browsers, windmills

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.

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