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IE7: Were they ready? 26 Oct 2006

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you'll know that Microsoft has finally got around to releasing Internet Explorer 7.0. Given that version 6.0 was released in 2001, it's been a long time coming. But was the web ready for it?

In the months leading up to launch, Microsoft had called for businesses to test their websites with pre-release versions of IE7. Why? Because updates made to Internet Explorer's rendering engine meant that they couldn't guarantee that sites that worked perfectly in IE6 would perform similarly in IE7.

This issue increased in significance when the company announced its intention to distribute IE7 as a "high priority" install via Windows' Automatic Updates feature - thereby ensuring that a large chunk of the 80% of users that currently browse the web with IE6 will adopt IE7 overnight.

Certain people pounced upon this news and would now have you believe that the whole ruddy interweb is broken as a result. But is this really the case?

How bad are the problems in reality? When it comes to the crunch, how many sites are truly affected by IE7?

We wanted to find out.

So on Friday 20th October - just two days after IE7 was released - we kicked off a short internal study. We fired up two machines and compared the homepages of all one hundred FTSE 100 companies in both IE6 and IE7. Were these companies ready for IE7? Were their sites bent badly out of shape? Or has this all been a big fuss over nothing? (Y2K bug anybody?)

Summary of our results

Thirteen of the FTSE 100 homepages that we tested were broken in IE7 - although not significantly so. Problems ranged from warped page layouts (Alliance and Leicester) to small presentation glitches (Hanson).

It's worth pointing out however that the general lack of adherence to web standards amongst the FTSE 100 companies may have insulated them somewhat from IE7's various bugs and glitches (IE7 tends to struggle most with standards-compliant sites - particularly those using hacks and filters to achieve decent presentation in IE6). Given that most sites aren't standards-compliant however, we think our results are pretty representative.

Generalising our findings to the internet as a whole - which is admittedly of dubious meaning and therefore should be taken with a pinch of salt - suggests that there are around 12.7 million websites in need of a little TLC as a result of the introduction of IE7.

(A recent study by Netcraft identified 97,932,447 websites on the internet. And if 13 out of 100 are affected by IE7 - per our findings - that's 12,731,218 sites that need to be updated).

Detailed results (Sites that weren't ready)

Click on the links below to see how each company's homepage appears in IE6 and IE7.

Detailed results (Sites that were ready)

Click on the links below to see how each company's homepage appears in IE6 and IE7.

(Disclaimer: All screenshots were captured on 20th October. Some of the sites featured here may have been updated since).

Update: See our Frequently Asked Questions post for more information about the study's methodology and results.

Update: See our IE7: Were they ready? Redux post for some serious IE7 presentation problems with the sites of a number of major UK retailers.

Update: This study forms the basis of a two-part article we wrote for Vitamin magazine. Part one discusses the results of the study in depth, while part two looks at the specific problems introduced by IE7 and tells you exactly how to fix them.

Next article: IE7: Were they ready? FAQs
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