Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Microsoft changes IE 8 defaults to be “standards mode”

Category: Browsers, IE

You have to hand it to the IE team, they have listened to the huge amount of community feedback on the IE 8 user agent feature, and they have reversed their decision so by default IE 8 will run in standards compliant mode.

Why Change?

Microsoft recently published a set of Interoperability Principles. Thinking about IE8’s behavior with these principles in mind, interpreting web content in the most standards compliant way possible is a better thing to do.

We think that acting in accordance with principles is important, and IE8’s default is a demonstration of the interoperability principles in action. While we do not believe any current legal requirements would dictate which rendering mode a browser must use, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue. As stated above, we think it’s the better choice.

One issue we heard repeatedly during the IE7 beta concerned sites that looked fine in IE6 but looked bad in IE7. The reason was that the sites had worked around IE6 issues with content that – when viewed with IE7’s improved Standards mode – looked bad.

As we started work on IE8, we thought that the same thing would happen in the short term: when a site hands IE8 content and asks for Standards mode, that content would expect IE7’s Standards mode and not appear or function correctly. 

In other words, the technical challenge here is how can IE determine whether a site’s content expects IE8’s Standards mode or IE7’s Standards mode? Given how many sites offer IE very different content today, which should IE8 default to?

The Technical Challenge

Our initial thinking for IE8 involved showing pages requesting “Standards” mode in an IE7’s “Standards” mode, and requiring developers to ask for IE8’s actual “Standards” mode separately. We made this decision, informed by discussions with some leading web experts, with compatibility at the top of mind.

In light of the Interoperability Principles, as well as feedback from the community, we’re choosing differently. Now, IE8 will show pages requesting “Standards” mode in IE8’s Standards mode. Developers who want their pages shown using IE8’s “IE7 Standards mode” will need to request that explicitly (using the http header/meta tag approach described here).

Now they have made the change, it is up to us as Web developers to fix our sites when IE 8 comes along. In the long run though, we get a better Web. Just don’t tell my wife if she browses to her favourite site and it doesn’t render correctly. She won’t care about the politics :)

Posted by Dion Almaer at 12:01 am

4.4 rating from 47 votes


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“While we do not believe any current legal requirements would dictate which rendering mode a browser must use, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue.”

Ummm… the cynic in me thinks that $1.6 Billions in fines have given MS a whole new appreciation for standards…

Comment by angelm — March 4, 2008

That paragraph about the legality of having to adhere to standards is a dumb way for Microsoft to say “we don’t have to do this, but we’re going to anyway”, which says to me that they still are not taking standards and helping developers build a better Internet seriously.

Comment by AndyB — March 4, 2008

Viva La Revolution!

Microsoft has *finally* listened to tens of thousands of webdevelopers around the world. There *might* be a god!

Now all that’s left is just to see how good or bad that ‘standards mode’ will be and what quirks there will be that they mark as ‘wontfix until IE9’

Comment by SchizoDuckie — March 4, 2008

I think this is great news. This is not the first time Microsoft has listened to the developer community, but this decision shows how seriously Microsoft are about involving themselves.

I think the future of the Internet is looking a lot brighter. Though, it not just down to the developers, IT departments around the world have got to get on the ball and start deploying.

Comment by kim3er — March 4, 2008

I bet that new version of IE won’t be that “Standarized” like Microsoft wants us to think. And even if it will be, remember that Microsoft is responsible for IE6 and IE7 – a nightmare of all web developers and conqueror of almost 70% users in the net (if you want to own the market, do it with good software, for God’s sake…).
But there’s also another thing – JavaScript a.k.a. JScript. We’ll see how fantastic new features will Microsoft give us this time. JS browser detect won’t be forgotten for a long, long time yet.

P.S. Sorry for my english… ;)

Comment by qqrq — March 4, 2008

I had been saying for quite a time MS should ditch IE and rebrand Opera instead, but in the recent months they seem to care a *bit*, and that makes me really happy.

Comment by deadcabbit — March 4, 2008

Unexpected, this is.

Comment by Chris Phillips — March 4, 2008

The best news so far in 2008.

Comment by elvisparsley — March 5, 2008

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