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?