STOP PRESS: Microsoft to make IE8 standards-compliant by default!

I'm stunned. This is not what I expected. Some sort of concession, maybe, but nothing like this. Way to go, Microsoft!*

From the IEBlog post:

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can.

I personally consider this fantastic news. I was broadly opposed to the version targeting idea as presented, i.e. that it would be an "opt-in" system, but had largely resigned myself to either ignoring it, or suffering it if I deemed the new CSS/JavaScript shinies in IE8 worth the effort.

Any site needing IE8 to render in IE7 mode (for whatever reason) need only apply a one-line fix: the meta version targeting method originally proposed to work the other way around (or the HTTP header equivalent).

In summary, this is the good news, as I see it:

  • Developers need do nothing beyond using current standards to get the best standards-compliance from IE8.
  • The change should encourage developers to adhere more strictly to existing standards, particularly if doing so enables more advanced CSS and JavaScript capabilities in IE8.

This should also mean that IE8 will automatically pass the Acid2 test, rather than requiring a nudge to do so. From the Microsoft press release:

IE8 has been significantly enhanced, and was designed with great support for current Internet standards. This is evidenced by the fact that even in its first beta, IE8 correctly renders the popular test known as 'Acid2', which was created by the Web community to promote real-world interoperability [...] Our initial plan had been to use IE7-compatible behavior as the default setting for IE8, to minimize potential impact on the world's existing Web sites. We have now decided to make our most current standards-based mode the default in IE8.

And this is the potentially bad:

  • Anyone requiring, for some reason, IE8 to behave as IE7 will need to add the meta switch or the HTTP header to their code.
  • More inconvenience in the short term for anyone supporting legacy documents.

I'm very impressed by Microsoft's move, and hope that it doesn't somehow get overruled or watered-down before IE8 is released.

(*I can honestly say that I never thought I'd write that - "never say 'never'", I guess!)

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