Search in IE7


Several parties have made claims about how search works in IE7. I think those claims are awfully confusing, especially for anyone who has used the product. In this post, I want to describe our overall approach to how search works in IE7 and some of the thinking behind the current behavior.

For readers who only skim and don’t want the details, here is how IE7 behaves:

  • Ultimately, the user is in control with IE7. Adding to and modifying the list of search providers and choosing a default provider is easy, safe, and open.
  • On upgrading from IE6 to IE7 on Windows XP, IE7 carries forward the user’s IE6 autosearch setting. On a brand new machine from an OEM (e.g. Dell), the OEM has complete control of what search providers are available and which one is the default.
  • We iterated with many different partners (primarily search providers and OEMs but also e-commerce businesses and end user advocates) and balanced much contradictory feedback en route to this plan.
  • We rejected requests that threatened user privacy. For example, one company wanted any arbitrary web page to be able to determine what search providers the end user had chosen and which provider was the default. We decided that sites could easily violate the user’s privacy if we provided this functionality. Would you really want anyone to know all of the types of search engines you’ve chosen and use that information without your consent?

That’s the top level. I want to provide more detail into our approach overall and how we came to the decisions outlined above. Ultimately, our key principle is that the end user must ultimately be in control of his or her machine. Period.

For example, adding, removing, or changing the default search provider is super easy. The end user can add a search provider to the search box from any web page that offers an OpenSearch link with just two clicks. (Why not fewer? We wanted to protect users from annoying websites that would try to add themselves to the list without user consent. This is similar to the ways in which web sites have tried to trick users into making their web site the default home page.) Removing a search provider or changing the default search provider takes four clicks (not counting scrolling the list if you have more than nine search providers).

Web sites that want the user to add them to the IE’s search provider list will have an easy time because IE supports an open standard pioneered by Amazon’s A9 group (rather than something proprietary). Using OpenSearch, any web page can make it easy for an end user to add any search provider to the search dropdown safely – without making the user run a program or installer. (Note to reporters: a search provider in the search box is just in a list, not somehow “embedded” in IE.)

Initially, we considered listing several search providers in IE7’s search box by default. The challenge of populating that list while respecting the user’s control of her machine grew so complicated so quickly that we abandoned the idea. For example, the leading search providers are different across the different locales of the world; which locales should we combine and how should we draw the line of inclusion? Top 5 providers? Top 10? At least 5% usage? As measured by whom? Should we allow an “adult content” engine on the list if it has high usage? Should we sort alphabetically? By usage? Should IE7’s installation behavior be different from one month to the next as search engine popularity changes? One quarter to the next? Would a user have any predictive power about how this mechanism worked? Do the items in this list have anything at all to do with how the user actually uses the web? If I never used a particular provider before, why should I see it on my list? Should OEMs (like Dell or Sony) have any say at all on this setting? We had many, many hours of meetings with many industry partners to hear their feedback.

Clearly, we had to include at least one search provider in the list for this feature to be useful. We considered asking the user. We rejected that solution for a few reasons.

First, populating a list for the user to choose from is just as complicated as populating the search dropdown. (All the issues I describe above apply… is the list alphabetical or by usage or by category, etc.)

Second, we wanted to minimize the number of questions and clicks (especially after setting up a new machine or installing IE7) a user has to go through before actually getting something done.

We thought the best way for IE7 to do what the user wants is to honor the user’s autosearch setting from IE6. This setting is well-documented and has been in use for many years. It is a good indicator of user intent. While some sources claim that this setting favors MSN, the data we saw from independent research companies like comScore indicates that almost three-quarters of the autosearch queries went to search providers like AOL, Google, and Yahoo, not MSN. Independently, representatives of Yahoo! suggested using the user’s IE6 autosearch setting. Additionally, I’ve seen a lot of pleasant surprise from users in comments on the IEBlog, Digg, and even Slashdot that the search box in IE7 actually reflects their individual search provider of choice, further validating this decision. (We do have a bug that in some scenarios MSN Search remains on the list even if MSN was not the default provider. I want to confirm that that is a bug and we will fix it for Beta 2.)

I want to point that along the way, the feedback that we received from one partner often contradicted feedback that we received from another. The guiding principle we returned to was keeping the user in control.

