Pre-Release Browsers: Why Internet Explorer 7 Matters

[Editor Dec 14 Update:  IE 7 is now certified with the E-Business Suite.  See Microsoft IE 7 Certified with Apps 11i.]

[Editor Update May 21, 2008:  Keith has moved on to another team within Oracle and, sadly, is no longer an active contributor to this blog.  Feel free to direct any questions about his posted articles directly to Steven Chan, instead.]

After a lengthy and unintended delay, I will now begin the "last" of my three-part series on working with pre-release browers. I would like to say I saved the best for last, but I'll try to be more objective and say that it's really the hardest that I saved for last: Internet Explorer 7. In fact, it turned out to be so hard, that the issue is best divided into two separate posts, so perhaps you haven't seen the last of this topic yet.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 logo 2: <br>

For this post, I'll concentrate on why you will most likely want to test Internet Explorer 7 before it is released, and how to avoid some potentially nasty surprises when it is released, and shows up overnight on every PC in your organization -- even though you told everyone not to download it on their own. As one might expect, Microsoft is eager to help you on both points, with readily available IE 7 release candidate downloads, and a highly important Blocker Toolkit to manage the incoming tide.

Bigger than Big

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7) is one of the most talked about updates in browser history. Most notably, it is Microsoft's first major update to their core browser product in nearly five years. IE 7 has promised many new features that bring it up to parity with competing browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, but the biggest changes, despite being under the covers, will have even more of an impact in the IT department than on the users' desktops.

Microsoft is making great efforts to do a better job of adhering to web standards, and "clean up" much of the buggy CSS and JavaScript behavior that
has been the bane of every web developer's existence. Chances are if you're reading this blog, you don't design web sites for a living, so you may be wondering, why is this so important to you? The answer comes in two parts.


Seeing is Believing

First off, if you customize the look and feel of any Oracle HTML-based applications, you're probably more impacted than you may know.

It's important to understand that you can't throw an HTTP request around without hitting a website these days that doesn't have some kind of code branch along the lines of "if IE then do this (hack-filled code), else do this (standard code)". Microsoft is well aware of how this practice has ballooned over the years, and because of this, they made the unusual move of sending out an early warning to web developers and site maintainers around the world, saying that many of these web page "hacks" will not only fail to work with IE 7, but will actually fail to render properly, yielding unintended consequences and, in some cases, totally unreadable or non-functional web pages.

This means that testing your internal web-based applications and even helping to test vital supplier web sites is crucial to ensure a smooth transition with IE 7 arrives. Included in that list of applications is any customizations you may have made to E-Business Suite.

Granted, it will be difficult to fully test it without certified E-Business Suite code; rest assured, we've got a headstart on our certification efforts and are working hard to keep the gap between release and certification as small as possible. In the meantime, you will probably get the best results by extracting your customized HTML code and testing it independently from the rest of the E-Business Suite code. This will also allow you to roll out your changes along with any interoperability patches we may require as quickly as possible.

Coming Soon to a PC in Front of You

The second reason for the importance of pre-release testing is that Microsoft is sending you this new browser whether you like it or not.

Capitalizing on its popularity, and the fact that they have control over the product as a "core component of the operating system", the new browser version will be automatically delivered to all Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users that have the Automatic Updates feature configured on their desktop. Although it won't exactly be forced on users, IT departments that have configured their users to automatically download and install updates from
Microsoft will find that one day in the near future, quite suddenly, everyone will have gone from running IE 6 to IE 7. (Ed. Update: This actually won't happen invisibly; customers will always have to consent to the upgrade in a pop-up window. See the followup to this article for more details.)

If you aren't sure, open up Automatic Updates from the Control Panel. If you see something configured like this:

Automatic Updates: If the first bullet is selected, as shown here, IE 7 will automatically be downloaded and installed. If the second bullet is selected, the user will have the ability to deselect IE 7 before installing any other updates.<br>

then IE 7 will automatically be downloaded and installed to your machine. If the second bullet is selected, you will have the ability to deselect the IE 7 update before installing any other downloaded updates.

While Microsoft is simultaneously using the lure of new features and security improvements to encourage its user base to upgrade, they are also taking advantage of their deep OS integration to minimize the user base running the older, outdated browser as quickly as possible. There are certainly benefits to this approach, but the impact it will have on IT departments and web designers around the world that have yet to clean up their IE-specific code is nothing short of painful.

Damming the River

Before you panic, however, Microsoft has you covered. Microsoft is offering a bone to the IT departments out there in the form of an Internet
Explorer Blocker Toolkit
. This toolkit will allow you to configure your network so that the browser update is "blocked" before it can be delivered to PCs in
your domain, until you decide your organization is ready for it.

Oracle has recently published
Alert 390582.1

on this topic; if you're interested in learning more about this tool, I encourage you to check it out.

In fact, I would go so far as to recommend that everyone that is responsible for PCs that are using Internet Explorer to access E-Business
Suite review this alert as soon as possible.

Alternatively, if you have control over automatic updates on your machine or your network, you may want to turn off the feature that automatically applies these patches. (If you're one of the many companies that believes in testing automatic updates before deploying them widely, then you're probably already doing this, and should be insulated from the sudden change.)

Preparation Before Preparation

The upshot of all of this is that before you can prepare to test your applications and services with the new version of Internet Explorer, you should prepare everyone else by ensuring the update doesn't get deployed prematurely.

Very soon, I'll discuss how you can go about testing IE 7 on your network without getting in the way of your E-Business Suite usage. Depending on your goal, as you'll soon find out, this turns out to be either very easy or very hard.



Keith ,
Nice Information. Is this only for Oracle E-Business Suite ? I suppose its equally important for 10g Application Server Portal & Collaboration Suite as well.
We have standalone portal as well which is quite widely used , We will wait for your next updates .

Atul Kumar

Posted by Atul Kumar on September 08, 2006 at 10:35 AM PDT #

Hi Atul,

You are correct. While our blog tries to focus on E-Business Suite users, this information is really applicable across the board. It's true for other Oracle software and for other third-party software, but especially for custom HTML-based software you've written yourself.

I strongly suspect that the Portal team, like ours, is also actively working on IE 7 certification for 10g releases.

Thanks for your comments,

Posted by Keith M. Swartz on September 11, 2006 at 05:02 AM PDT #

Just a correction - IE7 will not in any circumstance be automatically installed. IE7 will be *offered* as an upgrade, but the end user will have to consent to the upgrade by clicking through the UI or decline the upgrade.

Posted by Mike Chan on November 03, 2006 at 06:44 AM PST #

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