Feeds

'IE8 compatible' - the cure for web standards headache?

A problem shared is ... a problem shared

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

MIX07 It took Microsoft six years to move Internet Explorer versions from 6 to 7. IE8 should be along a little quicker - it is slated for release within two years, less than three years after IE7's October 2006 debut.

But Microsoft has a big, big task on its hands: how to improve support for web standards in IE, without breaking millions of websites. Full standards compliance and backward compatibility do not go hand-in-hand for this web browser, alas.

So, Microsoft is preparing to invite community feedback via a blog on how best to square this circle.

Chris Wilson, IE group program manager, today told MIX07 that Microsoft may "need authors to opt into standards", suggesting a "compatible with IE 8.0" scheme.

In an interview with The Register, Wilson said he didn't want to take such a heavy-handed approach, but Microsoft doesn't want to break websites either. He said Microsoft couldn't make the necessary changes to IE through the standards process.

With the clock ticking on IE 8.0 and a long list of fixes, and new and updated features already in the product pipeline, Microsoft seems desperate to avoid a repeat of the engineering and PR nightmare that was standards compatibility in IE 7.0.

Some IE 8.0 features stem from problems that Microsoft encountered in IE 7.0. These were considered too big to tackle and attributable to Microsoft's use of its own technologies rather than industry standards.

According to Wilson, Microsoft has "lots more to do" in CSS - with bugs persisting in floating point elements and hasLayout - scripting and COM, and events and APIs not matching the DOM specification.

A key problem, though, is Microsoft's core layout engine, Trident, introduced 10 years ago. This has been updated but remains less compliant with official standards than competing browsers. Prior to shipment of IE 7.0, Microsoft admitted its new browser would fail the Web Standards Project's ACID2 browser compatibility test.

"It's challenging for us to support standards," Wilson said. The "core of Trident is great code".

While consulting the community on IE 8.0 should be commended, one goal could be to outsource responsibility on which standards Microsoft should support and for any resulting site breakages.

"By asking authors to say 'I want standards behaviors' means we don't have to worry about standards compatibility. That means we can break our compatibility with layout and CSS. We can change DOM APIs without breaking any current pages," Wilson said. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.