IE8's standards compatibility promise

By crisp on Monday 22 December 2008 01:45 - Comments (11)
Categories: Browsers, Internet, Views: 7.092

Some time ago Microsoft made a 180 turn on their decision to make IE7 rendering mode the default for IE8. This seemed to be a commitment to standards compliance which gained them renewed trust from a lot of parties. But now that IE8's appearance is near, how do they keep up to that promise?

There's a write-up available on the IE-blog that explains some details that are really disturbing.

First of all it goes into length about the usage of the 'compatibility button' on certain sites, actually blaming the sites in question to not be IE8-ready. But is that really the case? On the one hand IE8 is only in beta-stage, so you can't really expect large sites to accommodate such browser. On the other hand IE8 is still full of bugs and as yet it is unknown what the final (RC) state of IE8 will be (as in: what will be fixed, and what won't). Even the 'open' feedback sometimes gets no response or illogical response.

Tweakers.net recently received an e-mail from Microsoft Netherlands that their site was 'not compatible' with IE8 (Dutch), but unfortunately that mail did not explain what exactly was incompatible, nor how to fix it in a standards-compliant way. It merely pointed to a document about the IE-7 X-UA-Compatible switch.

So now Microsoft is going to decide which sites can be rendered using IE8's 'new quirksmode' and which sites should be treated as 'not-IE8-ready' based upon the number of clicks on a button Joe Plumber doesn't have a clue about what it means, and the only way for a site to opt-out is:... to use their proprietary X-UA-Compatible switch!

So in a time where versioning in doctypes is finally becoming irrelevant Microsoft decides to not only introduce but to actively push their own versioning switch exclusively for their browser versions instead of actually telling sites to adhere to standards. Could that be a sign on the wall about the standards-compliance of IE8? Well, we all know that for instance in terms of DOM-compliance IE8 will still not be up-to-par, not to mention SVG or XHTML, and that performance will still be sub-optimal*



* As to IE8's performance Microsoft claims improvements to the following:

Javascript
"We have made huge improvements to widely-used JScript functionality including faster string, array, and lookup operations."
IE's poor performance in these area's are well-known and workarounds as well, so the impact on real-world scenario's will be limited.

Networking Improvements

IE finally set the default number of simultaneous connections to a server to 6 instead of the default number of 2.

Some browsers already beat them to it, others have followed suit and even improved their network handling further. And even when some sites may benefit from this, larger sites already are using CDN's or otherwise separate domains to overcome the connection limits of browsers.

Rendering

Which can be made short by Microsoft's own statement:
"In Beta 1 our standards mode engine was much slower than our IE7 engine. Over the last few months we have been making improvements by leaps and bounds. By our upcoming Beta 2 we expect our standards mode engine to be at parity with our previous implementation for many sites."
And indeed, IE8b2 isn't notably faster than IE7 in terms of rendering...




So all in all, IE8 might be a great improvement over IE7, and the options for IE7-compatibility might be a solution for some users in short-term, but this should not become a long-term solution. Standards-compliance should be a goal Microsoft should aim at, not propagating their own non-standard rendering modes.

Volgende: CSS compliance, which browser gets this right? 02-'09 CSS compliance, which browser gets this right?
Volgende: Tweakers.net en Internet Explorer 8 compatibility 11-'08 Tweakers.net en Internet Explorer 8 compatibility

Comments


By Tweakers user RobIII, Monday 22 December 2008 14:46

All I can say is that I totally agree and give a *sigh* and make a :N with you...


-O-

By Tweakers user Little Penguin, Monday 22 December 2008 16:07

In my opinion Microsoft is acting like a coward here. They shouldn't use this kind of solutions at al...

Popular sites will be updated fast enough when IE8 hits the market and when Microsoft delivers what they've promised all what should be done is deliver the content currently targeted at Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, Konquerer (...) to Internet Explorer 8.

By Tweakers user CrashOne, Monday 22 December 2008 16:47

Typically MS behaviour, blame the other guy, this is wat we've been dealing with the past ten years and will be the next ten. You can't just blame older (not maintained) websites for not adepting to new browser "standards".
Other browser vendors have been dealing with this problem for ages: how to render websites designed for IE only. The sollution is not blaming the past, but focus on the future. We can't implement a switch on old pages for every browser out there.

