IE7 and OpenSearch: Behind the scenes


As Aaron mentioned, the IE team collaborated with A9/Amazon on OpenSearch 1.1. This blog post is a story about how the collaboration took place.

IE7 Beta1 shipped with a set of 5 search providers and there wasn’t a way (short of hacking the registry) to add more search providers. When we started looking into how a site should describe itself, our first thought was the ‘src’ format. After all, it was pretty simple and it could describe how to construct the query to get the search result page back.  

There were 2 things that made us pause, however. First, ‘src’ isn’t XML. This meant that we would need to write a custom parser.  A new format would bring its share of security threats. ‘src’ didn’t seem so simple anymore.  Second and more important, OpenSearch 1.0 had brought forward the idea of programming, re-mixing and subscribing to search results. For those new to OpenSearch, check out http://opensearch.a9.com.  It was introduced by A9/Amazon at ETech in March this year and in the last 6 months, the format has been adopted by a good number of sites. With search being such an important aspect of our user’s daily lives, a browser ought to do something special with search results. In OpenSearch, we saw the foundation for making this happen in future releases of IE.

OpenSearch 1.0 describes how to get search results as RSS. IE7 has great RSS support and renders search result RSS in a very readable way. So, IE7 could be backwards compatible with OpenSearch 1.0. But, we needed a format that could *also* describe a site with only an HTML interface.

So, in early August, we asked Jeff Barr if Amazon would be interested in working with us on extending OpenSearch this way. He immediately put us in touch with Dewitt Clinton at A9. Dewitt told us he was working on 1.1 of the spec and was interested in this scenario. We then sketched out a proposal over email.

Only one thing stood in the way. Aaron and I looked through the OpenSearch spec and couldn’t find how it was licensed. We wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to deploy this technology. The feedback from releasing the simple list extensions under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license was very positive. Our preference was that OpenSearch would have a similar license. We mailed Dewitt and within minutes, got a response from his BlackBerry that A9 was indeed planning on releasing OpenSearch 1.1 under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, the very same license as simple list extensions.

Things moved very quickly after that. DeWitt flew to Redmond for a day. We locked him in a room with Carlos Yeung, the developer working on search, for a couple of hours. They came up with a draft spec. We went out for Indian food and outlined the next steps over lunch. We wanted to announce the API at PDC. We had less than a month. But, we also had a good technical design and we decided to make a run for it.

Well, it’s PDC and the OpenSearch 1.1 spec draft is live and open for feedback. It describes HTML output (via <Url type=”text/html”/>), supports the POST verb and is a functional super-set of the ‘src’ format.

It’s been a lot of fun working with A9. But, this is just the beginning. The OpenSearch spec occupies a special place because it intersects 3 important communities – browser, search and RSS. We want to hear from all of you. My dream is that OpenSearch is adopted by all the browsers and millions of sites (Internet and Intranets) and that a significant percentage of these sites also expose RSS.

If you’re at PDC, come say hello.

 – Amar

PS. Just in case it wasn’t clear, when I say RSS, I mean the general concept of a feed with items that can be subscribed to. I don’t mean any particular version of the wire-format, RSS 0.9x, 1.0, 2.0 or Atom.

Comments (32)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m a fan of Safari and Mozilla, but seeing Internet Explorer doing something that benefits everyone, is an open standard and easy for everyone to adopt – that’s just great!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Any hints?

    Regards,

    Matt

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m confused, why are ex-IE developers recommeding Firefox? Could you please explain?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Two words for ya: FREAKIN’ SWEET!!! 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Too Hmmm,

    Who are the ex-members of the IE team making the recommendation to move to FireFox?

    James

  6. Anonymous says:

    Michael:

    The RSS features you’re looking for in IE are coming in Beta 2. Keep an eye on the RSS team blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/rssteam) and this blog for details. 🙂

    – Sean

  7. Maurits says:

    > Who are the ex-members of the IE team making the recommendation to move to FireFox?

    Scott Berkun, for example:

    http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/?p=115

  8. Bruce Morgan [MSFT] says:

    Scott was a PM on the IE team for a number of years. I worked with him later as a peer on the MSN Premium client (he managed the PM team for the browser & frame functionality, I managed the dev team).

    I respect his opinions, so I read his blog and his comments on both IE and Firefox with interest. I hope he’ll like what we’re doing with IE7. If not, well, there’s always IE8.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This seems like a good technology, and I will be happy to see MS implement it as long as the implementation sticks to the open standard, thus allowing other vendors the opportunity implement the same standard to the best of their ability.

