Microsoft Internet Explorer 12
Today the Internet Explorer Developer Relations Team at Microsoft have hinted on Twitter at the possibility that the browser may one day become “Open Source”.

“Open Source” is a term referring to software that whose source code is available for modification or enhancement by anyone. All other major web browsers (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Safari are based on open-source components). Presently, Internet Explorer is the only one of the big 5 browsers to remain entirely “closed source”.

As part of their #AskIE event on Twitter today, questions were invited on the current status and development of Internet Explorer. One question in particular was posed as to whether Internet Explorer would “ever consider going opensource to speed up develop/bug fixing?“, to which the response from the people behind the browser was “We consider many things!

Why is this significant?

Well, Microsoft have come under much criticism in the past over how slowly they release major updates to their browser. Five years passed, for example, between the releases of IE6 and IE7, and then another 3 before IE8! (Compare that with say Mozilla, who’ve been releasing major updates to Firefox every six weeks for some time now!). Whilst there were of course critical “security updates” and patches to IE in those big gaps between major releases, no “new features” or support for new web standards were introduced – meaning a headache for developers of websites and web based apps.

Developers had to ensure “backwards compatibility” with “stagnant” versions of IE, whilst at the same time wishing they could take advantage of newer web standards and technologies which all the other major browsers supported, but IE didn’t.

In the development of our popular browser based room booking system, MIDAS, we’ve had to take difficult decisions in the past to drop support for IE6, IE7 and then most recently IE8 – despite those browsers still having notable market share at the time we took those decisions.

To add to that, when Microsoft have released a “major” update to Internet Explorer, it’s not always available for all Windows Operating Systems. Windows XP users for example can’t run anything higher than IE8 (and if you’re still using Windows XP… well, you really shouldn’t be!!)

So how would Internet Explorer potentially becoming “open source” help?

Well, first of all, more developers would be able to get involved in the project by adding support for new and emerging technologies and standards. Secondly, it would also mean that bugs could be more readily identified and fixed. These two factors alone would undoubtedly lead to a faster release cycle, and greater compatibility with the latest standards!

To illustrate just how far behind other browsers Internet Explorer currently is (in terms of support for the latest web standards), IE11 (the current version of IE generally available) is only 67% – compared to Opera 22 and Firefox 30 on 85%, and Google Chrome 35 edging ahead with 86% compatibility with the latest web standards (Source: caniuse.com)

We’d love to see a faster release cycle for Internet Explorer and the same support for technologies and standards in IE that other browsers have had for some time!

Internet Explorer Developer Channel
On a positive note, earlier this week, a new “developer preview” of Internet Explorer emerged through the new “Internet Explorer Developer Channel“, to give developers like us a sneak peek at what to expect in IE12… the big question now is how long will it be until IE12 actually becomes available to end users? Will Microsoft wait until Windows 9 is released (Like they did with IE10 and Windows 8), or will we see the next major update to Internet Explorer sooner?

Let’s hope so!

You might also be interested in:
Mozilla: The browser vendor who USED to believe in equality and freedom of speech!
The Best Web Browser? Internet Explorer 11, Chrome 31, Firefox 25, Opera 17, or Safari 5?

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