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back to article Microsoft's smiley browser face turns sour

Microsoft's latest idea for tackling Internet Explorer's lack of web standards compliance in the up-coming IE 8 has attracted a barrage of criticism. Chris Wilson, Microsoft's IE platform architect, and chief IE bullet taker, has explained how Microsoft intends to overcome standards and backwards compatibility problems by using …

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Stop

why even bother

pretending they can code a web browser? MS should stop fucking everyone around, stick a skin on Firefox and call it quits. What is the point of coding a piss poor redundant browser?

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Such a terrible idea

However, I'd be all for a better way to target browsers with custom CSS - that put the onus on web developers, not browser builders. An [if Safari] directive, or [if IE > 6] for instance.That way, there's no need to maintain multiple modes in the renderers, just directives to read only the appropriate CSS files. Would make it so much easier - and safer - to correct for rendering bugs, instead of using hacks or javascript detection (which is fraught with difficulty).

Maybe that's a terrible idea too, though.

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Gates Horns

What about DOCTYPE?

Strict vs Transitional, people! Sometimes it seems that the whole of Microsoft is stuck in quirks mode.

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Anonymous Coward

Is Microsoft non compliance that important now?

Look, I have Firefox as my main browser. Everyone I know does. Every internet cafe I was in ran Firefox. Then there's my mobile browser, it's Safari on the iPod Touch.

If any business or website made their site incompatible with Firefox or Safari, I wouldn't run IE to fix it. I'd just not use their service or buy from their store. So incompatible modes from Microsoft don't mean squat and only hurt themselves.

We had an awakening today. An excel 97 sheet would not open in Excel. No warning no nothing, it just didn't open. It did open in Open Office. Revelations! We need to switch to Open Office to ensure we can open old Excel spreadsheets!

Their incompatibility games hurt themselves.

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Thumb Up

Contradiction of complaints

I am glad that MS is finally making a version of IE that supports standards but the complaints about adding a meta tag to indicate a page is compliant seems contradictory.

The people complaining are the most active developers who have worked on getting their code to be compliant. These are the same people who use templates, dynamic languages and other time saving functions. Wouldn't these people be the most likely to actually do something with their site (add a single line of code)?

Do you believe that the person who made their site to only work properly in IE and doesn't consider the other 20% of web traffic important enough to support is going to redo their entire site to make it compliant?

If MS doesn't use a meta tag to identify a compliant page and displays all pages in standards compliant mode who gets the support call when your mum goes to a site that is all borken? I doubt that it would be the web site's developer or even the company who's site it is. I am sure that it would be the PC manufacturer or MS.

All in all I think that adding a single meta tag is easy enough and will welcome only having to develop one set of CSS and JS for all browsers. This savings will be much more then the time it takes to add a single line to my header template.

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Joke

What's the big deal?

I mean, web developers already have to make two web pages anyways. One for IE and one for... everything else.

Just adding a tag to your IE version would be simple!

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Boffin

Expression Web

Well, I've been playing with Microsoft's Expression Web recently, and if they can basically completely ditch the web-coding horror that was FrontPage and replace it with a useable, standards-compliant (X)HTML/CSS editor, why can't they do the same trick with IE? Perhaps if even Microsoft themselves alienated non-standards-compatible websites (such as those created by FrontPage), it might force a lot more people into the 21st century...

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Stop

What's the fuss?

I'm usually the first to berate IE, often describing it as my #1 source of work related stress. However, I think they're really making a mountain out of a molehill here. So you have to add a meta tag? Big deal. That's not hard and it doesn't even interfere with other browsers or validators. As for the accusations of them "faking" Acid2 support, short of them making it look right for just that particular page, I don't see how they could. Either it renders correctly or it doesn't. I don't think even MS is stupid enough to try and trick people by making the page a special case.

