Opera grasps at straws with latest IE criticism

I was not a fan of Opera Software's antitrust sabre-rattling a few months back over Microsoft's lack of standards compliancy with its browser. But Opera's latest complaints about Internet Explorer (IE) 8 make Opera look even more like a company that's gone off the deep end.

Let me say from the outset that I was not a fan of Opera Software's antitrust sabre-rattling a few months back over Microsoft's lack of standards compliancy with its browser. But Opera's latest complaints about Internet Explorer (IE) 8 make Opera look even more like a company that's gone off the deep end.

Hakon Lie, the Chief Technology Officer of Opera, airs some of his dissatisfaction with how the new beta of Microsoft's IE 8 handles the breaking of Web pages. Lie complains that Microsoft has compatibility mode turned on by default for Intranet sites (not Internet ones, mind you). with IE 8 Beta 2. And he really hates the breaking page icon that Microsoft displays next to the IE 8 address bar; he proposes the Acid-test smiley face instead.

From Opera's e-mail to me on August 29:

IE 8 "breaks with Microsoft's promise - made just six months ago - to support Web standards by default.

"At issue here is the 'Compatibility View Settings' where all Intranet pages are set to display in compatibility mode. Microsoft is apparently fighting off other browsers from making inroads into the enterprise market."

I, for one, am glad that Microsoft defaults to standards mode with IE 8 for public-facign Web pages. Microsoft does it in a way that isn't punishing users who browse non-IE-8-compliant sites or developers who have not updated their sites to handle Microsoft's next-generation browser, which is expected to ship this November. If you hit a site that looks or behaves badly with IE 8 Beta 2, you can hit the compatibility-view icon (which looks like a broken page, clueing users in about what the icon does).

If Microsoft defaulted to the more standards-compliant mode with IE 8 without providing a way for users to continue to use non-updated sites, there'd be mutiny. Why should users or Web site owners be punished for the fact that Microsoft originally broke standards compatibility with IE and is now trying to undo that damage for whatever reasons -- fear of losing market share, complaints from angry users and developers, or just because it's the right thing.

Opera is portraying Microsoft's handling of standards mode as the company being up to its old tricks. But I suspect Opera's real reason for wanting IE 8 to break pages is so that users will throw their hands up in disgust and abandon IE for some other browser.

What do you say? Do you think Opera's complaints have merit? If so, what do you think Microsoft should do to tweak IE 8 before it ships?

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