Internet Explorer 7 and Automatic Update

So, maybe I missed the scoop. According to IEBlog, it turns out Internet Explorer 7, commonly referred to as IE7, will be released as a high-priority update via Automatic Installation. Or will it?

Contradictions

It had long been rumored that IE7 would be released via Automatic Updates. However, an interview with Chris Wilson posted on Think Vitamin on the 24th of July, 2006, the question Is IE gonna update to IE7 was answered as follows:

Is IE gonna update to IE7? So, I think the first thing, really, is that we can’t really force it on users… I mean, that is not our goal. We really like to offer users choice. It is a different user interface. Some people will be really jarred by that. I think that we certainly want to encourage everyone out there to… I do believe that we will offer it through Windows Update but it won’t be an automatic silent update. Certainly, it won’t be like one day you come in and suddenly your computer is running IE7 rather than IE6. Certainly, we have to ask the user if they really want it. As nice as it would be to blast it on to everybody’s system, I don’t think that can happen.

Chris Wilson is group program manager for Internet Explorer Platform and Security at Microsoft. He’s someone that I would suspect to be in the know. According to IEBlog, something changed in two days. IEBlog says the following:

To help our customers become more secure and up-to-date, we will distribute IE7 as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates (AU) shortly after the final version is released for Windows XP, planned for the fourth quarter of this year.

This has caused some confusion. The IEBlog post seems to suggest it was a recent change to their distribution plan. I’d hazard a guess that the change was in the making before the Chris Wilson interview but only trickled out from the official blog July 26th.

The announcement seems to suggest a delivery method that is a hybrid of the install-if-you-want it method Chris Wilson talks about and the silent-update he shuns. The update will download via Automatic Updates. The install won’t be silent. The user will be prompted whether the IE7 install should be ignored completely, put off until later, or installed. Also, the post claims that IE7 will be able to roll back to IE6.

So, it looks like the Internet Explorer Team has managed to snuggle up in the middle.

Some Thoughts

I appreciate their user choice attitude, but I think now is a bad time to apply it. Internet Explorer is the largest source of installed spyware and adware. The fact that the interface might be a shock to users accustom to IE6 is really less important than protecting them from themselves. But, I really, really, really want IE7 to be adopted as fast as possible so I don’t have to worry so much about IE6 CSS hacks. I mean that I’m biased.

The other odd quirk is that upgrading to IE7 will allow users to preserve your current toolbars shortly after it lauded the browser’s advanced security features… including ActiveX Opt-in, the Phishing Filter and Fix My Settings. So, what IE7 will be doing is allowing users to keep all their spyware and adware infested browser cruft despite all the security enhancements the Internet Explorer Team created to prevent people from installing malware. Good thinking, guys. I understand leaving favorites, home page settings, and other settings, but the typically malware-sporting toolbars should be left out. If the user really cares about a tool bar, he’ll go find it again. Blame it on incompatibility. FireFox does it with extensions all the time.

Finally, I’m worried about the roll back to IE6 thing. I’ve stories about how big of a headache it is to uninstall the IE7 betas. I would think an uninstall for a beta product would be high-priority if a company wanted people to test it. Apparently, this is not the case for Microsoft. I hope they improved the uninstall substantially for the final release.

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