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IE8 Will Be Standards-Compliant By Default 383

Posted by kdawson
from the browsers-on-acid dept.
A number of readers wrote in to make sure we know about Microsoft's change of heart regarding IE8. The new version of the dominant browser will render in full standards mode by default. Developers wishing to use quirks mode for IE6- and IE7-compatible rendering will have to opt in explicitly. We've previously discussed IE8's render mode a few times. Perhaps Opera's complaint to the EU or the EU's record antitrust fine had something to do with Redmond's about-face.
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IE8 Will Be Standards-Compliant By Default

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  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:54PM (#22631248)
    Let's make one thing clear - IE8 may be in standards-compliant MODE by default, but whether it's *standards-compliant* has yet to be proven. What Microsoft HAS proven (repeatedly) is that it considers compliance with standards to be a relative term. Only time will tell. I sure hope that they actually accomplish it this time; I'm tired.
    • by Your.Master (1088569) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:14PM (#22631416)
      Compliance to standards is a relative term. No browser exists today that is completely compliant. What we can say is that this one appears to be more compliant than before -- it renders ACID2 at the very least (and probably does right everything IE7 did right).
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pembo13 (770295)
        More standard than IE7 isn't really a high bar to aim for though.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:04AM (#22631748)
        > Compliance to standards is a relative term.

        No, this statement is incorrect.

        > No browser exists today that is completely compliant.

        That is true. But it has no connection with the last statement.

        I understand your point, and it's well taken, but you are introducing a tautology. Standards compliance is absolute, by _definition_.
        Some attempts to comply with written standards may fail, and as such are not compliant. It may well be true that no browsers exist that are standards compliant, as the standards are written. However, please don't go waving around poisonous ideas like "standards compliance is a relative term".
        Americans seem to have adopted a very lax relativism of late, a kind of fuzzy belief that everything is subjective. Some things are not. Some things are just facts that must be heeded. The definition is not up for negotiation, that's what _makes_ it a standard.

        • by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @02:01AM (#22632462) Homepage Journal
          With respect to the http 1.1 standard, it _is_ relative...

          From the standard:

          The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [34].

          When the people writing the standards write standards with the words "SHOULD" or "SHOULD NOT" or "RECOMMENDED" or "MAY" or "OPTIONAL" you now have a standard which can have many different faces, or compliance levels. IMHO, this is poor standards writing. They MUST make the specs using the terms "MUST" and "MUST NOT" and bump the version number. Then you can easily have automated unit tests which show absolute compliance. But we don't, and must rely on what developers "THINK" or "MAY NOT THINK" is correct about the spec.

          --jeffk++
          • by edwdig (47888) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @02:37AM (#22632652)
            Have you ever tried implementing something described in an RFC ?

            When you get to the should / should not stuff, it comes down to in most cases you really want to listen to it, but there tend to be specific cases (say, embedded devices) where it really doesn't make sense to follow the normal behavior. Generally, if you run into one of those cases, it tends to be obvious that deviating from the spec is the right thing to do.

            The optional and recommended stuff tends to be things that really depend on the specific product and shouldn't be forced.

            Making things more strict would be a bad thing and make people break the standards more. The current setup acknowledges that different implementations have different needs and does a good job of accommodating.
          • by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @03:04PM (#22639748) Homepage Journal

            The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119

            For those too busy to consult RFC 2119 in detail, it basically states the following:

            • Should should mean "should."
            • Must must mean "must."
            • Must not must not mean anything other than "must not."
            • Required is required if you want to express the idea of a requirement.
            • Shall shall mean "shall."
            • Shall not shall not be construed as indicating that something "shall." (In fact it shall be the opposite.)
            • Should should usually mean "should," but not always.
            • Should not should not mean anything other than the opposite of "should," but also not always.
            • Recommend is recommended for use in RFCs as well, but may be optional.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Ignoring some of the vague language of standards -- like "MUST, SHOULD, MAY, OPTIONAL", etc, as another poster clarified -- there is another reason why standards-compliance is subjective.