As part of the Beta 2 Preview for developers and tech influentials, we put up a page of samples (available from the menu for IE’s search box) with the goal of offering useful examples of OpenSearch links until more sites implement them. Aaron recently posted about the mechanics of authoring OpenSearch files to make adding search providers to IE7’s search box easy for end users. If you’ve already authored OpenSearch links on your site, please leave a comment with a link to it so that the community can check it out.

Thanks,
Dean

Comments (72)

  1. CSS Jedi says:

    That’s great and all, but what about transparent PNG support?

  2. VishuG [MSFT] says:

    CSS Jedi —

    Here’s a previous post you should read:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2005/04/26/412263.aspx

  3. Dee says:

    Small site but I have an OpenSearch file available for my Visual Basic wiki at:

    http://www.earlsoft.co.uk/hashvb/opensearch.xml

    This should be very simple to adapt for all other MediaWiki based sites.

  4. Xepol says:

    I have to admit that the startpage entry can be a little misleading, esp. when its used in situations where it isn’t used.  Google for example.

    I’ll be adding a few "offsite" searchs to my site. IMDB, TV.Com, that sorta thing.  The ability to save that sort of this is mighty useful.

  5. Jim_246872 says:

    Sweet look……Missed out getting into this beta but found the preview link……Search is so much easier to use and just the way it flows!…..Here’s to hoping to making Beta 2 with Vista so as to be able to enjoy more of this!

  6. kp says:

    Is there a way to add my own URL or keyword for a search site? I am a nongeek but would like to be able to add search sites such as wikipedia, etc.

  7. The IEBlog has a long write up about search in Internet Explorer 7.

  8. JRosenfeld says:

    A method for adding one’s own search engines has been posted at

    http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=427720&hl=

    It involves simple edits in the registry and works well.

  9. mocax says:

    any plans to implement "search as you type" for text within webpages?

  10. dazzle says:

    I’ve implemented some OpenSearch searches at http://www.edazzle.net/os/ and added a product search to another website I handle – http://www.botanicare.co.uk/products.aspx

  11. Glenn says:

    Simple question?  Why is it that the only text entry field in the UI that doesn’t allow a "standard" mouse double click to highlight the entire existing field for new text entry is the "Search Box"?  This is SO annoying!  I know that I can now do a similar thing in a new tap & just start typing, but why can’t I do this in the box designed for searches?  Maybe I want to search for a wholly new thing?  And… one more?  What about a Context Search Item for right-clicking on highlighted text?  Is that coming (or somehow elluding me)?

  12. mrpoopooplops says:

    This might not be relevant to this post, but…

    How about a limit on the strength of CSS filters in malicious sites?

    I can’t count the amount of times the following code has maxed my memory and CPU usage, locked up my browser and forced me to reboot.

    Shorly no-one really neads an element to have glow/wave strength of ‘999999999’ or more!

    <html><body>

    <style>

    *{

          filter: progid:dximagetransform.microsoft.wave(strength=999999999);

    }

    </style>

    <!–

    Lots of content here to kill IE

    –>

    </body></html>

  13. hongson says:

    my comments relates to basically UI.

    i rarely if ever use the Search bar in IE7 proper, almost always use the Google bar.

    so, i would like an option to make the

    IE7 search bar disappear; it takes up useless

    screen real-estate.

    if you insist on displaying it,

    then it should at least be re-sizable in

    accordance with the address bar it shares.

  14. Xepol says:

    Hongson -> I use the Google toolbar tool.  I have added searches to the search bar that link into my favorite site’s search engines. Places I search a LOT like IMDB, TV.COM (still trying to figure out m-w.com, they use a post, so I might not be able do it it).  As such, the search bar takes on a TOTALLY new role in my browser that I never had before.  You might want to consider giving it a try (after all, google’s toolbar ONLY searchs google!)

    Here’s a question.  Is there any way to send the search data as a post instead of query parameters?  That would help bring in more third party search engines.

  15. game kid says:

    "Why is it that the only text entry field in the UI that doesn’t allow a "standard" mouse double click to highlight the entire existing field for new text entry is the "Search Box"?  This is SO annoying!  I know that I can now do a similar thing in a new tap & just start typing, but why can’t I do this in the box designed for searches?  Maybe I want to search for a wholly new thing?  And… one more?  What about a Context Search Item for right-clicking on highlighted text?"

    I second everything here.  The Address bar can do it, and it should be added.  Besides, Ctrl+A doesn’t work there either.

