Feeds

Microsoft breaks IE8 interoperability promise

Microsoft said the right things, then blew it

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Comment In March, Microsoft announced that their upcoming Internet Explorer 8 would: "use its most standards compliant mode, IE8 Standards, as the default."

Note the last word: default. Microsoft argued that, in light of their newly published interoperability principles, it was the right thing to do. This declaration heralded an about-face and was widely praised by the web standards community; people were stunned and delighted by Microsoft's promise.

This week, the promise was broken. It lasted less than six months. Now that Internet Explorer IE8 beta 2 is released, we know that many, if not most, pages viewed in IE8 will not be shown in standards mode by default. The dirty secret is buried deep down in the «Compatibility view» configuration panel, where the «Display intranet sites in Compatibility View» box is checked by default. Thus, by default, intranet pages are not viewed in standards mode.

How many pages are affected by this change? Here's the back of my envelope: The PC market can be split into two segments — the enterprise market and the home market. The enterprise market accounts for around 60 per cent of all PCs sold, while the home market accounts for the remaining 40 per cent. Within enterprises, intranets are used for all sorts of things and account for, perhaps, 80 per cent of all page views. Thus, intranets account for about half of all page views on PCs!

Furthermore, web standards are discriminated against in IE8 by the icon that appears next to standards-compliant web pages:

The picture shows a broken page. A broken page? Why is broken page icon shown next to standards-compliant pages? The idea, apparently, is to encourage users to escape standards-mode by clicking on the broken page. There's a dastardly logic here: showing a broken page may make users wonder if they are seeing pages correctly. Authors are probably not too thrilled by having a broken page shown next to their pages, and the only way to avoid the icon is to not trigger standards mode. The message is clear: don't use standards!

I have a few suggested remedies. First, I suggest that IE8 not introduce version targeting which only perpetuates the problem of non-compliant pages. Instead, IE8 should respect the established conventions which don't need manual switching between modes. If Microsoft insists on displaying some kind of icon next to standards-compliant web pages, I suggest they use this image instead:

Microsoft has a long-standing tradition of saying the right things about standards, but shipping non-standard products. IE8 could be different. Microsoft have done the hard technical work. They've made a promise they can keep. I call on them to make the right choice. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
Yes, Virginia, there IS a W3C HTML5 standard – as of now, that is
You asked for it! You begged for it! Then you gave up! And now it's HERE!
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.