Internet Explorer 8 doesn't matter

Microsoft's complete silence on the status of Internet Explorer 8 has resulted in much wailing and gnashing of teeth from web developers, but ultimately it's not an issue worth getting worked up about (note: the Ryan G. quoted in that article isn't me).

The status of IE8 is unimportant. Whether or not IE8 will be less of a piece of shit than IE6 and IE7 is unimportant. What is important is that in spite of the release of IE7 over a year ago, IE6 is still the world's dominant web browser, and it's holding the web back.

Even if Microsoft were to release a fully standards-compliant IE8 tomorrow, it wouldn't solve this problem, because IE users have no interest in upgrading until they're forced. The people who are still using IE6 are grandparents and casual computer users — people who don't necessarily know or care what a web browser is — and corporate users who have no control over what browser their IT department lets them use.

Microsoft needs to figure out how to get these users to upgrade, and they need to do it now. They botched the IE7 release utterly by giving it a horrid, unfamiliar UI that alienated casual users and by failing to address many of the concerns of web developers, thus providing virtually no incentive for anyone to upgrade to it or develop for it. They also tied IE7 too tightly to Vista, which has itself been an utter failure, so Windows XP and IE6 are still shipping on many (possibly even most) new PCs.

Unless Microsoft relearns how to develop usable, marketable software, it won't matter how good IE8 is or how soon it arrives, because web developers will still have to develop for the lowest common denominator.