  16. game kid says:

    "How about a limit on the strength of CSS filters in malicious sites?

    I can’t count the amount of times the following code has maxed my memory and CPU usage, locked up my browser and forced me to reboot.

    Shorly no-one really neads an element to have glow/wave strength of ‘999999999’ or more!"

    I second that too.  Users don’t see the code ’til they’re experiencing it.  There’s no need or usefulness for code like that.

    They’re obviously not standard CSS, but that’s another story.

  17. game kid says:

    "What about a Context Search Item for right-clicking on highlighted text?"

    Toolbar installs tend to add that, but there should be an item that allows us to search with the same provider we selected for the IE7 Search box.

  18. kevin says:

    Hi..

    In Korea, Netpia.com has a virus or ad removal program named PC-clean that searches a code name IE7’s "URLsearchHook" and erase it..

    After the code is removed, address_bar_search changes to the ISP keyword mapping service.

    I do not like non standard ISP keyword mapping service… just want to see only standard in address bar.

    Thank you for your IE7 works.

  19. Mildrid says:

    I eat cheese on Sundays.

  20. kp says:

    This may not be an appropriate question to ask under the discussion on Search but, I don’t know where to ask this questions…

    The Pop-up blocker seems to be totally ineffective. I have the blocker setting at HIGH even then I get pop-ups. Does anyone have any idea if the setting I am using is not right? Do you know if there are plans to strengthen the IE7 Pop-up blocker?

  21. Xtex says:

    I haven’t had a problem with the popup blocker… works quite well actually.

    Kind of amusing really… someone I know went to this one site that opened up several popups (like 5-10 i think) in firefox; I ask what the link was just so I could go to it (in ie) and it opened NONE lol (popup blocker on default setting, javascript enabled)

    As for the search field… I like it.  Less unused address bar junk and less having to go to homepage this/that… or for that matter installing this or the other toolbar…

    Anyway, its easy enough to add it from a website now, but it’d be nice if it could be made easier to add it from within the browser itself :P

    Otherwise for making your own (if you have no place to share it/find it otherwise) its having to go into the registry and editing it there or making your own page just to add it…

    And speaking of searching, will the final version have enhanced searching of the page itself?

  22. Lagonda says:

    The websearch implementation is fine. I just wonder why the search field is this teeny tiny field while the address is looooooong, when search strings are statistically longer than URLs? That’s like cramming all your clothes into a tiny briefcase and then putting your toothbrush in a huge trunk. Please put a resize handle inbetween the two fields.

    The "Find on this page" implementation, however, I sincerely hope is just a preview hack. I cannot and will not believe that this Win95 relic, the Find dialog which pops up inconveniently on top of the page, will be the final offering. This is THE reason why I switched to Firefox and Opera – that’s right, it wasn’t the tabs, it was the searching on pages.

  23. game kid says:

    "We rejected requests that threatened user privacy. For example, one company wanted any arbitrary web page to be able to determine what search providers the end user had chosen and which provider was the default. We decided that sites could easily violate the user’s privacy if we provided this functionality. Would you really want anyone to know all of the types of search engines you’ve chosen and use that information without your consent?"

    It’s scary that companies even ask for that.

    It’s. Not. Their. Business.

    These are the same guys that make CoolWebSearch I bet.  Of course they probably only called themselves "developers in a wide-reaching content-search company" or something.

  24. game kid says:

    Another thing:  Does the Address bar, as of Beta 2 Preview, use the "safer" CURI object ( http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2005/08/15/452006.aspx )?

  25. game kid says:

    –and one last thing:  PLEASE, PLEASE correct the visual-styled button-stretch bug,

    http://www.designdetector.com/bugs/ie6-stretched-button-bug.html

    and please tell me more than 0 people on the team have noticed it.

  26. Joel says:

    Why not look at how Firefox implements Search Buttons…? Adding new ones is a snip and only takes a few seconds…

  27. I’ve added a few here. Would love a way to add a small graphic for each, or even a way to categorize them.

    http://www.prowebsites.net/Internet_Explorer_7/IE_7_Search_Providers.asp

  28. LuYi says:

    I am really having slow responses when browsing some chinese websites, primarily forums written in asp and cgi. Slow responses mean that ie7 does not response instantly like ie6 does when I use the scroll wheel on the mouse, the page just hang and then scroll. And when you move your mouse over a link , you have to wait until it’s become clickable.

    another problem would be the new tools bar next to the tabs. It does not show up properly from time to time. Or maybe it would be better if we are given an option to choose not to display it and use the classic one.

