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IE8 Changes Direction Towards Standards

Tiff Fehr

March 3, 2008 at 4:01 PM

Today Microsoft announced that IE8 will render standards mode by default. This is a fairly big reversal from the initial stance that web professionals would need to include a special instruction, X-UA-compatible, to render a website in standards mode, rather than the default rendering currently in IE7 (I think I got that right — I’m still working through the comments about the first announcement just a few weeks ago).

While many people might feel surprise and vindication that the IE8 team heard (and heard and heard again) our collective dismay, I think we should take the opportunity in their reversal to tone down the knee-jerk abuse heaped on IE as a whole. In fact, let’s go one-over: what if web professionals actively helped the IE8 team correct issues with the next version?

IE8 not going to be perfect out-the-door, and we’re still going to work to bring our websites in line. In fact it is likely we’ll be supporting IE6, IE7 and IE8 simultaneously, for a lot longer than we would probably like. But rather than make the IE team chase down blog posts and comments about the inevitable standardista-rankling bugs (where they’re already on the defensive due to our immature ranting, I might add), what if we put our effort into a collective bug list? Would that really be a waste of our time and effort, or would it help bring IE8 into a true collaborative position in the web community? Once that collaboration is built into both sides, it is going to be hard to drop. This is a rare chance, in my mind, and we need to think about it with a bigger perspective than one additional tag.

I should note that I got a rare chance to share a happy hour drink with the IE8 team last week, shortly after they got word about the change. They gathered their resources, swapped war stories of previous versions’ upheavals and hunkered down for very long hours to meet the new goal. While it was hardly a formal interview, the team is a very smart bunch who fully understand the web-standards perspective and are very happy to discuss it. So how about we discuss it with them?




March 3, 2008 at 5:07 PM

I fully agree with you Tiff, this is a great day for standards and a great time to get our hands dirty helping the IE team move forward.

Respect to the IE team.


March 3, 2008 at 5:14 PM

They’re trying their best and god knows microsoft have let some horrible things happen with their browsers in the past, but I agree. The ranting I heard on several podcasts seemed mighty childish and quite unnecessary.

We need to step up and help make the changes we’re complaining about as easy as possible for the IE team.

Chris Blown

March 3, 2008 at 9:02 PM

Best news I’ve heard all day and its been a long day. I agree with helping M$ with constructive comments, however trying to stem the tide of absurd un-constructive rants directed at M$, while admirable, its unlikely to happen..

Brent Miller

March 3, 2008 at 10:06 PM

In open source projects, the Trac or whatever bug management system is usually open; anyone can get an account and post bugs or feature requests. Perhaps some kind of a public Trac for IE8 is in order. Fully public is probably a bad idea, but a moderated system would be extremely beneficial. MS might even like the idea, because they would get free QA.


March 4, 2008 at 1:54 AM

well said :)
Time to give MS a break and support any new developments with IE8, I agree… I’d imagine with the thought of getting better standard support into IE – we’ll all happily contribute ;)

Luis Alejandro Masanti

March 4, 2008 at 1:45 PM

Next “best news” will be that Microsoft “uses WebKit as its rendering engine for Standards-compliant mode in IE8”!

Damien Buckley

March 4, 2008 at 7:00 PM

Credit where credit is due – not only did they rethink the issue, they listened to the community and the feedback they were getting and responded. Everyones complained forever about Microsoft’s IE problems and attitude – now they’re listening, lets get behind it.


March 5, 2008 at 2:51 AM

Wonder why they still insist on supporting IE6? They should be encouraging users to upgrade to IE7 at least with their new found sense of reality. Stop supporting a problematic browser and MOVE on!

Tiff Fehr

March 5, 2008 at 9:35 PM

The code underlying all versions of IE is no small thing. In fact, it is fairly well integrated into Windows itself, based on decisions made a long time ago. Much more can be found on Wikipedia and other blogs, but suffice it to say that they are rolling out the upgrade as fast as possible. According to the IE team, the forced upgrade is limited by both hardware in PCs, older operating systems and simple bandwidth. I’m sure they would love to upgrade everyone to one version, just the same as us. But we could make more effort to appreciate the enormity of the task.

James Hancock

March 17, 2008 at 8:45 AM

The world would have to deal with IE 6 for a far shorter period of time if MS would change the way Windows Update offers IE 7 and make it critical on all Windows XP systems, and make it auto install without prompting the user for anything.

I know of far to many machines that are constantly prompting the user to install IE 7 from Windows Update and the User clicks cancel because they don’t understand and they’ve been trained to click cancel when they encounter something that they don’t understand for fear of it being spyware.

Make it automatic, and force it on Windows Update to download for all people that dont’ already have it, and volia, 90% of IE 6 users that still exist go away immediately.

So long as IE 8 does the same and supports Windows XP too the same way, We won’t have to deal with IE 7 AT ALL within 6 months of IE 8 being released except for in banks that haven’t figured out that having staff using IE 6 is a really bad bad bad idea and I can live without supporting people in banks.

End result, we get full ACID 2 compatibility sooner rather than later. Windows 2000 is a dead duck and people are bailing from it entirely, and people using IE 6 on Windows 2000 still? We’ll they’re having major problems with their internet anyhow because they’re just begging to be hacked, so they almost all use Firefox so this isn’t an issue and you’re not going to get much of a UX for Windows 2000 + IE 6 anyhow because they likely have half their window full of toolbars.

There is absolutely NO reason why ANY Windows XP machine should be running anything less than IE 7 other than people cancel it. If you get rid of those users that are XP + IE 6, we’re talking a tiny browser share for IE 6 so we can stop testing/targeting it, and IE 7 will disappear even faster if you force upgrade to IE 8 and don’t make them click through a wizard.

So MS: Please please please fix the auto-upgrade process to make the install silent and let’s all move on to better, more secure, standards supporting days.

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