Developer Advocacy

The Microsoft Edge (nee Internet Explorer) team held one of their “#AskMSEdge chats” on Twitter yesterday.

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After watching the stream, @MarkXA neatly summarized the chat:

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The folks over on WindowsCentral built out a larger summary of the tidbits of news that did get answered on the chat, some of which were just pointers to their Status and UserVoice sites.

After the chat ended, I complained that none of my questions had been answered:

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In response, an IE Engineer retorted:

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I don’t think that’s fair. Here are my questions, and a few remarks on each:

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As far as I know, I’ve never asked the IE/Edge team about Brotli before, as I hadn’t spent any time looking at it until very recently. I’m interested in the team’s plans for Content-Encoding: Brotli because it can significantly improve browser performance, and if the team implements WOFF2, they must integrate Brotli decoding logic anyway.

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I don’t think I’ve ever asked the IE/Edge team about their plans here before. More efficient HTTPS algorithms are important for both performance and battery life on mobile devices in particular, and thus I think they’re a great investment.

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I have asked this before. IE has had non-standard network export for four years and I was really excited that Edge moved from HTTP Archive XML to the standard HTTP Archive JSON format. Unfortunately, this bug makes their code non-interoperable. The fix will be one or two lines of code. I feel justified in asking for status since weeks or months have passed without update.

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I have asked this before. Edge regressed a significant piece of functionality and created a denial-of-service condition in their browser. I feel justified in asking for status since weeks or months have passed without update.

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I have asked this one over and over again. I find it galling that Microsoft products are less secure together, and especially when Microsoft’s new President promised to close these sort of gaps nearly two years ago. It’s clear that the team agrees that the behavior is bad, because Edge uses Bing securely and doesn’t even allow users to add non-HTTPS search providers.

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This one is probably the least “fair” of the questions, insofar as I already know the answer and I’m effectively just calling the team out on the specious nature of the promise to “watch demand” they made when the original concerns about the absence of Windows 7 support were raised.

However, I’ll note that the team answered several repeats of the question “When will it run on Mac? When will it run on iOS and Android.” Given the Windows 7 marketshare dominance, I think this question remains fair.

Other Unanswered

Other folks asked several great questions that didn’t get answered:

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I really want this feature.

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I think the Edge team is making a huge mistake if they’re not piloting their new extension model with critical extension developers like uBlock, NoScript, etc.

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Because of the nature of the legacy Win32 Address Bar’s context menu, Paste-and-Go was always prohibitively expensive. The UI replacement for Metro IE and now Edge makes this a trivially added feature that was requested by several questions.

Unwanted Answers

Some questions got answers that I’m just not happy with, but I’m tired of complaining about:

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The Edge team replied “No” and suggested they consider this a scenario for the new extension model. I think this is a mistake and a case where “different” isn’t likely to be “better.”

 

Several folks asked when the new extension model would be released. “Stay tuned” was the answer.

Subtext

I think the subtext of Adrian’s complaint is that “You’ve worked here, you know we don’t announce things on IEDevChats.” There’s some truth to that frustration – I know that announcements are carefully vetted and published on the blog and I understand why live chats aren’t a source of new information. However…  

Rabble-Rousing and Information Asymmetry

I know some folks think my questions are just rabble-rousing and that, as an ex-teammate and current MVP I should be asking these questions in private, directly to the IE team. A few points on that:

  • Microsoft has basically requested we provide feedback in this manner, with the “we’re watching feedback to influence our decisions” position on everything from features to bugfixes. Feedback that isn’t getting public traction is largely ignored.
  • A significant number of my friends and colleagues are no longer on the IE team. In the photo of the team answering questions, I recognize seven of the seventeen engineers.
  • My emails to the IE MVP discussion list generally do not receive replies.
  • Direct emails to individual engineers on the IE team often do not get replies.
  • Status on bugs I’ve filed with MSRC is similarly hard to get– issues have languished for months without so much as a “working on it” status update.

Having been on both sides of the fence now, it’s plain to me that one serious problem Microsoft has is that they don’t realize how incredibly opaque things are from outside the company. As an engineer racing from one issue to the next, it’s easy to deprioritize status updates and justify doing so when there are so many higher-priority things to fix. From outside the company, however, “working on it and coming as soon as we can”  is often indistinguishable from “ignoring—really hope this goes away.” That problem is exacerbated by Microsoft’s tendency not to deliver hard messages like “Silverlight is dead dead dead, get off it now!” in a timely manner to allow customers and partners to plan appropriately.

