March 4, 2008
@ 04:00 AM

Dean Hachamovitch who runs the Internet Explorer team has a blog post entitled Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8 where he addresses some of the recent controversy about how rendering pages according to Web standards will work in IE 8. He wrote

The Technical Challenge

One issue we heard repeatedly during the IE7 beta concerned sites that looked fine in IE6 but looked bad in IE7. The reason was that the sites had worked around IE6 issues with content that – when viewed with IE7’s improved Standards mode – looked bad.

As we started work on IE8, we thought that the same thing would happen in the short term: when a site hands IE8 content and asks for Standards mode, that content would expect IE7’s Standards mode and not appear or function correctly. 

In other words, the technical challenge here is how can IE determine whether a site’s content expects IE8’s Standards mode or IE7’s Standards mode? Given how many sites offer IE very different content today, which should IE8 default to?

Our initial thinking for IE8 involved showing pages requesting “Standards” mode in an IE7’s “Standards” mode, and requiring developers to ask for IE8’s actual “Standards” mode separately. We made this decision, informed by discussions with some leading web experts, with compatibility at the top of mind.

In light of the Interoperability Principles, as well as feedback from the community, we’re choosing differently. 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).

Going Forward

Long term, we believe this is the right thing for the web.

I’m glad someone came to this realization. The original solution was simply unworkable in the long term regardless of how much short term pain it eased. Kudos to the Internet Explorer team for taking the long view and doing what is best for the Web. Is it me or is that the most positive the comments have ever been on the IE blog?

PS: It is interesting to note that this is the second time in the past week Microsoft has announced a technology direction related to Web standards and changed it based on feedback from the community.

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