IE8 standards mode, revisited

For true, I never visited this whole debacle in the first place, but now seems like a good time to “re”visit the issue, as the IE team at Microsoft just announced that they have reversed their previous decision to continue supporting by default IE’s “quirks” mode. This is a resounding victory for developers everywhere.

It’s no secret whatsoever that Internet Explorer has traditionally shown a flagrant disregard towards standards in general, especially those put forth by the W3C. There are few to no web developers whose first utterance upon hearing mention of the browser is not a string of curse words; while other browsers’ discrepancies with regards to standards are often minor, easily reparable issues in practice, Internet Explorer’s behavior is often so far out in left field that it would seem far simpler to just code a new site from scratch to account for the browser. This is precisely why standards are important, as they save the developers time, improve the end user experience, and make the world a happier place; however, Microsoft has historically pushed its own idea of “standards” upon the web developer base, which is to say its own idea on how to implement what the W3C has already done. To this day, Internet Explorer supports only VML, and not the W3C-approved SVG that every other browser supports, and indeed was created out of a W3C merger of VML and PGML.

To be sure, Internet Explorer 7 is a step towards the right direction; transparent PNGs are now (finally) supported, and the box model has been repaired to some extent. However, because IE7 continues to support the broken model of IE6, and because there is no standards-compliant method of distinguishing between browsers, the addition of yet another tier in compliance from Microsoft simply made matters worse – now there are three entirely seperate cases to account for when developing for the web, rather than the two that existed before.

The solution of course is to not only improve upon IE’s standards compliance, but also to force the phase-out of the previous, broken models of IE. This isn’t good for diplomacy on Microsoft’s behalf, but it’s the right move to make for the future, and developers would appreciate Microsoft for it. They’d previously refused to make this move, but with today’s announcement, Microsoft is further proving that step by agonizing step, they are making up slowly for the grievances of the past. Here’s to the future.

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