Internet Explorer 8 and ‘Super Standards Mode’

The problems just don’t end for Microsoft. So many kludges have been used through the years, there are just too many ‘exception errors’ when the company undertakes a new project.

Ask anyone who has been involved with computers for a few years, and they will tell you that one of the biggest problems with any Microsoft operating system, and because of them, the hardware to be used by them, is backward-compatibility. Undoubtedly, there are things retained in Vista that, for the sake of backward-compatibility, originated in DOS 3.3 – maybe even earlier.

Apple showed how to properly make a break from the past when OS X first arrived, and it worked pretty well – not perfect, but now hardly anyone even speaks of it. If only Microsoft could have gotten this idea – or had the good sense to stay partnered with IBM, as those people know a thing or two about backward-compatibility. IBM has some software that runs on everything from the latest iron they make back to the machines with punched cards.

It seems that the latest problem Microsoft wants to address is the non-compliance of any released version of Internet Explorer with specific standards – most notably Acid2. As the story in Ars Technica explains, until Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft seemed to have the idea that ‘might makes right’ and so it would make the browser render as it wished it to, no matter what the international standards were. For the IE versions 1.0 to 5.5, the call was ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’ Then when IE 6 was about to be introduced, enough complaints were registered to be of concern to Microsoft. A new method had to be devised to allow the old, incorrect coding (mostly done with FrontPage) to work, yet not break when correct coding was done. There are problems with this, as anyone who has ever compared rendering of pages with IE, Firefox, and Opera will tell you.

Apparently there was not enough impetus for IE6 to fully comply with established standards, so IE6 is only part of the way to compliance. Internet Explorer 7 was a bit further along the way, but has made no friends with its own problem bag – many simply refuse to use IE7. Even making the download available without the inane WGA checks along the way hasn’t helped much. Microsoft is once again going to ‘push’ IE7 as a way to get it onto more machines in February.

Now, talks of Internet Explorer 8 are arriving, and Microsoft talks of ‘compliance modes’. This is as oxymoronic as ‘jumbo shrimp’ or military intelligence’. How many ‘standards’ can there be for one thing? If you’re Microsoft, the answer is ‘as many as we want!’

So the answer for Microsoft, instead of a clean break with bad coding (some surprise, eh!) is to add another way of coding for Internet Explorer 8.  Microsoft is certainly relying heavily on the ‘U’ in FUD this time. Perhaps over the next few years, all older pages could get closer to compliance and we could judge browsers on features and speed, instead of IF they will allow pages we need to see correctly.

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[tags] Microsoft, Internet Explorer 8, super standards compliance, Internet Explorer 7, WGA, Opera, Firefox, Acid2 compliance [/tags]