Yesterday Microsoft posted a piece of news very important to all modern web developers – they are reversing their decision regarding the default behavior of IE8.
For those web developers who have been too busy to check their feed readers lately – here’s the short version of what’s been going on:
Microsoft let us know that they were planning to implement a ‘new’ method of … well, let’s just say they wanted to give the browser an identity crisis. The decision they came to was that IE8, although it would be much more standards compliant than IE7, wouldn’t act like IE8 by default. It was decided that IE8 would act like IE7 unless you specifically told it to act like IE8. This decision was backwards, illogical, potentially a huge issue for developers, and really just a waste of all those new ‘bells and whistles’ the IE8 is supposed to have in terms of how well it renders website code.
The way they had planned to make this work was to have developers add a meta tag to all pages that they wanted IE8 to actually read using IE8, instead of IE7. Aka: Modern browser sniffing comes into IE8.
These aren’t the only issues, but I think that Robert O’Callahan has already summed them up quite nicely for you to read, so I’ll point you his direction for a good summary. If you’d like more information, and responses to how we reacted to this first bit of news, please check out the links compiled over at Digital Web.
Anyway, that was a little over a month ago. Yesterday, we got a pleasant surprise.
To quote the IEBlog:
Now, IE8 will show pages requesting “Standards” mode in IE8′s Standards mode. Developers who want their pages shown using IE8′s “IE7 Standards mode” will need to request that explicitly (using the http header/meta tag approach described here).
I think that Eric Meyer sums it up nicely in his post where he indicates that not all issues with the meta tag are gone (which will still exist but not be required to make IE8 work as the new browser), but that this is a huge difference for the better.
There is also some curiosity about whether or not this change was made due to current legal issues affecting Microsoft, as in their press release the following is found:
“While we do not believe there are currently any legal requirements that would dictate which rendering mode must be chosen as the default for a given browser, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel.
In any event, the new IE8 will now act like IE8 by default (what a concept!). It is a sound, logical decision. I do have some concern as to how they will respond if the beta comes out and there are many complaints (as there have been with past browser versions) from web developers who didn’t prepare themselves and their sites for the change. I hope that MS won’t be easily swayed later toward reversing this decision again going back to the previous one just to appease developers who were lazy in their preparation, because this change will help developers who work with modern technologies – and those developers are the ones making the real innovation these days.