IE8 to Default to Super-Standards Mode

Not quite two months ago, there was a big dustup in the web world over the new proposed super-standards mode in the upcoming Internet Explorer 8. The new super-standards mode is being introduced to preserve backwards-compatibility with sites that were written to IE6 and 7’s “normal” standards mode. This is because the new super-standards mode would have certain changes causing breaks in sites written to work on the older browsers.

The source of the fuss is the fact that to get IE8 to use the super-standards mode, developers would have to add an extra meta tag to the header of their webpages – a tag that would exist just for the benefit of Internet Explorer. It would not mean anything to other browsers. If the tag were not included, IE8 would render pages as if it were actually IE7. And that would be the default setting. This caused a big uproar among web developers, as mentioned in my two previous posts on the subject.

Evidently Microsoft, and the IE team, have heeded the masses. Microsoft put out a news release, and Dean Hachamovitch of the IE Team posted on the IE Team blog, about how IE8 will render in super-standards mode by default, and the opt-in meta tag will instruct IE8 to work as if it were IE7.

I know this news will be a great relief to web developers the world over. The prospect of having to add an extra tag to pages just to get the benefit of improved rendering when viewed in IE was not a pleasant one. Admittedly, it would be just a one-line change, but would need to be added to so many webpages. The fact that Microsoft have taken their current stance is very encouraging. This will be much better when moving forwards with web standards.

There is a downside with this move: sites coded with IE6 or 7 in mind will possibly “break” when viewed in IE8. Break meaning that the page will load, but not appear or behave quite right. This is because IE8 will make breaking changes in how it handles markup, scripts, and styles as compared to earlier versions of the browser. This would certainly be a concern for people maintaining older sites, and I can understand that. This won’t affect me personally, so it’s all good for me.

Due to his involvement in the process, Eric Meyer unsurprisingly has a post on this development. He’s cautiously pleased, but wary of possible reversals of this decision down the line. This could arise if the IE8 super-standards mode “breaks” a lot of sites out there, and Microsoft receives considerable push from other organizations to change their current stance. I would hope that does not happen…There will be some short-term pain, but I believe that this decision is the best way to keep the web moving forward, and not looking backward.

To the IE team, great way to start the week, and keep up the good work! I look forward to reading more news on the development of IE8.