          If you define a standard as a particular chunk of language, it is possible to create something which is technically compatible with the language, but not with any existing implementation of it. It is possible that this is because the existing implementations followed the spirit of that language, and you followed the letter
        • by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3@@@phroggy...com> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @04:11AM (#22633158) Homepage

          I understand your point, and it's well taken, but you are introducing a tautology. Standards compliance is absolute, by _definition_.
          I take your point as well, but I want to interject that this entirely depends on what the standards are. Can you build a word processor that is 100% compliant with Microsoft's OOXML standard? Not really, in any meaningful sense, because the standard is incomplete and refers to behavior that isn't described as part of the standard (that's a large part of what all the OOXML vs ODF fuss was about). Can you build an IRC client that is completely standards-compliant? No, because the RFCs that describe how IRC works are incomplete, inconsistent, contain errors, and aren't strictly adhered to by any popular implementation.

          In the case of HTML/XHTML and CSS, there's been quite a bit more effort invested into making sure the standards are properly documented and are internally consistent, but these standards are constantly evolving. Is it enough to support HTML 4.01 and CSS 2, or must you support HTML 5 and CSS 3? Do de-facto standards count? Remember that XMLHttpRequest (the basis of AJAX) is mostly a de-facto standard; the W3C has published a working draft [w3.org] of a specification for it.

          Standards compliance isn't always as cut-and-dry as you make it sound.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Twinbee (767046)
          A couple of years back, I would have said something just like you did. I too, believe in many absolutes (including the quality of music/art, which is more controversial).

          However, there are a few ways what he said could be interpreted, and it seems to me that by saying "it's relative", he's merely stating the obvious - that the implementation is relative to the "set-in-stone" standard.

          If you still doubt this, then explain why he said "What we can say is that this one appears to be more compliant than before"
    • by SEE (7681) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:14PM (#22631418) Homepage
      They've said it already passes Acid2.
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:24PM (#22631482) Homepage
        So does Safari. Yet from my experience it has way more rendering bugs than most other browsers I've used and tested against. Passing Acid2 does not mean that it is standards compliant. For instance. IE doesn't support the :last-child pseudo-class, but that doesn't appear in Acid2. So even if it does pass Acid2, it may still not support this feature.
        • IE doesn't support the :last-child pseudo-class, but that doesn't appear in Acid2.

          I suppose this is why they already designed Acid3. [webstandards.org] Hint: Firefox 2 scores 50/100.
          • Acid3 (Score:5, Informative)

            by drewness (85694) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:50AM (#22632030) Homepage
            Just for fun I tried Acid3 with a couple browsers (all MacOS 10.4.11):
            Firefox3 nightly from March 3rd: 66/100. (Second closest to the reference rendering.)
            Safari 3.0.4: 39/100.
            Opera 9.26: 46/100. (Looked the least like the reference rendering though.)
            Webkit nightly from March 4th: 87/100. (It also looked the closest to the reference rendering.)

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by robably (1044462)
              So what browser do the Acid Test people use to check their tests? Why don't they just release it and then everyone could use that. Problem solved.
      • It's true, and if they can live up to the claim, I think that's great.

        However, this is Microsoft. Their behavior in the past has shown they're not above:

        (1) hard-coding stuff to make test cases work
        (2) bending definitions to claim compliance.
        (3) announcing out-and-out vapor to intimidate competition

        It's also good to remember they've never before delivered anything like what they're claiming to have.

        If I were laying money on an outcome, it would be that IE 8 will continue to lag annoyingly behind the alternatives.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          ``If I were laying money on an outcome, it would be that IE 8 will continue to lag annoyingly behind the alternatives.''

          Maybe not. Maybe the standards-compliance will go exactly so far that code developed against the standard (as far as it is supported by the competition) will also work in MSIE8, thus obviating the need to install an alternative browser if you have MSIE8 already. This would be a Good Thing for web developers, because they would no longer have to work around MSIE's non-compliance, and a Good
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Paladin128 (203968)
            I'm sorry, but other than geeks, who switched from IE because it wasn't standards compliant? I convinced many people to switch to Firefox for three reasons:

            1) better security
            2) better UI
            3) plugins

            That's it. Anyone who tells you people don't use IE because it's not standards compliant are idiots. Every web developer makes sure their pages work with IE, no matter how much extra work it takes.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jimicus (737525)
          AIUI Windows NT was POSIX compliant. But the POSIX specifications of the time left huge swathes of API defined where it was perfectly OK to return ERROR_NOT_IMPLEMENTED.

