Microsoft preps IE 8 for the web-challenged
Hipsters not allowed
Internet Explorer 8 will feature a user-generated list of "compatible" web sites, after trials found many ordinary surfers and major web sites can't work with Microsoft's next browser.
The browser's planned list will be targeted at users that Microsoft considers not "web savvy". By opting to use the list with IE 8, they'll potentially be able to view their favorite sites and visit major destinations such as the BBC or Facebook without IE 8 scrambling them.
The list will be compiled by Microsoft's own people, and will be based on results from customer feedback and "objective criteria applied to telemetry data as well as product support channels."
Web sites making the list will be global "high-volume sites", and sites "we determine high-volume on a market-by-market basis," Microsoft program manager Scott Dickens blogged.
Furthermore, Microsoft said it will "reach out" to sites on the list and tell them what a horrible experience their users are getting when they use IE 8 to access them. Microsoft will then, thoughtfully, explain how the sites can get off of its list. If a site contacts Microsoft to say it's opting out of the list, Microsoft will then remove it in the next scheduled update.
IE 8, currently in beta, makes it hard to view millions of existing web pages because it's the first version of Microsoft's browser that claims to be fully standards-compliant.
Most web-site and online applications are optimized to old versions of IE. Version 8.0, therefore, introduces a significant breaking change as sites won't display the same way.
Microsoft's tried to negotiate this massive problem by giving IE 8 two ways of viewing sites: default mode, which uses standards such as CSS 2.1 and HTML 5.0, and "compatibility view," which lets users switch over to viewing the site using the old standards-contorted mode.
The IE 8 beta two, released in August, introduced a compatibility-view button that users could turn on and off to view sites.
The problem for Microsoft is this button was too complicated for the vast majority of ordinary users who — understandably — simply want log on and view the internet without any site-by-site button fiddling.
Dickens noted that "large groups" of users have therefore not been clicking into compatibility mode and are consequentially getting the screwed-up page views. He claimed the button was working for "savvy end users" but not the great majority of web users who don't meet Dickens's savviness standards.
In a further blow, many sites have not responded to Microsoft's coaxing that they update their sites to work with IE 8.
Microsoft has asked "hundreds and hundreds" of sites to test whether they work with IE 8's default standards mode, or to add a tag or HTTP header to their site to instruct IE 8 to view the site in compatible-view mode. Dickens specifically cited the BBC, CNN, Facebook, and MySpace as sites with pages that still don't work with IE 8.
You could possibly blame web developers for some of the errors we might see.
Lets say that IE8 is fully standards compliant (we know it wont be, but for example sakes).
Now consider a page that renders fine in standards compliant browers, and would work fine in IE8, BUT the developer has used a conditional statement to say greater than 6, or something of that sorts. Granted less than 6 is more common, people still use the previous.
This is slight ignorance in the view of the web developer.
Note, I am a web developer, I hate Microsoft's idiot attempts at a browser, and the way they will continuously get it worse for billions of years to come. Also, Microsoft, you want more people off IE6? Allow 7/8 to be installed on win2k.
A better solution?
Just looked at the BBC Radio 4 page (to pick one at random) and it is _not_ standards compliant. FF renders it in 'quirks mode', a simple elegant solution to the problem of what to do about non-compliant page.
However, Microsoft has never been familiar with the concept of 'simple elegant solutions'. So their first stab seem to be to have a button that the user has to push to make IE8 enter the equivalent of 'quirks mode'. Annoying, to say the least, and seemingly unworkable.
Their second solution is to compile a list of incompatible web sites that IE8 can consult, to save the user the bother of pressing a button.
Whilst chivvying webmasters into standards compliance is, in theory, a good thing, given that there are a huge number of sites that are not actively maintained, including much of the historical stuff on sites like the BBC's, a 100% compliant web is never going to happen, and IE8 really needs to learn to live with that.
It just goes to show that throwing money at a problem is not always the best solution.
Make sites W3C standards compliant and put this note at the bottom of the page:
"This site complies with Internet standards. If your browser doesn't, click here."
"here", of course, being a link to the download sites of FF, Opera, etc.