First Windows 7 RC patch turns off 'hang time' correction in IE8

Perhaps Google Chrome's most innovative architectural feature is the way it relegates Web page tabs to individual processes, so that a crash takes down just the tab and not the whole browser. In addressing the need for a similar feature without overhauling their entire browser infrastructure, the engineers of Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 added a simple timeout mechanism that gives users a way to close a tab that appears unresponsive.

As it turns out, there's quite a few legitimate reasons why a Web page might appear unresponsive although it's really doing its job. One of them concerns debugging with Visual Studio, as this user of discovered.

When a tab goes dead in IE8, not only is a message sent to the user giving her a way to dismiss either the tab or the message, but another message is sent to Microsoft as well -- and that's one of its indicators of how well IE8 is performing. In a blog post Monday, IE8 engineers reported an uptick in the number of hung tab reports it received from users of the Windows 7 Release Candidate, one day before the general public got its turn.

"Based on the initial, Microsoft-internal, data after putting this in the product, we thought the experience was unobtrusive and overall better for users because it provides more information to improve the product," the team wrote. "As more data has started to come in from external Win7 users, we've seen an increase in reports. We're watching the data very closely to understand how well this works for the larger set of users. If we see data that makes us think this is not a good experience, then we'll release an update to address it."

Just hours after the RC's public release (keep in mind how long it takes general users to download and install the system), Microsoft acted by first official Win7 RC update: a patch that turns off the hanging tab reporting feature, along with an alternative method for folks familiar with managing the System Registry.
"On low performance computers or on computers under high load conditions, the time-out value is frequently exceeded. Therefore, you frequently receive the error message...described," reads Microsoft's Knowledgebase explanation, using language that does not sound like it passed through the marketing division first.

Serious Win7 RC testers may want to consider not applying this update, especially as later updates and possible performance enhancements may be handed down, unless these error messages happen so frequently that using IE8 becomes impossible. (Note to the "Experience" team: Consider putting a variable countdown on your timeouts next time.) Registry veterans can resolve the issue (conveniently leaving open a way to un-resolve it for later testing) by creating the Registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MAIN!HangResistance as a DWORD value set to 0.

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