

  • Luke S. K.

    It’ll be great to see what the developer toolbar entails. I would REALLY love to see a javascript console and/or debugger in this, because, lets face it, Microsoft Script Debugger is not always the most helpful tool out there. The new changes in IE7 are nice, although there’s no telling how many years it will take for all current versions of IE to stop being used to take advantage of them. I believe I speak for many developers when I say that better CSS support is the most important item the IE7 dev team should have focused on.

  • ChiliJ

    Something I don’t quite understand is the concern about select elements. Isn’t the proper implementation of these menus is via unordered list?

    I’m not a fan of IE, but I’m very pleased to hear about the Web Developer toolbar and hopefully a JS console and DOM inspector. It will give me something to work with when firefox is not around.

    Fanboys exist on both camps, no need to point a finger. AJAX would not be popular today if gecko didn’t copy the idea from IE. Different OSes copy things from each other. That’s the way it works, if you disagree, support software patents!

  • kmsiever

    they still absolutely dominate the desktop market for OS and browsers so they can’t be doing everything wrong.

    They dominate the browser market because IE comes bundled with windows and is marketed within Windows as being synonymous with the Internet. They dominate the OS market because they have been around for 20 years and they let don’t make their own computers. It’s not necessarily because Windows or IE are better products than those of the competitors. It’s about distribution.

  • velocd

    Another similarly welcome announcement is that the select element…. will be able to overlap these menus and lists and correctly obscure them when they do

    Awesome news, this known annoyance in IE has always made most of our clients fringe, as our application interfaces use many convenient CSS drop downs that are always obscured by nearby select menus.

    As for IE7 supporting the XmlHttpRequest object? Hurrah!

  • this is great news. does anyone know where i can view updates on IE7 specifically on the DOM? (and not just ALL updates)

  • Tony Bittan

    Bizarelly, I was only thinking today about how good it would be if XMLHttpRequest was supported in this way in IE7, so when I read this you could have knocked me down with a feather!

  • Bring on the new select element, now if only that could back ported through a Windows update … I wonder if now that it is a lightweight control as part of the page that CSS styling of the select elements will work properly as it does with the other form elements?

  • This is great news :) I’m looking forward to the web developer toolbar especiall. I just pray that it’ll contain the outline features present in the FF one :)

  • wow exciting stuff. I wonder what features the IE version of the Web Developer Tool bar will be included. The more IE comes to its senses w/ following standards the better.

  • Hormone

    It will be interesting to see the Web Developer Toolbar. I’ve used the Web Accessibility Toolbar from AIS for some time.


    It’s out :) First flances, is that it’s beta, has a couple of bugs and seems better than the accessibility toolbar :)

  • Rimantas

    Once IE7 is widely adopted

    oh yes… XPSP2 and Vista only. This gonna be a long night…

  • Anonymous

    Most people with an internet connection (and a legal copy) have already upgraded to sp2 anyways… We should be rejoicing that MS is finally listning to the community instead of bashing them for doing so by saying they are copying. Don’t just flatly accuse them of copying when this is exactly what we have been asking them to do.

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