Microsoft to add a 'super standards' mode to IE 8

Microsoft is planning to add a new, opt-in "super standards" mode to Internet Explorer (IE) 8 -- a move of which some developers are critical.

Microsoft is planning to add a new, opt-in "super standards" mode to Internet Explorer (IE) 8 -- a move of which some developers are critical.

IE Platform Architect Chris Wilson shared the details of how Microsoft plans to provide the greater standards compatibility, which it has promised for its next browser release via a January 21 posting to the IE Team Blog.

Wilson said Microsoft is planning to offer developers three modes in IE 8: the existing quirks mode, which will be compatible with current IE pages and applications; a "standards" mode, which will be the same as what's offered by IE 7 and "compatible with current content"; and a third, super standards mode that will require the insertion of a <meta> element to guarantee the highest level of standards compatibility.

Wilson added:

"We believe this approach has the best blend of allowing web developers to easily write code to interoperable web standards while not causing compatibility problems with current content. We also think this approach allows developers to opt in to standards behavior on their own schedule and as it makes sense to them, instead of forcing developers into a responsive mode when a new version of IE has different behavior on their current pages."

A number of commenters on the site took issue with the way Microsoft is planning to make IE 8 more standards-compliant. Many said they believed Microsoft should turn the super standards mode on by default (not make it an opt-in choice), as standards compatibility is more important than backward compatibility. Several posters said they believed Microsoft should abolish quirks mode with the IE 8 release.

"I say enough of this bloody nonsense.  Break the bloody web, and maybe, just maybe, we'll finally be able to break free of the morass of the pre-IE7 days," said one poster, "Xepol."

Sami, another commenter, echoing a number of others' sentiments, said super standards mode should be the new default for IE 8: "I'd prefer having the superstandards mode on by default. Let the user switch to quirks mode, if the page is not displayed."

Poster Eric Eggert agreed: "People shouldn’t have to opt in for the best Version of IE. If someone’s expecting IE8 to behave like IE7 he should opt out to IE8s behavior."

Wilson has said repeatedly that Microsoft cannot abandon backward compatibility because there are more than half a billion IE users. He acknowledged in his latest blog post that Microsoft "broke the Web" for many with the introduction of IE 7, and that the company was not going to do that again. Microsoft worked with the Web Standards Project (WaSP) to devise the IE 8 standards plan, Wilson said. (WaSP-Microsoft Task Force member Aaron Gustafson blogged about his take on Microsoft's IE 8 standards plan on January 21.)

The IE Team announced in December that early builds of IE 8 had passed the Acid 2 standards test, but didn't go into details about how the company planned to deliver a more standards-compliant IE 8 build to developers and users. Microsoft has said it plans to release a first beta of IE 8 in the first half of this year. Many are expecting the company to release that beta in late February or early March, around the time of the company's Mix '08 conference.

What do you think of Microsoft's plan to make IE 8 more standards-compliant?