Drop the past, IE should use a standard compliant render engine when a page uses a valid doctype, if not use IE6/7 as render engine.

By Tweakers user SPee, Monday 22 December 2008 18:05

Tweakers.net recently received an e-mail from Microsoft Netherlands that their site was 'not compatible' with IE8 (Dutch),
Also the PS3 does not render the pages correctly.
Maybe their page is not entirely accurate :?

And MS does not have to say how is is not working correctly. It is up to the developers to make ik work. They can easily download a preview of IE8 and find out themselves.

I find it good of MS that they pro-active informed tweakers. I guess they do that for popular sites, so on release of IE8 they still render nicely.

By Tweakers user TeeDee, Monday 22 December 2008 21:05

@SPee:

- fixing bugs in Beta (or even RC1) is not very efficient. The caveat here is that in different versions of IE8 different render bugs are created. Why fix those? If the browser renders the page according to standards it'll all work out with some minor fixes.

- The PS3 browser isn't a mainstream browser. Render issues should be fixed on best-effort. (Just like IE6 bugs). Afaik the PS3 browser is based on Netfront.

By Tweakers user dcm360, Monday 22 December 2008 22:53

I find it good of MS that they pro-active informed tweakers. I guess they do that for popular sites, so on release of IE8 they still render nicely.
That sounds like "We aren't able to create a proper application, so we ask all webdesigners to invent workarrounds for it and none of the users has to know about it". Real world isn't like this, you should deliver a well-working application!

By Gérard Talbot, Tuesday 23 December 2008 16:55

Hello crisp,

You said
> IE8 is still full of bugs
In all fairness, IE 8 pre-RC1 Partner build 6001.18344 still has a lot of bugs to fix but it has less bugs than IE 7, less serious ones (like float model, clearance, hasLayout implementation, margin collapsing) and less impactful ones. And, despite some regressions, I see overall improvements between beta 2 (build 18241) and pre-RC1 Partner build 18344.
> the 'open' feedback sometimes gets no response or illogical response.
True. And unfortunate. I can testify that this has happened in at least 20 bug reports (that I viewed).

You do not mention that some bugs have been confirmed and then closed: that too happened to at least 12 bugs. There were no *solid* commitment from IE team that such bugs would be fixed in a later release.
> (...) how to fix it in a standards-compliant way. It merely pointed to a document about the IE-7 X-UA-Compatible switch. (...) Microsoft decides to not only introduce but to actively push their own versioning switch exclusively for their browser versions instead of actually telling sites to adhere to standards.
Your comment meets *_perfectly_* what I have been thinking and saying since august 2008

www.gtalbot.org/BrowserBu...ty-view-chris-wilson.html

No webpage will improve (better markup code, compliance, interoperability) if all web authors are told is to add a meta-tag in their webpages. The weakest point now in Microsoft general plans/agenda is the absence of documentation (and software tools) defining/explaining/supporting web authors into how to upgrade webpage markup code and CSS code and their webpage authoring to become more W3C web standards compliant. This is where the web and users of various compliant browsers would win, would gain.

Regards, Gérard

By Tweakers user crisp, Wednesday 24 December 2008 00:20

Hello Gérard :)
In all fairness, IE 8 pre-RC1 Partner build 6001.18344 still has a lot of bugs to fix but it has less bugs than IE 7, less serious ones (like float model, clearance, hasLayout implementation, margin collapsing) and less impactful ones. And, despite some regressions, I see overall improvements between beta 2 (build 18241) and pre-RC1 Partner build 18344.
It's good to hear that the pre-RC1 is in better shape than beta 2; I must admit that I haven't tested it yet.

I don't doubt that IE8 will be better in terms of standards (mainly CSS) compliance than IE7, which in turn was better than IE6. As for bugs in IE8 I agree that their impact - as it seems now, but we may have just scratched the surface - is far less than the serious shortcomings of IE's previous (and patched-up version in IE7) engine. However, because IE8 has a different engine, we also have to deal with different bugs that require different workarounds than those we are well familiar with, which will cost extra time.

That's why in my opinion Microsoft should make a commitment to fixing those bugs when found and reported and have a regular and more frequent update-cycle. Incremental updates are more easily dealt with in the business and it doesn't so much put the burdon of having to apply semi-permanent workarounds on developers. Ofcourse 'locking in' to IE7-rendering mode is no solution...