          None of the mainstream Unix vendors actually did this, so most Unix code was written on the assumption that very little was not implemented. Windows, OTOH, returned ERROR_NOT_IMPLEMENTED everywhere it could. With fairly predictable results.
    • by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3@@@phroggy...com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:27PM (#22631508) Homepage

      What Microsoft HAS proven (repeatedly) is that it considers compliance with standards to be a relative term.
      So do all other browser makers. The various standards involved are non-trivial to implement, and as another poster commented, nobody has implemented all of them.

      Just because a browser passes Acid2 doesn't mean it's "standards-compliant". It means it complies with the specific parts of the standards that Acid2 tests for, which is only a few things that most browsers (at the time Acid2 was created) got wrong.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by megaditto (982598)

      E8 may be in standards-compliant MODE by default, but whether it's *standards-compliant* has yet to be proven
      You are a pessimist, or a cynic.

      Let me inject a little optimism into this thread by saying that IE8 can indeed be standards-complaint because it will be the standard.
      • by Merusdraconis (730732) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:03AM (#22632108) Homepage
        That was true five years ago, but no longer. With the amount of competitive alternate browsers out there, and the new rise of the iMac, the standard is the W3C. While most web developers will put in extra effort to work around IE's bugs, they're starting from W3C-standard webpages and kludging in IE support, not (as it worked years ago) building pages that worked in IE first then trying to make them work on Netscape later if at all.
    • by Craig Davison (37723) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:22AM (#22631858)
      This is good news. The important thing is that MS is now saying they're willing to sacrifice backwards compatibility in IE. They have no reason not to follow the standards now (barring bugs or technical limitations).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by alshithead (981606)
        "The important thing is that MS is now saying they're willing to sacrifice backwards compatibility in IE."

        Fantastic point.

        I wonder how many little sites built by IE-centric coders are going to need a lot of work in order to function well with IE8.
  • Or perhaps... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dedazo (737510) on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:56PM (#22631278) Journal
    They just thought it was the best thing to do. After all, they're going to be breaking a lot of intranet crap, which won't make them lots of fans.

    But that doesn't get the juices flowing as effectively as the "they did it because I think they're scared of the EU" editorial byline. Must have those ad impressions.

  • Windows Versions? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:56PM (#22631282)

    Will this be installable on XP and later or will it only be available for the Vista follow on: Vista ME?

  • I'll still be interested in how well it handles the Acid2 and Acid3 tests.
  • Hmmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:57PM (#22631290)
    This could actually be some competition for the unstoppable Firefox.. if IE stops sucking then nobody will switch.. I'm expecting firefox 3 to pack some serious performance and standards-compliance improvements, but if it didn't then I'd have been happy to switch back to IE8. Firefox is an absolute memory whore. I do like the interface though; IE7's was horrid.
    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garett_spencley (193892) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:09PM (#22631382) Journal
      Competition is good. If Microsoft actually goes and creates a superior product then IE users get a better browser which forces Firefox to either "up it's game" (giving FF users an even better browser) or remain the same while everyone switches back to IE because it's superior.

      Either way everyone gets a better browser. Win-win.
      • by MeNeXT (200840)
        When IE starts supporting more then windows "current version" then it may start becoming a superior browser.

        IE 8 is to move people onto VISTA it most likely won't run on XP... but that's only my experience and my opinion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Competition is good.

        Competition is good, when it is fair competition in a healthy market.

        If Microsoft actually goes and creates a superior product then IE users get a better browser which forces Firefox to either "up it's game" (giving FF users an even better browser) or remain the same while everyone switches back to IE because it's superior.

        The problem is, what if IE isn't better or what if IE 8 is better but IE 9 is worse? In the first case most people still use IE even though it is inferior, because they assume a normal free market is operating and if there was a better browser Dell or Gateway or Sony would put it on their computer for them. Worse yet, every time a person buys a new computer (every few years) the whole thing is reset and MS gets another shot at being "

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eebra82 (907996)
      I think a lot of people use Firefox because it is so easy to modify to your needs. IE can be configured, but not even remotely close to what FF can do with the help of plug-ins and extensions.

