Web Standards and IE 8

There’s trou­ble brew­ing in the web world over Inter­net Explor­er 8 and web stan­dards. For an intro­duc­tion to what the fuss is about, go to A List Apart’s issue #251 and read both articles.
The ensu­ing back­lash has been large and heat­ed. Dig­i­tal Web has col­lect­ed some of the reac­tions.

Here’s my take on things: it’s a mixed bag. It’s an imper­fect solu­tion to a hor­ren­dous prob­lem. Inter­net Explor­er has the dis­tinc­tion of being the ubiq­ui­tous brows­er on the web, while hav­ing the worst web stan­dards sup­port of any brows­er. It’s a catch-22: if IE’s devel­op­ers push for qual­i­ty web stan­dards sup­port in IE 8 (which, by all accounts they are), they will break the many sites out there that were not designed with web stan­dards in mind. Let’s face it: a lot of the web is built only for IE, and peo­ple will be con­fused and out­raged if IE 8 breaks their poor­ly built–but functional–sites. On the oth­er hand, focus­ing too much on keep­ing exist­ing sites work­ing will ensure that IE 8 con­tin­ues to lag far behind in its sup­port for web standards.

So, ver­sion tar­get­ing is an imper­fect solu­tion to an imper­fect web. I wish that it was­n’t nec­es­sary, but I know that I’ll be using it right along­side my con­di­tion­al com­ments and CSS hacks to design sites built on web stan­dards that work in all the major browsers, even if I have to kick the crap out of IE to make it coop­er­ate. Maybe I’ll only have to ask it now.


  1. Posted January 29, 2008 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Ver­sion tar­get­ing isn’t bad. What is bad is not hav­ing the lastest ren­der­ing as the dea­f­ult, wich is a very mediocre atti­tude from Microsoft, and a step back into mak­ing a bet­ter web.

  2. Matt
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    @Víctor: I don’t like it either. But I’m will­ing to put up with it if it pro­duces a bet­ter, more stan­dards-com­pli­ant ren­der­ing engine in IE 8. Zeld­man does make a good point that it’s stan­dard­is­tas such as us who will ensure that our sites are using the lat­est and greatest. 

    While this does have the unfor­tu­nate side-effect that non-stan­dards-based devel­op­ers can car­ry on their mer­ry way, I think that they’ll con­tin­ue to go the way of the dinosaur in the face of the high­er qual­i­ty web­sites being built by those push­ing web stan­dards. I mean, they’re just going to be stuck using the same old crap­py ren­der­ing engine while we pump out beau­ti­ful, agile sites.

    In the end, I think that this almost turns it into a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage for stan­dards-based design.