IE7 And Firefox 2.0: What Do The New Browsers Mean For Developers And SEOs?

You may or may not have heard that new releases are here or about to be here for Internet Explorer and Firefox. Sometime in the middle of last week IE7 lost it’s beta status and was pronounced ready for the masses. On the heels of the IE release Firefox 2.0 is due any day. I believe as soon as tomorrow. I’m not planning on reviewing either since chances are we’ll all be upgrading at some point, but I do want to talk about what the new versions of each browser will likely mean for web developers and SEOs.

What Firefox 2.0 Means For Developers And SEOs

As you probably know Firefox is my primary browser and it’s my choice for both a development platform as well as for general browsing. I wouldn’t imagine many changes with the new 2.0 version that will affect the way we develop sites. Even though the new Firefox will sport a major release version number the truth is 1.5 was the last major upgrade and while 2.0 will include new features it should remain largely unchanged on the surface.

The biggest changes I’ve heard about will be a spell checker in the browser which is welcome news. My spelling is fine, but my typing is about as bad as can be. There will be other features such as improved tabbed browsing and a session restore if the browser crashes, but these are likely to be integration of some popular extensions. The issue with memory leaks is supposed be improved as well.

My best guess though, is it will be business as usual as far as Firefox is concerned. Sites you developed that work in Firefox 1.5 will likely work and look exactly the same with Firefox 2.0. You might find some of your extensions won’t work for a few days and some that may never work again if their developers have abandoned maintaining them.

What IE7 Means For Developers And SEOs

The changes with Internet Explorer will be quite a bit more. As far as browsing is concerned there should be a lot that is different when compared with IE6. Features like tabbed browsing will be making their first appearance in IE7. I just downloaded and installed IE7 to take a look and my first impressions were it looked good. First impressions can be deceiving though.

After about 10 minutes Of use I can’t seem to get IE to avoid crashing. That’s going to get annoying very fast. In fact it already has. But again this isn’t meant to be a review.

For awhile as developers we could almost safely develop for version 6 of Internet Explorer and the latest Firefox release and with a few minor tweaks for Safari and Opera we could call it a day. While Microsoft will be installing IE7 as part of the next automatic upgrade we all have to accept that for the next few years it’s likely we’ll need to develop and check our sites in both version 6 and 7. Unfortunately things we may need to do to get a site working in one version might possibly break the site in the other version. Some of the hacks we’ve come to love for IE6 may not work in IE7. I have a feeling conditional comments will become more in vogue since it will allow us to direct different css towards different IE versions.

I’ve been checking a few sites I’ve developed that use a few minor hacks for IE6 and they seem to be working so far, which is a good sign I think. I’d check more, but IE seems to be crashing quite often. As soon as I open a dialog at least. But again this isn’t meant to be a review.

For the SEOs among us there are two features sure to affect our lives. One is the new integrated search box. The default is supposed to be set to Live Search. And if you remember over the summer Google complained some about this fact. Their claim being that it was too difficult for the average user to switch to another default. I’m not sure what Google was complaining about in all honestly. For me Google was the only search engine installed by default, probably because it was somewhere set as my default search engine in either Firefox of in my previous version of Internet Explorer. It’s also trivial to add new engines and change to another default.

Assuming that for most people Live Search is set as the default it’s likely that Live Search will gain market share as most people won’t change the default search regardless of how easy it is to make the change. As SEOs we might want to pay more attention to the third search engine, which fortunately enough is the easiest to manipulate. Spammers unite I guess. If you were thinking at all of becoming a black hat, now might be the perfect time. Get in there before people figure out how to change the default search engine to Google and before Microsoft upgrades their algorithm.

The other major feature is the addition of an RSS button on the what is now called the command bar. I think it’s called the command bar, but I’ll need to restart after the latest IE crash to check again on the name. Whatever it’s called the RSS button is a nice feature. Its grayed out until you’re on a page with a feed and then it turns the usual orange color. It’s going to bring RSS into the mainstream in ways it isn’t now. With more people realizing they can subscribe to your blog it will become an even more important marketing tool.

