Microsoft warns Web site owners to prep for IE 8

Microsoft warns Web site owners to prep for IE 8

Summary: Although Beta 2 of Internet Explorer (IE) 8 isn't due out until some time in August, Microsoft is cautioning Web site owners now that they need to be prepping now for possible problems the new, more standards-compliant browser may cause.

TOPICS: Browser, Microsoft

Although Beta 2 of Internet Explorer (IE) 8 isn't due out until some time in August, Microsoft is cautioning Web site owners now that they need to be prepping now for possible problems the new, more standards-compliant browser may cause.

As part of this week's IE June Security Update for IE8 Beta 1, Microsoft introduced a new tag, "IE+EmulateIE7" -- which it is counting on to head off some of the incompatibilities the company is anticipating could occur, based on feedback it received from IE 8 Beta 1 testers.

In a June 10 posting on the IE Blog, members of the IE team reminded site owners -- many of whom had designed their sites to display correctly in less-standards-compliant, prior versions of IE -- that they need to "get ready" for IE 8 so that their content will "continue to display seamlessly."

Microsoft decided earlier this year that it will make super-standards mode the default with IE 8. Super-standards mode is one of three modes which will be supported in IE 8. The other two are “quirks” mode, which will be compatible with current IE pages and applications, and a “standards” mode, which will be the same as what’s offered by IE 7 and “compatible with current content.”

(Microsoft originally planned to make the super-standards mode an opt-in choice and the IE 7 “standards” mode the default — claiming that by doing so, Microsoft would ensure better backwards-compatibility with existing Web sites and applications. But that decision angered those who felt Microsoft was shirking its commitment to make IE more standards-compliant.)

From the June 10 IE Blog post:

"In response to the great IE8 Beta 1 feedback we’ve received so far, we are introducing the 'IE=EmulateIE7' tag to address this problem. EmulateIE7 tells IE8 to display standards DOCTYPEs in IE7 Standards mode, and Quirks DOCTYPEs in Quirks mode. We believe this will be the preferred IE7 compatibility mode for most cases. Support for IE=EmulateIE7 is available now as part of the IE June Security Update for IE8 Beta 1. Installing this update will enable you to verify you’ve applied the EmulateIE7 tag to your site correctly."

Microsoft released a first beta of IE8 in March. Company officials have declined to say when the final version of IE 8 will ship.

Commentators were mixed in their responses to Microsoft's post, with some claiming the company was doing the right thing to ease the transition to a more standards-compliant IE 8. But others criticized Microsoft, claiming they need more information about which bugs the company plans to fix in IE 8 in order to design their sites and apps to continue to display seamlessly.

Commentator "Henry" weighed in:

"WE WANT to support IE8 fully, in the most standards way possible, but WE ABSOLUTELY NEED to know what IE will support in order for US to support it correctly!"

From poster "Mike":

"I'm okay with all of this, but gosh darn it would help a heck of a lot if there were say, like, uhm, some sort of guide as to what is going to be in IE8, kinda like a, uhm,... ROADMAP?!"

On June 11, the IE team posted about some new IT-specific features coming to IE 8 as of Beta 2, specifically the ability to slipstream IE 8 into a Vista (but not XP) image and the addition of new group-policy settings aimed at improving browser compatibility with apps and Web sites. Microsoft went public about these new features at Tech Ed 2008 this week.

What's your prediction as to what will happen when Microsoft finally rolls out IE 8? Will more users give it a try, due to its greater standards-compliancy? Will it "break the Web"? Will it slow Firefox's continued growth?

Topics: Browser, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I expect all those who demanded standards compliance will...

    ...fault Microsoft for breaking web sites. Microsoft can't win this one.

    As for the people requesting a road map there's already one out there: The standards. Follow them and you should be OK. Even better: Download IE 8 beta and start testing against it.
    • Again, MS has to ignore the catcalling

      and just do the right thing. Which they are. And the next time something like this comes up again, they have to ignore the catcalling and just do the right thing. And then the next time, and then the next time, and they have to keep doing that until they rebuild the trust they lost for not doing the right thing for so many years. And even after they've rebuilt that trust, they still have to ignore the catcalling and keep doing the right thing.
      Michael Kelly
      • They should publicly ignore the catcalling.

        The louder people complain, and the louder MS doesn't care and simply push developers for more and more compliance, the more respect they will garner. I like this early warning they gave. No matter the "outcry" from the ones who don't want to become standards compliant, the more MS should simply say IE 8 is coming, louder and louder. (the public part of the ignore)

    • It's 50/50

      If MS didn't break the standards in the first place, then the hacks detecting IE wouldn't be needed.

      It'll be interesting to see if you change the user agent of IE 8 to something else (e.g. Firefox), will the sites that break under straight IE 8 work.
      • Hacks aren't needed, use conditional comments instead.

        Hacks aren't needed, even with the rather miserable situation of supporting IE6. All of my websites use conditional comments to select a different style sheet for older, less compliant browsers.

        Making all of my pages render correctly when IE7 was released was easy - just change a single line of HTML on the master template, and slight modifications to the CSS. The style sheet for IE7 was much shorter than the one for IE6, because IE7 rendered most stuff from my master CSS style sheet correctly. I imagine the experience will be similar with IE8.
        • Not just CSS

          various flavors of JavaScript as well. If you're testing by UA and not capabilities, I can see issues.
    • Very few websites should break.

