Microsoft Expands Support for Web Standards

March 3, 2008

css / design / javascript / microsoft / programming / web standards

See this press release:

IE8 has been significantly enhanced, and was designed with great support for current Internet standards. This is evidenced by the fact that even in its first beta, IE8 correctly renders the popular test known as 'Acid2,' which was created by the Web community to promote real-world interoperability,” said Ray Ozzie, Microsoft chief software architect. “Our initial plan had been to use IE7-compatible behavior as the default setting for IE8, to minimize potential impact on the world's existing Web sites. We have now decided to make our most current standards-based mode the default in IE8.

The web standards world has been abuzz for the last few weeks, following the announcement that Internet Explorer 8 (and, presumably, any number of future releases) would have the default behavior of rendering websites in the same way that Internet Explorer 7 does. Causing the browser’s behavior to advance would have required that designers and developers direct it to do so with a meta tag.

Many standards-aware designers and developers were very understanding of the decision to allow websites to target IE7, avoiding issues with badly-programmed websites that break when browsers move forward. However, many of these designers and developers made a lot of noise wishing that Microsoft would allow the default behavior of websites to advance as the browser does, and require those who want to target IE7 to read a little bit and find out about the meta tag.

Apparently, Microsoft listened to the noise. I’m amazed and pleased by this change in strategy. I hope they will be able to spread the word enough, so that websites that will break with IE8’s improved standards support will learn about their options (1. learn how to write standards-compliant code, 2. include a one-line meta tag). I feel pretty confident that this is unrealistic, but I hope that it will happen to the extent that Microsoft doesn’t have to go back on this decision.