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Kimberly Blessing

IE8 Compatibility Mode is not the problem

3 min read

I've spent most of my career working at large Web-focused companies which typically have multiple Web development teams to handle their sites. While the Web may be the vehicle that makes their business viable, most of the business people in these companies are ignorant oblivious too busy to follow the developments of the browser market space.

These companies, while all different, handled the release of new browsers using the same wait-and-see approach: wait until the browser comes out, see how much of the site's traffic moves to that browser, then invest on bug-fixing only if n% of users are on that browser. Most, if not all, of the alpha/beta/RC testing was done by developers who were interested enough to test and possibly bug fix (assuming the issues weren't major shared template problems). And they were probably doing this on their own time, because the business wasn't going to stop business-supporting, revenue-generating development work in order to support a new browser!

I often owned the browser support matrix at the companies I worked for, but just because I owned it didn't mean I could change it whenever I wanted. I had to convince the business teams that preparing for a new browser was worth our time and money. If I didn't walk into meetings with current and historical browser usage statistics and demonstrations of bugs in the new browser, I would have been laughed out of the room. Simply stating that "a new browser is coming and we'd better be ready" just wasn't, and isn't, enough.

Other than a handful of companies, businesses aren't in the browser business, or even in the browser support business (even though we developers may feel differently). Microsoft is right to not expect all businesses and Web sites to jump just because they have a new browser coming out, and I think that IE8's Compatibility Mode provides a decent solution to bridging the gap for users between the old, crappily coded sites and the nice, new(er), standards-compliant sites.

I'm not jumping for joy over it, of course, because it signals that we standardistas haven't succeeded in our education mission. There still aren't enough designers and developers out there building standards-compliant Web sites, with or without business support, to withstand an event such as this. There certainly aren't enough business people who understand the Web well enough to simplify the business case for standards-based development. Community and education tie into this as well.

Those who think that IE8 is going to be a wake-up call to businesses dependent on the Web are wrong -- it won't be. But it should be one to all of those designers and developers and business people who do understand the benefits of sticking with the standards: we still need to get out there and talk to our colleagues and community about standards, and help move the Web forward!

Kimberly Blessing

The Annoying IE8 Loophole

2 min read

Right now, the Web Standards community is celebrating. After weeks of telling us otherwise, Microsoft has announced that IE8 will enable standards mode by default.

Like others, I'm very happy about this change and I applaud Microsoft for reversing their decision. However there's something bothering me about their latest statement...

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).

You see, originally Microsoft wanted us to add an HTTP header or META tag in order to indicate that a page was compliant with the latest-and-greatest standards mode; now that we get that mode by default, we don't need the header/tag -- except to explicitly indicate that we want the older, IE7-like standards mode.

Don't see the loophole yet? If you work for a big company that's not quite so Web Standards savvy, you might. The loophole is that there's nothing in IE8 that's going to force anyone to upgrade their code! While you, dear Standards-abiding designer/developer, want this opportunity to clean up your site and trash the old code, The Man is going to tell you that there's no point investing in this change and they're going to point you to the HTTP header/META tag solution.

So, now is the time to begin strategizing -- how are you going to convince your boss(es) that an IE8 code refresh is necessary? Also, how do you plan to support IE8 and IE7, and possibly even IE6 and IE5.5?

Go ahead and start the party without me... I need to work this one out first.