Search in IE7 (Part 2)

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Search in IE7 (Part 2)

I posted previously that in IE7, the user is in control of search, and that changing the default search provider (as well as modifying the list of search engines in IE7’s list) is easy. In this post I’ll describe some of the specifics and recap feedback we’ve gotten from users.

The short version: the search box in IE7 is not Microsoft’s. It belongs to the user. Our guiding principle for the search box in IE7 is that the user is in control. Read on for details.

The Default. The typical default when users install IE7 on their Windows XP machines will most likely be their usual search engine. Despite claims from some people around the web, MSN is not “The Default.” The search box in IE7 uses IE6’s AutoSearch setting because we think this setting is the best indication IE has of the user’s preference. I do web searches every day to find feedback about IE7, and have read some positive feedback to date on this. IE6’s AutoSearch setting today reflects the other software (e.g. Yahoo, Google, or Windows Live toolbar) that the user has installed. Of course, if you buy a new machine from an OEM after we release the final IE7, that OEM can (and will probably) choose a search engine for you.

Consumer Choice and Changing the Default. The user is in control of the search box. If users want to change what IE7 or the OEM set the search engine to initially, they have several ways to do it:

  1. If the search provider is already on IE’s list, all the user has to do is select “Change Search Defaults” from the search box’s drop down menu.
  2. The user can visit a web page and click an OpenSearch link for that search provider. The user will get a prompt and can set the provider as the default. (Unlike other browsers, IE7 supports OpenSearch, an open standard, to make it easy for companies to offer their search technology to users.)
  3. The user can visit a web page that supports search discovery. The search box’s drop down menu button lights up, and the menu includes an item that functions just like the OpenSearch link described above.

Of course, the user can also run a program from a site to accomplish this result.

I should mention that Windows has technology that allows corporations to administer machines remotely, including adjusting settings and preventing users from changing those settings. In a corporate environment, the IT department could choose and deploy a default search engine for all its users.

Feedback so far. The short version is that of all the feedback we’ve received on the product, changing the default search provider is just not an issue for typical end users. Neither, for that matter, is adding or removing search providers from IE’s list. I say this because our users are not reporting problems with this task.

We’ve released a lot of builds publicly over the last year. We have over 24,000 testers involved in the TechBeta program who receive external builds of Windows Vista with IE7 when they become available, and to date we have received no comments about ease of use issues changing search providers while web browsing. The bugs reported in this area were all technical issues... the product not behaving as specified in this blog post or the previous one. We have a wide net -- Windows Vista CTPs go out to over 500,000 sites -- to find problems. Reviewers (who, while technically savvy, do a great job speaking out on behalf of typical users) haven’t called this out. Neither have end users in our beta programs or bloggers using publicly available releases. If you’ve installed IE7 Beta 2, please post a comment below and tell me what you think.

Dean

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