  29. Leon Zandman says:

    Different locales might use different search providers, but Google is always number one. So you could have added that one by default ;-)

  30. jsminch says:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftInternet ExplorerSearchUrl

    provides a wonderful hack, but I would rather just have a place in my "search config" dialog box where I could hook up a string to each search provider in the search providers list (or maybe one string for two or three providers and search them all), get rid of the searchbar if I want to, and have the same functionality from the address bar.

  31. jsminch says:

    BTW

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftInternet ExplorerSearchUrlmsdn]

    @="http://search.msdn.microsoft.com/search/results.aspx?qu=%s&quot;

    " "="+"

    "#"="%23"

    "%"="%25"

    "&"="%26"

    "+"="%2B"

    Seems to work just fine.  It’s just the search string that the search toolbar uses with %s replacing "{searchTerms}" and a few escape characters.  I suppose it would be easy to script this, but it would be nicer if it were built in to IE and the URL search were coupled to the search bar.

  32. game kid says:

    "Different locales might use different search providers, but Google is always number one. So you could have added that one by default ;-)"

    Joking aside, good luck getting default Google Search from affiliates of MSN Search…

    "I cannot and will not believe that this Win95 relic, the Find dialog which pops up inconveniently on top of the page, will be the final offering."

    I too hope not.  Find bar on bottom of window > unwieldy modal dialogs.

  33. damian says:

    Well I think it’s great that this product is forward coming. To all that opinion may, the emphesis should be allowed all twords what the end user should pick and then after, served found perfect. So as not to disallow for the functinality we have as a we, total to each one another comunicate. Make it a virtual, and safe proven step with that, to the extensions option found in the like of Mozilla.org’s Firefox Extensions. A closer step to show forth what we see. Thanks alot, and happy surfing!

  34. damian says:

    Would be nice to add the option of zipping, or hiding in and out, the presented opions (like search)at will by the press of a button.

  35. damian says:

    how about a spell check facility or maybe dictionary.com lookup search

  36. damian says:

    how about a comunity option to the browser. make it work so that all content added is created and moderated through a defined user comunity source. so as not compromise and allow forth a broader to the spectrum apointed twords comrcial as well as private on the "eye of the browser".

  37. Tim says:

    I’d indeed like it a lot if I could just remove it. I’m using the Google Toolbar, and soon, custom buttons are easy enough to add there. I won’t need the IE7 search box, and already am very busy ignoring it.

    N. B. Microsoft does not believe the user should be in control of their PC, since you’re using Digital Rights Management in Windows Media Player. I’ll just assume that remark was off the record.

  38. project-duh says:

    Steven Fredette, yes, lets simply copy firefox, thats the idea… IE7 was bought to you by Firefox and opera, thanks for the great ideas.

  39. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    Xepol– Do you have examples of search providers that only offer a POST interface?

    Game kid– Yes, the wide button stretch bug is well known, but I don’t think it will be fixed for IE7.

    Game kid– URLs entered on the address bar are parsed and stored in a CURI before passed into the navigation code.

  40. project-duh: It’s not really a copy to add a logo for searching (presuming this is what you meant). It is just good marketing and user friendly. Or is Burger King just copying McD’s by having a sign out front?

    On the other hand, yes IE is going to have to catch up to FF. Yes we are going to see some of the same features in both. So what? As long as both render coding the same way, who cares?

    BTW, Opera is the worst browser made. Go ahead and validate coding you’ve done via the W3C. You’ll see IE 7.0 B2 and FF render it perfectly (in most cases, there is still a problem with IE 7 B2 render any layer that is using position: fixed), and Opera completely get hosed by it! http://www.prowebsites.net/TestingArea/default.htm is just a simple, yet valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional and CSS page. It renders perfectly in IE 7.0 B2 and FF 1.5.0.1, but the upper right text gets hosed by Opera 8.51

  41. Ron says:

    lol, great ad.

    http://mediaaddict.members.winisp.net/video/IE/IE7_big.wmv

    Didn’t you have a budget or something to worry about?

  42. Does IE7 detect properly that a search provider is already in the list? What comparison method is used to compare the new item and the item already in the list?

  43. So much attention to searching for other pages yet comparatively little to searching the current page.  Find-as-you-type would have been nice.