While I’ve mentioned IE crashes a few times here in all fairness I did try to run multiple versions of IE at the same time earlier. I found a hack for Windows a few months back to allow multiple versions of IE running at the same time and it’s probably due to the concurrent versions running that I’m seeing the crashes. I’m hopeful that a restart of my laptop will fix the issue. The problem for me as a developer is that as I mentioned we’ll be needing to check sites in versions 6 and 7 of IE for a few years likely. And as I prefer to work on one machine the ability to run both is something I would really like. If I can’t I can’t though, and I’ll find a way to live with it.

Once again this post hasn’t been meant to be a review. IE7 will most likely prove to be a pretty good browser, my own problems with it tonight notwithstanding. Firefox will continue to be the quality browser it’s been. Most of us won’t be changing from one to the other, but we all will be upgrading. What I think most important in regards to the Internet Explorer upgrade is that as developers we might need to learn a few things. We’ll need to unlearn a few hacks while perhaps still keeping them in out bag of tricks. Conditional comments may find their way into use more and they are actually a very good way to deal with bugs in IE.

For those of us who are search engine optimizers we may want to learn a little more about how MSN Live Search works since it’s likely to see an increase in market share. Given the ease of manipulation this could mean a step back for the seo community as emphasis is again placed on formula seo. My guess is even with Live Search as the default search engine, the majority will still be typing google.com in their address bar or going to it in their favorites as they always have. But I do also expect Microsoft to gain quite a few users with the latest edition of Internet Explorer. RSS, especially in the form of blogs are going to become even more important marketing tools.

Get ready for both upgrades and hopefully after a restart I’ll have IE7 working again. Wish me luck.

Resources

Internet Explorer 7
CSS Standards Cimpliance In IE7
CSS Hacks and IE7

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

4 comments

  1. I’d expect the sites that used the Holly star hack (the * html one) would be disfigured in IE7. However, if CSS is standards compliant, I doubt there will be huge problems. I doubt that IE7 is a fully compliant browser, too, but that’s another story.

    Don’t think we need to rush to MSN. It still has quite a different audience there. Not to mention that we should focus on the humans, which will allow our sites to rank well in all the search engines.

  2. I agree about focusing on people as opposed to search engines. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the market share for MSN. I would assume it will go up somewhat though how much I’m not really sure. It will be there by default for a rather larger audeince, but we are all creatures of habit and if your home page is Google, you might still be using their search engine.

    I use the underscore hack on most of my sites and only for a few things. Mostly _height to get a working min-height thing going for IE. I’ve sometimes used it sometimes when Firefox and IE simply won’t agree t display something exactly the same and I need it to. Using the underscore allows me to server a different value for any css property. Looked like IE7 was either letting me get away with that hack of ignoring it, but adhering to the same standard as Firefox. I don’t use it often.

    I find if you code to the standards and get things working in a browser like Firefox or Opera first and then tweak for IE at points along the way, there’s very little you need to hack. Some things, but it’s probably down to a half dozen lines of code at most now, if even that many.

  3. One thing i am looking forward to is seeing what effect IE7 has on the amount of people taking advantage of RSS feeds. I have always got the impression that only techy types used RSS or knew what RSS was. But with IE7 delivering RSS functionality to the masses i predict a huge increase in the amount of people using it.. Which can only be good for webmasters who provide feeds on thier site.

  4. I assume it’s going to open up RSS to an entire new audience. It may have become commonplace to us, but there are many who would only return blank stares if you asked them what’s their favorite RSS feed.

    For the few minutes I did have IE7 working I thought the RSS support was really good. It was a grayed out icon on the toolbar until you landed on a page that had an RSS feed. Then it turned the familiar orange. It was hard to miss and I think it’s going to bring RSS to the mainstream. I think as webmasters and SEOs we often forget we’re comfortable around and familiar with technology than many have yet to hear about.

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