IE 8 will actually follow standards

March 5, 2008 // 7:39 a.m.

Tags: #ie8 #internet-explorer #microsoft #standards #w3c

In a bold move – and one that is as likely to earn it almost as many enemies as friends – Microsoft has announced that the next version of its flagship browser Internet Explorer, IE 8, will render pages in a way that actually follows the standards set out by the W3C.

Yes, I thought that might come as a shock. Go make yourself a cup of tea. I'll wait.

For years Microsoft has completely failed to follow industry standards that it didn't create, and nowhere has that been more obvious than in Internet Explorer. Thanks to IE shipping by default with every Microsoft OS under the sun, the pseudo-standards implemented in the browser have become a thorn in the sides of companies who produce browsers that do follow the standards properly. I'm sure that if you've ever tried to convince a family member to switch to Opera or Firefox you've heard the refrain “but <favourite website> only works in Internet Explorer.” That's usually a result of the web 'designer' using some Microsoft-kludge that isn't part of any of the HTML specs and, as a result, can't be found in standards-compliant browsers.

The software giant seems to have finally noticed the path of destruction this has left on the now fractured web, and is finally doing something to repair the damage: although it can't go back in time and un-invent the broken aspects of Internet Explorer, it can make them harder to use in the future. Accordingly, IE8 will default to rendering pages in a strict standards-compliant mode. In other words, in the same way as Opera – by far the best browser when it comes to sticking rigidly to the edicts of the W3C – has being doing since day one.

The up side is that this will hopefully stop any future web developers from creating pages that only work properly in Internet Explorer, which has to be good news for fans of alternative browsers. The down side is that pages that “only work in Internet Explorer” now won't even work in that.

To counter this roadblock to un-bollixing the web, Microsoft is going to implement a compatibility mode that renders pages in the same way as IE 7 would – complete with broken un-standards. The mode will be triggered either by the user demanding it, or more usually by the presence of a tag within pages that require it. This should hopefully act as a stop-gap measure while the world recovers from the shock of a Microsoft browser that actually does things right and give time for pages which relied on Microsoft's somewhat scatty HTML implementation to be tidied and made to work with any browser you care to name.

Do you think Microsoft has finally seen the light, or is this just a way to keep the EU sweet ahead of yet another anti-trust proceeding? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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