Microsoft Launches IE Developer Channel; Win For WebDriver

Posted by Bill McGee in News & Product Updates

In light of the recent news about Microsoft  launching an IE Developer Channel that features WebDriver support, we asked our own VP of Engineering to comment on the story. His post is below - enjoy!

I think all web developers can identify with that fateful moment when you think your front-end project is finished, and then it dawns on you: time to start the painful process of cross browser testing and debugging. You may get up and walk around the office, procrastinate, look for conversations to start — but eventually you sit down and dive in. Historically Firebug was your main crutch; over time Chrome dev tools started to take hold - but eventually you find yourself waiting for your Windows VM to boot, so you can dive into IE's latest and wait for the fateful popup stating something like, line 66, “Error: Object expected” - let the games begin.

The moment I saw Selenium IDE zooming through functional tests, I was more excited than I had ever been about development tools. The debug loop required to squash JavaScript bugs in IE from a Mac was so painful, and finally there was some automated hope in sight. I think we can all agree that Selenium RC left something to be desired — but trying to drive a browser against its will (and protective security measures) using JS was ultimately a losing battle for anything reliability.

However, reading the recent news from Microsoft announcing the IE developer channel made the DOM hacker inside me from 5 years ago breathe a sigh of relief. I think it’s fair to say that it's better late than never — and the tools they are starting to ship look pretty cool. But what’s more — the new process and way they are looking at shipping features through a dev channel shows some promising potential for a better future relationship between dev’s and IE. On the Sauce Labs cloud we are still seeing ~19 percent of our jobs running against IE, and we don’t expect that to disappear anytime soon - as the IE market share still makes up for a pretty substantial amount of users, especially in regards to enterprise customers.

What’s even more exciting is the inclusion of the ability to enable built in WebDriver. At this point ~86 percent of Sauce Cloud usage is WebDriver instead of Selenium RC. The browser vendor support of for the WebDriver JSONWireProtocol specification, has driven the continued and significant growth of the community around client libraries and tools. The acknowledgement and delivery of a clean implementation of this spec for IE and inferred ongoing maintenance is a step in the right direction in order to make functional testing for IE straight forward and reliable. The ultimate stated goal of the Selenium project, is to move the entire implementation of the specification into the browsers - and this, in combination with the W3C working draft, are exciting steps in that direction.

At the moment, to take advantage of all this new goodness, you must be running a consumer grade version of Windows (not a server version), but they are aware of that and understandably wanted to get some progress out the door. We are looking forward to deploying this to the Sauce Cloud, so that our users can quickly get access to the latest and greatest.

I think the Selenium and developer communities should see this as a great sign that we are being heard, and supported, and to continue pushing hard to make development and testing tools first class citizens.

-Adam Christian, VP Engineering, Sauce Labs

You can read the announcement and detail breakdown here. Get directions on how to enable and play with the new functionality in their documentation here. Sauce Labs is working to support this upon availability on server windows versions; stay tuned for updates upon release.

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