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IE8 development: Microsoft should learn from Apple, Mozilla

(June 16, 2008)

Internet Explorer 8 is set to be Microsoft's most standards compliant browser ever. Web developers have been clamouring for standards compliance for a long time; IE is a long way behind the competition, requiring considerable hacks and workarounds to get pages working properly. IE8 should make things a lot better—but it will still fall far short of the standards set by Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Some of these problems are technical, but others are cultural. Where the other browser developers are open and communicative, Microsoft is still leaving web developers in the dark.

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Microsoft was initially concerned that defaulting to standards compliance mode would "break the web"—that is, make a significant proportion of web pages render so badly as to be unusable—and experiences with beta 1 have provided some justification for the company's concerns. Microsoft is appealing to web developers to fix their web pages, but the unfortunate reality is that the owners of many websites will be unwilling to foot the bill for those fixes to be made.

 

To mitigate this difficulty, Microsoft is adding a new feature to aid the transition. Web developers will be able to add a tag to their page (or their web server) to force pages to render in the same manner as IE7. Pages without the tag will continue to use the "doctype switch" to choose between the old, nonstandard "quirks mode" and the new "standards mode"; pages with the new tag will still use the doctype switch, but this time to choose between "quirks mode" and "IE 7 mode." The tag will be supported in beta 2 of IE8 (due in August), and is also available to IE 8 beta 1 with the latest security update.

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