      Also, I would say that most people who use Firefox are experienced users. Firefox cannot grow beyond this market simply because my inexperienced father is happy with what comes bundled with the computer. I hope you understand that analogy. Most people simply don't see the difference, nor do they care.
      • Booga booga (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)
        Want to get people to switch to Firefox?

        Tell them that IE leaks passwords and will run scripts that can read your hard drive and send credit card numbers to malicious servers.

        Tell them that FireFox has the "Do Everything" feature too, but it is disabled by default. It can be turned on later, though "in your experience, you've never had any trouble with it off."

        Tell them that FireFox is free and is based on Netscape (they will probably remember that name) which turned the browser business over to "Mozilla" w
    • if IE stops sucking then nobody will switch.. I'm expecting firefox 3 to pack some serious performance and standards-compliance improvements

      Standards compliance in this case will result in broken pages, at least in the short term. Not sure why people would switch for that. Also surprised that you think people when to Firefox for the standards compliance. I thought they went over for the usability the add-ons that didn't suck. Standards are, and always will be a nerd issue. Everyone else just wants you

    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by WK2 (1072560) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:41PM (#22631606) Homepage

      Firefox is an absolute memory whore.

      OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOUR BROWSER!?!? And how? Whatever it is, I don't think Firefox actually wants your memory that badly.

      On the other hand, perhaps you meant, "memory hog."

  • Firefox 3 will surely be my browser of choice still, but this is still an epic win for developers, and the progression of the WWW.

    huge success!
    • by mike_sucks (55259)
      Absolutely! Will this be the end of "write using standards, hack to get IE working"?

      Of course, the devil will be in the details - let's see how how well they implement the new support.

      /mike

      • Will this be the end of "write using standards, hack to get IE working"?

        Not until users stop using IE7. On a web site I recently did dev work for, IE6 was still considered the primary target.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by yakumo.unr (833476)
          Some places will always be far behind, but this news means there should be a brighter future, instead of endlessly delving further and further into a barrel of hideous hackery.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:07PM (#22631368)

    I wonder if they're serious. Will they really be standards compliant enough so that I don't have to hack around IE8's deficiencies? Will this still be true for IE9? It's possible. Will this include SVG and XHTML and CSS3? What about XUL and HTML 5?

    If all of the above work in the next couple of version of IE, do you know what that would indicate to me? That would indicate that Microsoft is betting on Silverlight to lock in users in the next 5 years... because they've pretty much convinced me they will never compete based upon features and the merits of their software, rather than trying to make it as hard as possible for users to switch to anything else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      By standards compliant they pretty much just mean HTML CSS javascript and the DOM. There are many web technologies, but there isn't a single browser that fully supports all of the standards you listed. I wish there was. Feel free to correct me If I'm wrong.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        There are many web technologies, but there isn't a single browser that fully supports all of the standards you listed. I wish there was. Feel free to correct me If I'm wrong.

        No, here is no browser that supports all of those completely. Some of the specifications are still in draft form for some of those technologies. So far, however, Firefox, Safari, Konquerer, and Opera all have at least some support for every one of the specifications I mentioned. Explorer has some support for some of them, but is behind on all of them compared to every other browser.

        The difference is which browser teams are committed to implementing standards going forward and advancing the Web technolog

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Microsoft is playing some serious catch-up after laying dormant with IE6 for so long. It will be nice if they can get XHTML 1, CSS2, and HTML4 all working respectably well in IE8. It's yet to be seen if they will maintain that momentum and continue to adopt new standards such as HTML5 and CSS3. I personally hope they do, especially with CSS3, as it has lots of really nice features.
  • Perhaps Opera's complaint to the EU or the EU's record antitrust fine had something to do with Redmond's about-face.
    Or perhaps Microsoft simply realized that their previous plan was flawed, and they've decided to do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do. Or maybe it occurred to them that encouraging everyone to move to standard code will make development of future versions of IE much easier, so it's in their own interests to do so.
  • I'll believe it when I see it, but this is good news if it's true, and if "standards" means what you'd hope. The best thing for the web is for all of the major browsers to abandon support for decrepit, non-standards-compliant sites and send the message that they're committed to CSS and other modern elements of design. Microsoft has been hesitant to do this for many reasons aside from anticompetitiveness, but the chicken and egg problem of needing to support legacy sites is getting old. If they pull this
  • missing the point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BPPG (1181851)
    I much prefer firefox to ie. Hell, I've been into using kazehakase. And lynx comes in handy when I'm unable to run Xorg. But I would be glad to see microsoft finally bringing ie up to standards. It's not about which browser is better. People will use whatever browser they want. The important thing is that if such a widely used browser is up to standards, and if more people starts using, we can actually put those standard to use. If this encourages Mozilla and Opera to meet the standards as well, all t
  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:54PM (#22631686)