By Tweakers user mOrPhie, Wednesday 24 December 2008 18:24

While I aggree with you that the X-UA directive is not a long term solution and should be handled with care, I think Microsoft is actually helping a lot of companies with this option. When IE7 came out, the only option you had, was to put real effort in correcting the problems. And work means money. That isn't a problem for new projects. Develop your websites with standards in mind and the website will most probably be compatible with IE8. The problem lies in projects which have been around since years now. For example, projects built with ASP.NET 1.0 are a compatibility nightmare and believe me, there are plenty of legacy projects in ASP.NET 1.0. So, adding the http directive is a quick and simple solution. From a business perspective, this is far more efficient.

I understand the needs for open standards and I won't argue with your point of view, I just wanted to nuance the "bad proprietary" X-UA directive

By Tweakers user hAl, Tuesday 27 January 2009 19:07

De X-UA-Compatible meta tag is bedacht in samenwerking met het webstandaards project (die van de ACID tests).
Het is op zich een prima oplossing omdat het de wijze waarop een site rendert meer in handen legt van de bouwer van die site. Bovendien kan het potentieel veel testkosten besparen door een site te targetten naar een browser versie.
Het heeft allerlei evidente voordelen boven een site voor meerdere versies van een browser geschikt maken

By Tweakers user crisp, Tuesday 27 January 2009 20:32

De X-UA-Compatible meta tag is bedacht in samenwerking met het webstandaards project
WaSP zelf was daar niet bij betrokken, enkel een paar leden (Aaron Gustafson en Peter Paul Koch if memory serves me right) buiten WaSP om - bij bekendmaking waren de meningen bij de andere leden van WaSP ook behoorlijk verdeelt (grotendeels negatief zelfs). Verder doet WaSP ook niet echt veel (meer); er zitten wat 'gerenomeerde' leden bij, maar dat is het wel zo'n beetje. De ACID-tests waar je het bijvoorbeeld over hebt komen toch voornamelijk uit Ian Hickson's hoed (werkt bij Google en is ook editor bij W3C voor de HTML5 standaard).

X-UA-Compatible is een (tijdelijke) oplossing voor sites/webapplicaties die niet eenvoudig op korte termijn aangepast kunnen worden; je praat dan meestal over intranet-toepassingen en dergelijke binnen bedrijven die zich hebben laten verleiden tot een lock-in. X-UA-C prolongeert enkel die lock-in.

Binnen het world-wide-web heeft het targetten naar een specifieke browser (en versie) geen voordelen maar enkel nadelen aangezien tegenwoordig steeds meer verschillende browsers een substantieel marktaandeel hebben weten te verwerven en je dus sowieso je site geschikt moet maken voor al deze browsers. Gelukkig hebben ze 1 ding met elkaar gemeen en dat is een goede ondersteuning van de webstandaarden. Microsoft hoeft derhalve ook maar 1 ding te doen: zorgen dat IE8 zich daar ook goed genoeg aan confirmeert, en dan kunnen alle IE-specifieke hacks achter een conditional comment (ja, ook zo'n IE-proprietary feature die al jaren prima bruikbaar is) en hoeven we verder helemaal niets meer te doen voor IE8 en hoger.

Als een site straks een X-UA-C flag nodig heeft dan kan dat grofweg 2 dingen betekenen: of Microsoft heeft z'n werk niet goed gedaan en IE8 is niet voldoende standards-compliant, of de betreffende site is niet ontwikkeld naar de webstandaarden en zal dan hoogstwaarschijnlijk ook sub-optimaal functioneren in andere browsers.

Verder is het test-argument ook niet helemaal valide: de IE7 rendermode in IE8 wijkt al op punten af van de native IE7 browser, en het risico dat dat verder divergeert in latere IE-versies is monsterlijk groot. X-UA-C is voor Microsoft moeilijk onderhoudbaar en in de toekomst al helemaal niet, en vroeg of laat moeten de duizenden IE-only sites en webapps er dus toch een keer aan geloven om aangepast te worden. Het is uitstel van executie, meer niet.

[Comment edited on Tuesday 27 January 2009 23:02]


Comments are closed