    It’s good to see Internet Explorer becoming more open – it was a shame when MS started implementing closed interfaces because it created a fractured web – other couldn’t implement these interfaces without guesswork or reverse engineering. I applaud the new attitude, and, as a beta tester for Vista and IE7, I look forward to beta testing the next release.

    However, you’ll need to do a lot if you’re going to stop me using Firefox. 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    I know this is offtopic, but will IE7 soon have better RSS support? Such as, the ability for IE to check a RSS feed and notify a user when it’s updated like most other RSS readers do? [I would perfer it to be a option apon adding it to your favorites, default off so users don’t complain. ;)]

    I noticed Beta 1 can read and display RSS in a nice format, but I’m missing the notifier. 🙂

  11. Anonymous says:

    I can attest to everything Amar said above — working together with Microsoft on this project has been fantastic. We traded ideas back and forth and everything just fell into place from there.

    That trip was my first time back on Microsoft campus in several years, and it was great to be back up in the Pacific Northwest again. In particular, I was very impressed with the Internet Explorer team — not only were they on top of what the users really wanted (no easy task, when your "user" spans the gamut from a teenager in Omaha to a computer scientist in Beijing), but they were also simply nice guys to sit down and work with. IE users are in for a real treat.

    Cheers,

    -DeWitt

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dewitt Clinton blogged about the 1.1 spec on the A9 blog. Check it out at http://blog.a9.com/blog/2005/09/13/opensearch-11-draft/

    Also, the draft of the OpenSearch 1.1 Description Document is at http://opensearch.a9.com/spec/opensearchdescription/1.1/

  13. Anonymous says:

    while talking about standards….. the css gods require another post about the status of css…we’re getting restless.

    And will ie7 upload jpgs as dumb image/pjpeg or the more sensible image/jpeg like everyone else does?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I was exposed to the OpenSearch interface by some other Library developers (code4lib) & am already planning on adding support to our applications. The spec looks great & should be pretty easy to implement.

    BTW, having this integrate so nicely into IE7 is a major bonus & certainly helps with project justification.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Ineresting post on the Amazon Web Services Blog:Microsoft’s IE blog is reporting on the behind the scenes efforts which lead up to the recent announcement that IE7 will support A9.com’s OpenSearch interface. You can read even more about this on the A9 blog. [Amazon Web Services Blog: Behind the Scenes at Microsoft, A9, and Amazon]And the IE Blog’s view of why this is important: It’s been a lot of fun working with A9. But, this is just the beginning. The OpenSearch spec occupies a special place because it intersects 3 important communities – browser, search and RSS. We want to hear from all of you. My dream is that OpenSearch is adopted by all the browsers and millions of sites (Internet and Intranets) and that a significant percentage of these sites also expose RSS. [IEBlog : IE7 and OpenSearch: Behind the scenes]…

  16. Anonymous says:

    As reported by the Amazon Web Services Blog and the IEBlog there have been some behind the scenes efforts between the Microsoft IE7 development team and their colleagues at Amazon’s A9 to roll Opensearch capability into the next IE release….

  17. Anonymous says:

    As reported by the Amazon Web Services Blog and the IEBlog there have been some behind the scenes efforts between the Microsoft IE7 development team and their colleagues at Amazon’s A9 to roll Opensearch capability into the next IE release….

  18. Anonymous says:

    Search at a page level could do with some fixing. On two different machines I have tried going to http://blogs.msdn.com/Bloggers.aspx?GroupID=2 which is quite a large page and then using IE’s Find on this page functionality. On both machines IE hangs, the find box becomes unresponsive and IE consumes 100% CPU. Could this search behaviour be async and cancellable if it’s going to take a while.

    For Vista are there any plans to prevent any process from consuming 100% CPU? This is a frequent reliability problem I run into on all XP machines I use where I have to wait while the machine responds enough to allow me to use task manager to shut down the rouge process.

  19. Anonymous says:

    OMG, this OpenSearch is clearly ripped off from OSX! Look at that brushed metal look!

  20. ASPInsiders says:

    I was over at http://search.twitter.com earlier today and I noticed the Search Box in Firefox had a blue

  21. I was over at http://search.twitter.com earlier today and I noticed the Search Box in Firefox had a blue