Developer Advocacy

6 thoughts on “Developer Advocacy

  1. L. says:

    Well, I would add this to your points on “Rabble-Rousing and Information Asymmetry”: you are asking good questions, to which I would be interested to read answers, even though I probably would not have thought of these questions myself (which is natural since you are professionally involved in all this while I’m not). Some of these matters are key informations for selecting a browser (privacy, missing UI features such as Save As), other have significance even for hobbyists (emerging compression technologies), and from the other side, I’m sure the IE/Edge team is happier dealing with you than with hordes of people like myself asking about their pet missing feature with no consideration of how useless it could be for most people or how it would integrate into the browser ecosystem. So, please, keep asking good questions, this is useful even to people you have never heard of.
    I do note that *my* pet missing feature, MathML, has not been addressed, even though it has collected a decent amount of votes on uservoice. I’m dreading the moment when it will come to “just implement it as a plugin”, while people who have implemented this in javascript (mathjax devs) have clearly said that native MathML support is required to achieve decent performance and good rendering for complex formulas. [end of pet peeve rant]
    Did you explain somewhere your reasoning about TPL being better built-in rather than a plugin? Is this a matter of being a basic browser feature that should be there by default (but could be implemented as a plugin) or is there some technical reason that make plugins unsuitable for this?
    Finally, thanks for this interesting post (and many others)!

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    1. The preference for integrating TPL is mostly related to performance: by integrating TPL into the browser’s code itself, you can avoid a lot of the traps that content-blocking extensions can easily fall into. Additionally, TPLs were previously supported (hence, to some extent, the code was “already written”) and having an out-of-the-box story for users upgrading from IE to Edge (“Everything just works”) is compelling.

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    2. SatoMew says:

      Internet Explorer was the first mainstream browser to feature Tracking Protection by implementing it on version 9 in 2010, though IE8 (2009) technically had it already as InPrivate Filtering. It was a very important addition despite its limitations (it only applies to third-party domains). The only other browser adding Tracking Protection as a native feature is Firefox (https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/tracking-protection-pbm); Mozilla is currently focused on testing the implementation when used with private browsing mode but it’ll be available for regular browsing as well.

      I don’t know about Eric but, for the time being, Edge is disappointing and I believe that killing off IE is a mistake. IE would benefit from EdgeHTML and they could’ve just adapted Modern IE to work with the enhancements added to WinRT in Windows 10 (it’s not like Edge doesn’t have leftovers from Modern IE, just look at the address bar’s context menu). The tablet experience provided by Edge is also inferior to the one from Modern IE, which also supported Tracking Protection by the way.

      I hope they fix Edge in a timely fashion because I’m not letting go of IE that easily and definitely not anytime soon. They even changed IE’s default cookie settings after killing off P3P (though this wasn’t a bad move per se) and didn’t bother announcing it, iirc.

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  2. Hi Eric,

    Wednesday was the busiest Twitter Chat we’ve done so far and we tried to answer as many questions as we could during the two hour session but it’s true that we couldn’t keep up and we didn’t answer everything immediately. We answered nearly 300 questions during that time and we’ve spent a few more hours since then scanning through the questions and trying to answer all that we missed. You can see these in the @MSEdgeDev feed.

    A few of the questions you quoted actually were answered during the chat yesterday and I think we’ve now answered the rest of them. Sometimes the questions are too nuanced to quickly address in 140 characters in real time but we do our best.

    I could have worded my Twitter comment better but it was intended in the spirit of our daily banter and not designed to convey any deeper meaning. As it turned out, there were several things that we said yesterday that someone here might consider an announcement. In my view the reason we don’t really make many “announcements” during the Twitter chats is because we’ve already shared the things we know concretely as soon as we’re able to. I think the Twitter chats are a good way of asking a clarifying question about those announcements though.

    For example, we try to announce features in development as soon as we have developers writing code on the status dashboard. This is quite a culture change compared to when you were part of the team and we were always looking for the right PR opportunity. Yes, there is a long list of “under consideration” items so we’re trying to add more indication of where things sit in our priorities. We recently further updated the way we present the changelog for preview builds. There is still lots to improve: we’re trying to strike the right balance in the usefulness and granularity of the changes. We also really want to get off Connect and have a more open way of tracking and responding to bug reports. We’re exploring how to do this.

    I’m not one of the people who think you should ask these questions in private but honestly the way you phrase questions from time to time makes it easy to interpret them as rabble-rousing. Nevertheless, we are trying to find answers where we can and if you feel we are ignoring your questions then you have my e-mail address and please use it any time to let me know. Your feedback is always welcome. A lot of the time we don’t know the answer to the “when” question – it really is as soon as we can. For example, we’re not in control of the flighting schedule so features get previewed when they find their way into a build that has good enough reliability to go public.

    We are open to feedback about how to do better. I do think it is better to be able to say we’re working on something but we don’t know when it will be done than to not say anything. It would be even better if we could say exactly when but we’re rarely in the position to promise until we’re finished and I don’t want us to make promises we can’t keep. It’s not a huge surprise that many of the comments on Twitter yesterday were things we’d already heard and are trying to figure out how to address.

    Looking forward to continuing the dialog,

    Ade

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