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Standard Issue: IE 8 Finally Gets It Right

File this under the "Microsoft Finally Gets It" department: Yesterday, Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8) would ditch the proposed "Super-Standards Mode," which would have made full compliance with public Web standards in the browser an opt-in option. By default, IE 8 had been poised to support implementations proprietary to the current IE 7 browser. Now, Microsoft says IE 8 will comply with current Web standards out of the box.

This is actually a big deal. And great news, at least in the longer-term, for Web developers vexed by the expanding patchwork of standards-based and proprietary Web site implementations. Near-term, IE 8 is likely going to cause some pain as Web sites previously tuned for the standards-impaired IE 7 fail to behave properly under the new browser. Developers supporting the new browser, expected later this year, may face a break-fix cycle on their existing IE-tuned Web sites.

As RDN Executive Editor Jeffrey Schwartz reports, developers who want IE 8 to recognize IE 7-tuned Web pages will have to specifically request IE 8's "Standards Mode" to do so.

"We've decided that IE 8 will, by default, interpret Web content in the most standards-compliant way it can," Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's general manager for Internet Explorer, wrote in a blog post. "This decision is a change from what we've posted previously."

In the long-term, IE 8's commitment to public standards should finally end what has been one of the most disappointing eras in Microsoft's history. That is, Redmond's attempt to layer its own enriched functionality atop and around public W3C-endorsed standards. The Internet Explorer franchise has tempted developers to craft Web sites that may not perform properly under Firefox, Opera, Safari and other non-Microsoft browsers. Robust standards compliance in IE 8 could finally change that.

What do you think of Microsoft's decision on IE 8? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/04/2008

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