      Since many websites are moving towards standards compliance in order to support Firefox and other third party browsers, I expect fewer websites to break than the IE6 to IE7 transition.

      Websites that already support standards will have no troubles with IE8. If your website doesn't support standards yet - it's time to change it.
      • More sites than you expect.........

        There are still too many sites using ActiveX controls and they require IE to operate properly. These are surprisingly, (or maybe not), Federal, State and Local government sites.

        Since a lot of these sites are necessary to access various functions, IE is on my system to address these broken sites.

        Until ActiveX is buried, there will always be IE only sites.
        linux for me
        • Less sites than I care to visit.

          Whenever I visit a site that requires IE, I leave it. It's FFF for me...FireFox Forever. I've only been forced to go to IE for work, a proprietary VPN Web site. Now that I no longer work for that company, I'm much happier as I don't have to use that IE crap anymore.
      • Actually, will be a lot of sites because...

        MANY sites detect your browser. And then render the page according toy our browser. For FireFox/Safari/Opera and such it renders it standards compliant (mostly). For IE, they render it to fit IE6/7, which is NOT standards compliant. So when 8 comes out, and they have it rendered as IE, its not going to work.

        Plus there are still lots of sites that are IE only.
      • Wrong...

        You couldn't be more wrong. Most everything in the private industry and all intranets are based on the Internet Explorer standards. Everything for the USA government is also this way. This is going to be a task almost as large as Y2K.
        • Not MY Intranet

          I've designed for the standards since I first installed Firefox three years ago and saw how crappy the intranet I manage looked with it. Now, it's ALL designed according to standards.
        • Note Quite...

          Well... not quite, there are a number of sites even large corporations and such that will stick to w3C or least close to. The main exception are internal sites and web applications. There's also a big push toward client-side web applications in the sense of Javascript (or AJax in general) as Google has been doing for a while and many have followed.

          Take something as simple as Google Maps for example. In a way it is pretty much Ajax, its dynamically loaded content on the client side by javascript and such, and for the most part it works. You load up IE8, it looks like it went thru a blender, I do a lot of javascript development and in my testing IE8 breaks a crap load of sites that are interactive. And with most people going that direction now days, so will the likelyhood of breakage.

          I suspect however that it may simply be because some of the javascript routines are checking for browsers, and see's internet explorer regardless of version and tries to apply fixes and hacks to IE8 that may not need to be applied, but either way I'm not impressed.

          Firefox 3 on the other hand got released, and I'm still testing all the past sites I've done and I haven't found a breakage yet.
    • "Microsoft can't win this one"

      Umm, Microsoft lost trying to own the Internet (by making every caring web developer's life hell in getting stuff to work with its deliberately broken browser(s)/standards compliant code for a long time).

      The Firefox teams had to do a lot of work to get MS only (non standard) pages to display/be understood natively.

      MS can't win this one because it is they that caused the mess in the first place. How about them compensating the countless thousands of lost hours making W3C stuff also work in IE?
      • Stop with the blaming

        it makes me think you were wearing diapers in 1995.

        There was no standard for dynamic content when MS created IE4 and Netscape created NS4. Since none exist they both created their own but different standards. (could you imagine the mess we would be in today if NS4 with its "layers" was widely adopted?)

        Standard bodies like W3C are part of the problem, they drag their heals when creating a standard; anyone still waiting for IEEE 802.11n (started 1/2004) wireless to become standard?

        Corporate America (IE4's main reason for being) couldn't wait and was knee deep in IE 4/5 with their intranet sites when the W3C finalized their standard. At the same time the code from the intranet spread to internet where the rest of us picked it up and started doing the same.

        It wasn't till 2002 when Mozilla released the Mozilla 1.0 browser and Firefox wasn't even a wet dream yet.

        MS created what was needed for the time and there was no standard for it, we all used it and we all needed it, can you imagine if we had only static sites until the W3C was ready?

        The internet would not be what it is today, the Mozilla Foundation would probably never have been formed and we would never have heard of Firefox except in a Clint Eastwood movie.
        • Too bad,

          ignorance spreads like a virus while the truth does not. Something like 5 people responded to the OP's post to say the same thing you replied to and only you gave a proper response to one.
        • What a load of rubbish

          You may as well argue that one company controlling any market sector creates competition, or develops at a much faster rate.

          Just having the first clue would help, like understanding the basis of free markets and competition as developmental drivers.

          "Corporate America couldn't wait" Yeah, I see what planet you're from kiddo. Enjoy your spoon feed - it saves you thinking for yourself.

          When's the next press release due?
        • RE: Stop with the blaming

          Corporate America (IE4's main reason for being) couldn't wait and was knee deep in IE 4/5 with their intranet sites when the W3C finalized their standard. At the same time the code from the intranet spread to internet where the rest of us picked it up and started doing the same.

          What a load of uneducated roundup talk there.. the code of the intranet spread to internet? lol! what are you on about??

          BTW, Mozilla originates from Netscape..
          The IEEE has nothing to do with the IETF..
          But Firefox was indeed a movie with Clint Eastwood in it.. at least you got that right :)
    • Here is the point...

      if Microsoft has been following standards from the start, it
      would not be in this position now. To tell someone to, the
      standards, is the roadmap is not helpful because, back to
      first point. Plus, IE8 will be MORE standards compliant, does
      mean one would need to know which standards it will comply
      • compliance to what


        I expect it to comply more with 'the' Web standard, W3C !