Tuesday, March 4, 2008

IEBlog : Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8

This is great news, for everyone:

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we’ve posted previously.

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 [new Microsoft] 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)..

Every computer user will benefit from this decision-given that the new Firefox (FF3) is reported to be standards-compliant as well, this means that the web should (slowly, over a couple of years) become a place of uniformity, which is good for both developers and users. As non-compliant websites slowly get phased out and replaced with standards-based websites, the amount of code required will be drastically reduced. Large corporations such as banks can be reassured that, though they're having to upgrade their banking sites to be compliant (if they're not already), it should be easier than previously since the same codes will work nearly uniformly. As IE6, IE7, FF1 and FF2 get phased out, the old codes can be scrapped entirely and replaced with a "Your browser is too old" message-reducing maintenance, troubleshooting and even file sizes.

A win for everyone, and a pat on the back for Microsoft for this move. Their (legitimate) concern previously was backwards-compatibility: they didn't want to "break the existing internet" by having many sites just stop looking right on the majority of computers (those Internet Explorers as the primary browser...yes, it's still a vast majority). But sometimes such a move is necessary, and this is one of those cases. It's just drastic enough to really make developers sit up and get standards-compliant. It makes sense too, from a business sense; some people that stop using Internet Explorer, do so because of the poor standards. Now that problem is gone, and browser choice can be purely personal preference (other than the fact the IE is installed by default on every Windows computer, and Firefox has to be installed).

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