For hundreds of millions of users worldwide, Microsoft’s little blue “e” is the Web. After years of discussion and development, and in the face of its most notable challenge since its inception, a publicly available preview of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP is now available.
IE 7 Beta 2 Preview includes a long list of new and improved features that users and Web developers have seen in other browsers and have been asking for. They include tabbed browsing, integrated RSS, better standards compliance and advanced security.
The Beta 1 of IE 7, released last summer, was only available in a restricted private beta. But just days after being non-publicly released by Microsoft, the code was leaked on P2P networks.
“Beta 1 was really just plumbing,” Gary Schare, director of IE product management, told internetnews.com. “There was a little bit of user interface shown there, but it was pretty light. This release is much richer from an end-user perspective, as well as even on the security front. There is a lot more there.”
On the security side, IE benefited from some improvements that were introduced in SP2 that limited the ability of ActiveX to run unhindered in a browser.
IE 7 takes that to the next level with an ActiveX opt-in feature that further helps to prevent attacks on potentially vulnerable controls.
The browser will also support a scriptable native version of the XMLHTTP specification, which will allow AJAX-type functionality in the browser without being directly connected to ActiveX as it is in IE 6.
Other new security features in IE 7 Beta 2 preview include: a phishing filter, cross-domain script barriers, International Domain Name Anti-Spoofing protection and a feature that simply deletes browsing history by removing user-identifiable information.
Tabbed browsing, which has long been the hallmark of Mozilla browsers, is integrated into IE proper.
Microsoft’s implementation of tabbed browsing in IE 7 includes something called Tab Groups which enables user to collect their tabs into a group and open a group with one click. A native toolbar search box is also part of the new browser.
Perhaps most notably though is IE 7’s new RSS features.
“RSS is probably the biggest area of innovation in IE 7,” Schare said. “We’ve done work both on the end user to expose the average user to RSS in a really great way and we’ve done a lot of work on the platform to enable RSS for any application to take advantage of.”