I sent an email to Dave Massy, Senior Program Manager on the Internet Explorer (IE) Team at Microsoft, asking him what Microsoft had in store for the next release of IE. The next major update is expected in 2006 with the release of Longhorn. I put it to him that IE may need to see some major updates and features in order to catch up with more popular (and free) alternative web browsers, like FireFox.
His reply, although giving little new away, did sum up the current Microsoft position - the fact that "it will get better". Dave offered thought about just what Microsoft can actually do with IE to satisfy consumers and yet keep competitors from filing law suits similar to the Netscape debacle in the 90s.
At the moment IE has a large number of 3rd party add-ons available from the Windows Marketplace website, yet more often than not these are not free and require a license (shareware); this might explain their limited exposure and notoriety. If Microsoft were to incorporate all the features most talked about (like tabs and a download manager) the company runs the risk of making a lot of the 3rd party add-ons obsolete; one cant but wonder if this is one of the reasons for the lack of speed when it comes to integrating these modern features.
Read more for the questions and responses from Dave Massy. If you want to give feedback direct to the Internet Explorer team, or find out more about the development of the browser, head over to the wiki at Channel9.