    While this is good news for those of us in the geek crowd, I'm extremely surprised MS went this route. When IE8 is pushed out and it breaks a bunch of non-conforming non-tagged pages built for IE7 and IE6, there will be much hell raising to be had. MS will of course be blamed since they're the ones that changed things and I wouldn't be surprised if the backlash was well in excess of IE7's, if not close to the kind of backlash Vista initially got.

    Ultimately everything will be worked out as developers fix their pages, but in the short-term period following IE8's release it's going to cost MS dearly. I can't for the life of me figure out why MS would want to put their neck on the line like this, it's not doing them any favors and "benevolent" usually isn't a term we use to describe Microsoft.

    • by tobiasly (524456) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:12AM (#22631806) Homepage

      I can't for the life of me figure out why MS would want to put their neck on the line like this

      You must not have read the press release [microsoft.com]!

      "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"

      They aren't putting their neck on the line... it's already there. :)

  • by tobiasly (524456) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:04AM (#22631754) Homepage
    It's a trap! First Microsoft lures us all into using interoperable web standards, and then... then.... shit, I can't figure out how they can use this for evil. Gimme a sec...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by codemachine (245871)
      The trap is Silverlight. The standards compliant web is being extended with Silverlight, and a number of companies are already buying into it.

      IE becomes the browser that can best view all the old broken IE-only HTML, all the compliant HTML, and all of the Silverlight pages that "enhance" the web. All of the other browsers will only render standard HTML well.

      Sure Mozilla renders XUL, but Silverlight probably has more adoption than XUL already. Too bad someone didn't come up with a really friendly IDE to X
  • Developers, developers, developers, right?

    I think Microsoft has finally genuinely started to realize a very simple fact:

    Client-side web developers hate them.

    And it's probably the one thing MS has thoroughly earned with all the IE bullsh*t over the last 10 years.

    This is a really great gesture, it's a good start if they want to allay any of that and gain back trust. But honestly, nobody gets over 10 years of being treated like crap overnight, and the half-life of contempt isn't short.

    Personally, I'd like to offer my congratulations to the IE Product management team, and let them know that in time, I'll probably only wish debilitating terminal illness on them, rather than painful and extended death by torture.
  • by trepan (593758) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:22AM (#22631856)

    The real story here is that "Developers wishing to use quirks mode for IE6- and IE7-compatible rendering will have to opt in explicitly."

    If you've been following any of the design / developer blogs and community response about this, you'll know that in a previous plan [alistapart.com], all web pages would render in IE7 standards mode unless the developer inserted a specific meta tag

    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" />
    into each web page of a site. (For the truly avant garde, one could set the content to "edge", which would tell IE to render in the most current standards compliant version available). The outcry was that while it was clear that IE was making progress in standards, in order to take advantage of those improvements, developers were being asked to touch each page of their sites and tell IE to use its more standards compliant mode. That discussion is what was at play here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jsoderba (105512)

      Look closer. The meta tag with http-equiv argument means that the browser should treat it as if it was an HTTP header field. You can accomplish the same effect by configuring the web server to include a "X-UA-Compatible: IE=7" header. On Apache it only takes a single line in the configuration file to add a static header to every page. I imagine the same is possible on IIS.

  • by 00_NOP (559413) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @09:20AM (#22634520) Homepage
    The free software moevement has done this - not Microsoft. three years ago they were still flogging browser code with four year old bugs in it - because nobody was challenging them (or rather nobody who relied on cash from software sales was allowed to challenge them). Then along came Firefox [getfirefox.com] and the rules of the games were totally subverted.

    The lesson ought to be clear. If you want better Windows software, start switching to Linux and other free software offerings now - because it is only when MS are under threat from competition that they bother with customer needs.

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