Just when it looked like we were turning the corner with Internet Explorer 8, it seems that Microsoft are determined to make it as hard as possible for developers to accomplish a standard HTML/CSS platform to develop websites as the “opt in to standard mode meta tag” makes its unwelcomed return.
The W3C specification should be the default behaviour for all browsers and if developers can’t stick to those standards then they’re the only ones to blame when their website doesn’t display as intended in one or more web browsers.
Microsoft’s initial concept of forcing developers to “opt in” to standards mode was quite rightly met with uproar from the design community, however when they reversed their decision and decided that Internet Explorer 8 would render in standards mode by default it was met with optimism and a general feeling that the Internet Explorer development team were listening to those people that it would effect.
Internal web based applications developed by organizations who didn’t have the ability to update their code sufficiently to make it standards compliant, now had the choice to opt out of standards mode if they needed to and render their site as if it was being viewed in IE7 by using a meta tag.
The twist now though, is that we can expect “Compatibility View Improvements to come in IE8“. It appears that the whole web 2.0 thing has gone mad and it’s now going to be up to the community to decide whether or not a web page should appear in IE7 mode as they’ll be able to flag it in their browser which will send the data to Microsoft and all IE8 users will from then on, view the page in IE7 mode.
If your site is actually compatible with IE8 and written using web standards then you can of course opt out of this (you’ve probably already guessed the solution), by adding a meta tag to the page. Anyone that’s been following this story will probably recognise the following:
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" />
Argh, so we’re now back to square one. If I want to ensure that my site doesn’t get added to this incompatible list, I’ll have to add a meta tag?
It’s not as bad as their original proposal but is a huge step backwards from where we thought IE8 was going to be at. Microsoft are worried about IE8 breaking the web in the same way that IE7 was perceived to have done but in my opinion this is only likely to cause bigger problems further down the line.
Maybe using the HTML5 doctype could automatically prevent a site being added to the incompatible list and trigger standards mode?
What are your thoughts on this news? As you’ve probably gathered, I’m strongly against the idea and whilst I gave great credit to Microsoft for their previous announcement, this is now a huge step backwards.
For further information, an interesting article on the subject has also been written by Craig Buckler over at Sitepoint.