  44. derrick says:

    Do you guys have any intention of passing this test? It seems pretty silly that you still don’t.

    http://www.student.oulu.fi/~sairwas/object-test/alternative/alt5.html

  45. Harold says:

    So No logo for Google?

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/searchguide/default_new.mspx

    This just looks real petty.  They are the king of search, accept it, and move on.

    Give them a logo.

    Ta,

    Harold

  46. game kid says:

    "So No logo for Google? […] This just looks real petty.  They are the king of search, accept it, and move on.  Give them a logo."

    Harold, it’s not always THAT easy for companies to use trademarks of competitors.  Remember, Google has been promoting Firefox ever since the K__-F_ L__* feud.

    I’m sure GOOG would thus charge Microsoft big bucks to allow ‘em the logo, if they even let MS use it AT ALL.  Logos, as trademarks, must be protected from the competition under US law (but I’m no lawyer, so ask one instead why).

    *censored by myself, not the blog.  Save your MS hatemail.

  47. game kid says:

    "Do you guys have any intention of passing this test? It seems pretty silly that you still don’t."

    Should it show a dark 100*100 square with AlternaTIFF installed?  (I’ll try it later to see how it handles the fallback.)

  48. game kid says:

    "They are the king of search, accept it, and move on."

    Indeed, that would give GOOG MORE power over who can and can’t use the logo.

  49. game kid says:

    Nope, fallback doesn’t work on http://www.student.oulu.fi/~sairwas/object-test/alternative/alt5.html as it should, when a TIFF viewer is disabled (or uninstalled).  Fix please.

    That said, http://mediaaddict.members.winisp.net/video/IE/IE7_big.wmv = best, weirdest ad EVER.

    "Didn’t you have a budget or something to worry about?"

    This is Microsoft.  That and budget are almost mutually exclusive. ;)

  50. Adam says:

    This has to mean that the public release can’t be to far off.

    http://mediaaddict.members.winisp.net/video/IE/IE7_big.wmv

  51. Dean says:

    I would love to have the Google logo up there. They wouldn’t let us use it. Ask them.

  52. Brent says:

    Thanks for all your hard work to date!  If possible, a feature for right+click search would be fantastic!!!  I hate having to find the pull-down OR ctrl+f to do it.  ;-)

  53. Brad Chamberlain says:

    It would be nice to be able to size the URL and search boxes. By default the search box is way too small.

  54. Walt Cone says:

    Keyboard shortcut key for Internet explorer’s search assistant

        Is there a keyboard shortcut to allow a blind person to put in his favorite search engine.  I didn’t find one in the keyboard shortcuts area of the doccumentation.

  55. Bernard says:

    2 reasons why I don’t like the search box in IE7:

    – I can’t remove it

    – I don’t see how to open the search results in a new tab directly.  (Since we can Ctrl-Click the links to open tabs, I would have tought Ctrl-Enter would open in a new tab, no?)

  56. Simon says:

    I like the search feature, and especially autodiscovery, but it would be nice to see more of the information in an OpenSearch Description being used.

    I agree with those who have suggested that a logo would be nice, but recognise that permission may not be granted.  Why not read the Image element of the OpenSearch description, and display the image if (and only if) it is served from the same server as the OpenSearch description?  If a search provider chooses to make a logo available, it can be displayed; if they don’t, then it can’t/won’t be.  If a third party makes a copy of a search provider’s logo and publishes it in this way, they will presumably be responsible for it.

    The Description element could be used to provide a tooltip, and also displayed in the confirmation box if it is requested that it be added to the permanent list.

    The main problem at the moment is the user does not know which search engine will be used without opening the list to check – that is where an icon and/or tooltip/hover action would be very useful.

    Now that the search implementation has been improved to be comparable to, and for web developers better than, Firefox, are there any plans to improve the find tool for within a page?  Firefox’s implementation is in many ways excellent but could be improved; IE’s remains at the minimum usable level.

  57. I think the most important feature missing is the drop down showing your last 10 or 20 searches.

    Make that text box a combo box and keep the history of my searches please!!!

  58. rajesh says:

    IE7 manages to prevent popup on http://www.rediff.com. But when I click on a news link, it manages to open a popup. Any ideas how to prevent this ?

  59. IEBlog says:

    I posted previously that in IE7, the user is in control of search, and that changing the default search…