Microsoft recently posted confirmation that their early builds of Internet Explorer 8 pass the Acid2 test for proper CSS rendering support. This was hailed as wonderful news among web developers worldwide as a momentus occasion where we could finally adhere to web development specifications as written and as intended.
And then came the big let-down.
In a more recent post, Microsoft announced that in order to have IE8 enter true standards mode, you’d have to enter an extra HTML meta tag. An extra, non-semantic, content-free, crufty, browser-specific meta tag. As if this were some parting shot – some way of saying (in your best Joe Pesci “Goodfellas” voice:) “Oh yeah you want standards mode? I got your standards mode right here baby! Yeah….”
I read that announcement and felt deflated. I tried to rationalize it, saying hey – at least we know that there is some otherworldly way to get IE to behave to spec finally – but then the rationalist in me ultimately won out and rejected this categorically bad idea. This is wrong on many levels:
- This penalizes web developers who have been striving to adhere to web standards and do the right thing, while rewarding bad behavior.
- This inserts yet another rendering mode. How many rendering modes do we need to support? Will there be more?
- This inserts the idea of targeting browsers with versioning. Future browsers. Not past browsers. This sets up the case for decades of cruft and bloated code.
- This added tag will ultimately mean many terabytes of added bandwidth and added disk space. Good for vendors, bad for you.
- Already-standards-compliant Firefox, Opera, and Safari are doing just fine and increasing their market share while IE wanes.
I stopped at 5, but if you read the comments to the post over at the IE blog, you’ll find many more. If you really feel the need to provide backwards compatibility to all those sites who were trying their best but still had to hack otherwise standards-compliant sites up to get them to work properly in IE 6 and 7, then give them the meta tag option. I’ll wager the few who care and would rather insert this meta tag over coding their web sites to spec will be happy, and the lions share of web site owners out there won’t have a care in the world if it works or not. Because let’s admit it: Most of them will have moved on by the time IE8 matters.