Microsoft yesterday made tab browsing available to the masses — but not via its upcoming Internet Explorer 7 release. The software giant is offering the feature through its MSN Search Toolbar instead.
The MSN Search Toolbar allows users of IE 5.01 and above to do what Opera, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari users have already been enjoying, including switching between Web sites within the same Internet Explorer Window. Microsoft said IE7 will also offer tabs.
“Have you ever gotten annoyed with hitting the back button repeatedly to get back to the original search results?” asks Denise Ho, MSN Search Toolbar project manager. “MSN Search Toolbar gives you the option to open MSN Search results in new background tabs. This is a huge time saver because it lets you keep the search results on one tab while links that you click open in the background.”
Some analysts have pointed to Microsoft’s lack of browser innovation for the success of open-source browser alternatives like Opera and Firefox. Microsoft’s latest offering may not appease critics if they are looking for the same experience that those alternative browsers offer.
Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told TechNewsWorld he is not surprised that Microsoft has introduced an alternative to the popular tabbed browsing features. Microsoft offered pop up blocking through MSN before it made it part of Internet Explorer 6. But there’s an important distinction, he said, between how Microsoft is implementing tabbed browsing and how its competitors have done it.
“With Microsoft’s solution the tabs are not a part of the browser. They are a part of the search toolbar. So you have to have the search toolbar installed on your computer,” Wilcox said. “With the tabs, it takes up a lot of screen real estate.”
Microsoft said users can turn tabbed browsing on or off. When it’s on, users can create a new tab and open a Web page, use keyboard shortcuts, save multiple pages as “My Tabs,” and other functions designed to save time online.
Wilcox said Microsoft has made a good effort with this addition, but for those who have low resolution screens adding a toolbar and tabs to the top of the browser means less room to view the content on the page.
“If you are using the Desktop Search toolbar anyway, then why not?” asks Wilcox. “MSN was able to get something to the market and I am not saying it’s a bad implementation. But it’s not as good as having tabs that are actually part of the browser with no toolbar required.”