Home > web 2.0 > Thoughts on the new IE compatibility switch

Thoughts on the new IE compatibility switch

January 23, 2008

Over on IEBlog and A List Apart, they detail a new flag for the upcoming IE8 that would enable you to “lock” the browser down to older versions should you be expecting older broken behavior from IE6 or IE7.

This is a bad idea. The Safari team has a great write-up about why they think it’s a bad idea, which I agree with, but I also have an additional take:

Pages and sites that are likely to care about this are poorly written and poorly maintained. Microsoft created this problem themselves when they let IE6 sit idle for more than half a decade, and now they have to deal with it. Instead of letting someone flag their site as being broken (that’s what they’re doing), why shouldn’t they finally force them to fix their site and improve the browsing experience for everyone (not to mention improve the stability, speed, and maintainability of their codebase)?

If someone owned a car, but didn’t know how to drive it properly, would we bend the driving laws to let them on the road? Of course not. Some reasonable adherence to standards and moving things forward is the only thing keeping the web browser mess from descending into pure chaos.

  1. David
    January 23, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Nothing to do with responding to this post, just wanted to let you know that the Email this, Technorati Links, etc. is showing up twice on all your posts.

  2. January 23, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Just upgraded WordPress. Still working out the kinks. 🙂

  3. January 23, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Got it, thanks!

  4. January 23, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Your reference to the WebKit blog is misleading and somewhat disingenuous. The post actually says:

    “And we are not in the enviable but tough position of being the most widely used browser. The fixes we do for standards compliance rarely cause widespread destruction, and when they do, it’s often a sign that the standards themselves may need revision. We do not get complaints from web content authors about their sites breaking, on the contrary we get a lot of praise for each version of the engine handling web sites better…The IE team is, of course, under different constraints and free to make their own choices.”

    Moreover, I imagine the primary users who will demand such a fix are corporate IT departments with poorly designed internal pages. Believe me, the enterprise could care less about whether IE8 works better or worse with flickr, SmugMug or whatever new Ruby-on-Rails powered flavor of the month is highlighted on TechCrunch. They hired consultants five years ago to design an internal procurement system that leverages IE6 and proprietary ActiveX controls, and they don’t want to pay the cost to change.

    Microsoft has, as always, given their customers what they want, as opposed to, oh I don’t know, the Linux crowd perhaps, who would much rather give these people “what they need”.

  5. January 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I wasn’t commenting on the WebKit entry other than to say they don’t think it’s a good idea, which is in pretty clear black-and-white in their post:

    “such an approach does not seem like a good idea to us”

    As for Microsoft, they rarely give customers what they want. Customers wanted a new version of Internet Explorer for years and years and they simply ignored those customers.

    If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t be in this mess now.

    If corporate IT departments have poorly designed pages, they should fix them.

  6. Alex
    January 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    “If corporate IT departments have poorly designed pages, they should fix them.”

    Easier said than done. Corporate IT departments also includes small businesses that might be more worried about paying wages, bills, college tuition, etc. than investing further in outdated, yet functional systems.

  7. Alex T
    January 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    There’s nothing stopping these IT departments from sticking to the existing version of IE if they’re unable to sort out all their web based applications. Many organisations effectively restrict themselves to IE6 with Windows 2000 anyway.

    You don’t *have* to upgrade, do what everyone else does with operating system upgrades – wait for everyone else to beta test for you!

  8. January 23, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    I kind of believe that for MS, this is probably the right move… Unlike firefox, everytime IE get’s released, two things seem to happen:

    1) Every site that used to work properly (after whatever hacks needed to be put in place to get it to work in IE) stops working

    2) New quirks that require new hacks appear.

    Another key difference is that the switch isn’t near as gradual as say the switch from Firefox 1 to Firefox 2. Instead, they try to push it out to every the day they are ready to.

    So now look at the large portion of the web that is run by people who aren’t webmasters. Although I agree that they should be forced at some point to update their site to a more modern base, I also believe that most of them will not download a beta of IE8 to test their site out before it gets released…

    Personally, I know I could use some extra development time every time they release something that jog’s my borders 1 px from where they were supposed to be. If it means yet another strange tag that only affects IE but buys me the time to fix their new bugs before the masses all see it poorly, I’m all for it.

  9. January 24, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    anyone wanna put money on how long it takes for a firefox plugin to come out that detects the flag and pops a warning telling the user that the website they’re viewing is an unmaintained pile of junk?😉

  10. January 28, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Says it all… funny!

  11. November 6, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Love it! You got me so excited to get one and start shooting video!

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