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Internet Explorer 8 still not mingling well with 2,000 highly-visited sites

Standards aren't what they used to be

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Microsoft confessed yesterday that over 2,000 well-known websites still remained incompatible with Internet Explorer 8.

The software vendor said that the number had dropped by about 1,000 sites compared with figures Microsoft spat out a year ago when more than 3,000 web portals needed “Compatibility View” support to show up on an IE 8 user’s screen.

When IE 8 landed in March 2009, Microsoft confirmed that the current version of its browser didn’t sit pretty with sites including the BBC, Royal Mail, Apple, PayPal, Amazon and even its own MSN portal.

In January last year the company said it would offer its play-nice-with-IE-8 tool to surfers, which provided a list of sites that were not compatible with the browser but that would render automatically, without the need for users to manually switch between the standard-based default mode and the tongue-twisting non-standard compatible option.

Some interpreted Microsoft’s gameplay as a noble effort to bring Internet Explorer more in line with web standards, while others simply felt the vendor had made the interwebs that little bit messier, especially after forcing many developers to previously go in the opposite direction to get their sites to work with Redmond’s standards-shy IE 6 and IE 7 browsers.

Microsoft program manager Marc Silbey dished the dirt on IE 8’s usage among the web surfing crowd on Tuesday.

Of that figure, only 19 per cent of those sites are running in full IE 8 standards mode. But nearly half (41 per cent) are locked in “IE 8 almost standards” mode.

A quarter (26 per cent) of sites are viewed by surfers in what Microsoft described as “quirks” mode. Another 14 per cent need “IE 7 standards” mode to function fully.

Silbey said Microsoft remained “committed” to making its browser as interoperable as possible. He explained that IE 8 defaults to several options in order to render a heavily-visited website adequately for the user.

Here’s why this makes sense; many high traffic websites want to render in as many browsers as possible, which is why they write for Quirks. Many websites have pages written specifically for IE7 and many web authoring tools such as Aptana Studio and Expression Web specify the Transitional doctype by default:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">

Thinking in terms of web-scale, there are billions of pages written specifically for either Quirks, IE7, Almost Standards, or the latest Standards. IE needs to support all of these web platform variations to ensure that our broad, world-wide, user-base has the best experience.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has recently been making positive noises on SVG, raising the possibility that it might support the 2D graphics specification in Internet Explorer 9.

The vendor has already talked up performance and is expected to use its MIX conference in Las Vegas this month to provide more details about the next iteration of its browser.

Microsoft told The Reg in 2008 that the reason SVG didn't make it in IE 8 along with other W3C standards was that it wanted to do a "good job" on the implementation with lots of tests. ®

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