Ars Technica has an interesting blog roundup article this morning with quotes from a number of MS employees who are questioning the wisdom of keeping IE around without improving it.
The saga of Internet Explorer, the piece of software that once brought the Department of Justice to the brink of breaking up Microsoft, continues to eat away at the company. Several Microsoft employees have been reporting on their blogs that they feel the browser is not receiving adequate attention from upper management, and that it reflects badly on Microsoft as a result.
IE 7 is, of course, on the way, but by all accounts it’s still pretty far behind Firefox and a lot of other offerings. What’s not mentioned by any of these folks is the poor standards support issue, which has wasted more time for more web developers than any other issue in the history of the browser. Unfortunately, IE7 fixes some standards problems, but not others, which is perhaps even worse than if it had fixed none at all, since there’s now another broken browser that’s broken in a different way.
At this point, the only way I could see to make IE relevant again would be to break backwards compatibility and make it standards-compliant. Safari, Firefox, Konqueror, and etc all render nearly identically, so standards-compliance isn’t some nebulous thing. One (cheesy) way to keep some backward compatibility and still give us standards dorks what we want might be to make the browser’s ‘strict’ rendering mode render like all the others, and leave ‘quirks’ mode quirky. The developers that understand the distinction and how to change the doctype to enable ‘strict’ mode can do so, and all the old IE-only sites that didn’t have doctypes anyway can go about their business as usual.
Really, given the continual issues, why doesn’t MS just make IE a shell around the Gecko engine (which powers Firefox and Mozilla)? The source is available, it would reduce maintenance costs, and solve all of the issues in one fell swoop.