Is IE 7 a Firefox Killer?

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Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla
Sep. 15, 2005 09:17 AM
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From details about beta 2 of IE 7 that Microsoft recently revealed at the Professional Developers Conference, it looks as if IE 7 has the chance to be a Firefox killer.

The beta appears to have enough new features that it may stop people from flocking to Firefox. A new Quick Tabs feature, for example, will let you better manage tabs, and gives you a thumbnail view of all of your tabs -- something that Firefox doesn't do. Page Zoom will let you zoom in on text and graphics on Web pages.

There's bigger news on the security front. "ActiveX Opt-in," will disable most ActiveX controls by default. You'll have to selective enable those controls you want to work. This is a very big deal and a big surprise. ActiveX is one of the browser's biggest security holes, and one that Microsoft, up until now, has been reluctant to plug. Let's hope this spells the ultimate death knell for ActiveX.

An even bigger IE hole is that the browser is directly tied to the operating system, and so an attack on IE means an attack on Windows itself. Microsoft is taking a halfway measure against this in the next version of IE. In Vista, but not in XP, there will be a "protected mode" that isolates IE from the operating system and other applications, so IE won't be able to write to a file without a user's consent.

Does all this mean that IE will be superior to Firefox? No. But to squash Firefox, it doesn't have to -- it just has to improve its security, and add a few extra features. It looks like IE 7 is on the road to doing that. Given that the beta of Firefox 1.5 doesn't add many big new features, aside from handling auto-updates better, this could mean that IE will start to take back the ground it's lost to the Open Source browser.

Preston Gralla is the author of Windows Vista in a Nutshell, the Windows Vista Pocket Reference, and is the editor of WindowsDevCenter.com. He is also the author of Internet Annoyances, PC Pest Control, Windows XP Power Hound, and Windows XP Hacks, Second Edition, and co-author of Windows XP Cookbook. He has written more than 30 other books.