Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
The Microsoft proposal for browser version targeting in Internet Explorer 8 to default to IE7 behavior for all current DOCTYPEs has divided the web developer community. What implications would this have for web standards adoption? Would the web be in a state of damage if IE8 defaulted to standards mode? Some members of the Web Standards Project got together on a Saturday afternoon to discuss their concerns and possible solutions with Chris Wilson, the Platform Architect for IE8.
The transcript is available, and a lot of detailed questions and answers for Chris Wilson, Aaron Gustafson, Faruk Ates, Porter Glendinning, and others.
Chris started by explaining some of the history from his perspective:
I think that the way that we got to the idea that we needed some method of version targeting really was because of the experience that we had in IE7. Where…when I came back to the IE team to work on IE7, I carried with me, of course, a lot of context from IE6 and IE5.5 and all the previous releases that I had been a part of. Back in the IE5, 5.5 days, and all the way up through there actually, we had this very strong focus on compatibility.
The unfortunate side of that was that basically meant that we wouldn’t change anything because of compatibility. Right. We would presume that people would already be building on the things that we did. It really was pretty appropriate at the time. They depended on the behavior that we had.
When we did IE6, on the other hand, we actually looked at the DOCTYPE switch that Tantek had first put in Mac IE5. And we said, â€œWell, this will do it.â€ Right. We can use this as a way of switching on standards compliant behavior. And, you know, we won’t break compatibility with the stuff that is out there. So, that’s great. But, we won’t have to follow all the wackiness that we did before under standards mode. That helped us tremendously in IE6 because we could do the box model change that we did, and there were one or two other things I think that we did in IE6 to be more standards compliant. And we’d really been looking forward to doing a lot more on that with the next version of IE.
Then, you know, there was kind of a long pause between releases. The unfortunate thing then is, that between the time that we released IE6 and the time that we released IE7, the adoption of standards mode on the main part of the web grew tremendously.
Then Aaron and Porter started chatting:
Porter Glendinning: The issue that differentiates this upgrade from the last one, for me anyway is, is there is an easy fix this time. If I have a site that I don’t want to go and debug all of my DOM problems and all of my CSS problems, I can throw in this new header or this new meta tag and I can say, hey, drop me back to IE7 mode.
Back when the last upgrade happened, there was not that option. It was, go in and fix all your bugs was the option. And there was no other choice. So people spent a lot of time and a lot of money upgrading sites to work with IE7. And that is different now. They can go back in and add a simple meta tag or a simple header that then their site will continue to work the way it always worked.
And for me, I feel like, if that is too much effort than your site is effectively abandonware. Are we going let abandonware dictate where the web is going for the next ten years?
Aaron Gustafson: I do see that point. And I understand it. I think the one thing that I have a problem with is unfortunately most of those people don’t read. They may continue churning out sites, but they are not upgrading their skills. They are doing a disservice to their clients, of course by doing that, but, their clients, in many cases, may not know better.
Many other thoughts came out such as:
- Faruk talking about making Microsoft IIS.next systems add a patch which simply adds the HTTP header to put IE8 in compatibility mode
- And, his though to start offering IE8 as a beta with the default being the standards mode and then see what the reception from the community
- Chris replied to a question about forcing modes in the browser and having them install side by side: “we can with IE8 you can tell it go into standards more, we’ve been looking at several things that allow people to, directly, in some part of the UI at least, toggle into standards mode, do sort of similar to what Opera does, tell it to toggle back into IE7 UA string and that sort of thing.”
- Question: On a similar note, you have the UA string, but you also have conditional comments. Jina Bolton asked you about: when IE8 is in compatibility mode, and we have a conditional comment for IE7 and a conditional comment for IE8, how is it going to handle that situation? Answer: The version vector plan right now, have the version vector and the UA string reflect the real version of IE8 and see what compatibility that turn out to be.
A lot of information here.
Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:01 am