IE 7 Is Out The Door

UPDATED: Microsoft officially released Internet Explorer 7 this week, sorta, thanks to a slight assist from Yahoo jumping the gun on posting the final code.

Microsoft has posted the final version after Yahoo  got slightly ahead of itself by posting its own branded release of the final code.

The Yahoo IE 7 is digitally signed by Yahoo and includes its toolbar. Other than that, there’s no difference between it and the official release from Microsoft.

For now, Microsoft  beat Mozilla to the market with its new browser. Firefox 2.0 is in its third and final release candidate.

Then again, IE had fallen significantly behind the curve of browser technology, which had been in Mozilla’s favor.

Microsoft released IE 6 in 2001, and aside from some security updates in Windows XP Service Pack 2 in 2004, IE had not been updated since its release.

“They basically just brought it up-to-date and brought it back to the current state of the art,” said Matt Rosoff, analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

“A lot of the features are meant to appeal to more savvy users who switched to Firefox or are experimenting with other browsers. So this may help Microsoft gain some market share back.”

IE 7’s changes are both cosmetic and functional. On the surface, users will see support for tabbed browsing, so multiple pages can be opened in a single application. This has been one of the most appealing features of its chief rival, Firefox.

IE 7 also adds native support for RSS feeds, so RSS syndication can be read in the browser.

It supports Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 (CSS2), the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image format and native XMLHTTP for dynamically retrieved data that’s used in Ajax  applications.

Under the hood, IE 7 has a strong anti-phishing filter and runs in a protected mode that isolates the browser in its own sandbox, so nothing can be written to the disk. This will cut down on malicious code getting into a system through the browser.

Unrelated to the IE 7 release but coming along at the same time is a new search feature from Microsoft’s Web Search and Mining (WSM) group in Beijing, China, called Search Result Clustering (SRC) technology.

SRC was first discussed in 2005 but now is emerging in beta form.

SRC “clusters” the results of a search on the left side of the browser window in sub-topics if the search was too ambiguous. Results can be expanded or collapsed to drill down into a specific category.

When searching on a person’s name, SRC finds the person’s affiliations and groups them into subcategories. It can also find the relationship between two people.

For now, SRC is available through a beta Web site and a toolbar for Internet Explorer. Microsoft declined to say what it planned to do with the technology.

Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch, said this type of clustering technology isn’t new. Sites like have been doing it for some time.

“It’s largely not driven any of these players into any great success. It’s useful but I don’t think that it’s unique,” he said.

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