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Alert

To all those saying, "it's no work at all" -

The complaint against this comes from the Web Standards Project's comments that this should be extended to other browsers. If you read the links, the Safari team shoot this down as it basically involves maintaining many sets of rendering modes for them - old "version XX compatible" ones and new standards-compliant modes. The idea is retarded, because it doubles the workload for very little gain, makes the codebase less portable, and makes it harder to learn.

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Silver badge

@I don't think even MS is stupid enough to try and trick people by making the page a special case.

Oh, they are... remember when they put a massive bug into Hotmail's CSS just for Opera users? At that point Opera users made up about 0.000000001% of all browsers or something similar. I wouldn't trust Microsoft to draw a straight line with a ruler.

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Gates Horns

Every Version of the HTML Standard...

...includes instructions on identifying the document type (including HTML version) to the browser. If Microsoft's intentions were to support the standards, they would make IE follow these instructions. It's really that simple.

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Boffin

I should've known.

I should've known they'd pull something like this. A meta tag to turn on standards compliance!? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

There's a reason for web standards, and that reason is to make it easier for developers to make a site that works right in every browser.

I'm not one of those shortcut coders who uses conditionals to execute different code for different browsers. I write my code in a normal text editor and I write it so that the same block of code achieves desirable results cross-browser. I don't even use <noscript> to tell people that they need javascript. I code so that they still have at least minimal functionality if they don't have js enabled.

I take every pain I can to write my code so that it works no matter what.

When I heard that IE8 was going to be standards compliant, both me and a friend of mine cheered. Finally, us web-designers can write one page of code without having to compare the result on different browsers and tweak it until it fits.

Hearing this latest news, however, is infuriating. I use Linux and Firefox, and I'd like to be able to code a site and expect it to work the same on IE. The idea of testing a website only to find out later that it looks terrible on IE because I forgot a single meta tag is an idiotic one.

It just goes to show you that Microsoft is completely, utterly unwilling to play along with anything that anybody else says. They're unwilling to implement standards without making their own version of them. It's a big middle finger to the rest of the browser developers and to the web-development community as a whole accompanied by an "If you're not willing to play by our rules, screw you."

It's nothing but an attempt to leverage M$'s larger market share against everybody else in the world, and I'm sure everybody has been sick of it for a long time now.

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Stop

MS = SSDD (same stuff different day)

Hmmmm... So rather than comply with the web standards MS wants to make everyone else change...again? Again? Oh by the way did I mention...again?

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Solution is really simple

Microsoft should fully embrace the standards. Full stop. Period. End of story.

They are standards simply to ensure that the web development community develops to one code base. We already do this with all the other browsers, so for goodness sake why does Microsoft expect us to keep coding to their awful browsers.

It was Microsoft who decided to fall asleep for half a decade and stop developing IE -- or fixing any bugs for that matter. The world didn't stop just for them and things have moved on without them.

Just get used to it Microsoft; adopt the standards and stop bloody whinging. If your Trident rendering engine's not up to it, is that really the fault of anyone but Microsoft?

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What ever they do

is fine well fix it whatever it is (takes out revolver and whiskey from top drawer of desk) anything else?

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Alert

re: the fuss

One tag doesn't sound like much, but they want it on *every* page, and for the sake of a /single/ browser. If Firefox, Mozilla, Safari, iCab, OmniWeb, konqueror, and lynx all start asking for their own tags, does it still sound like a reasonable idea? It's reminiscent of the IE/Netscape browser war.

@Craig: An online store that only supports IE loses one in five potential customers because they use other browsers. Seen another way, their sales would go up 25% by becoming standards-compliant. They'd have to be a complete idiot not to.

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MSFT lacking cojones

The weird thing is that MS want IE8 to act like IE7 unless you tell it to act like IE8.

There is a vast number of legacy pages that were written specifically for IE, and those pages are broken. It is obvious when viewed in a modern browser. The important thing to remember is that so many reside on intranets served to a captive IE audience. These business pages are what worry MS, as suddenly, "IE broke my pages" becomes the plaint heard 'round the world. Then there are all the banks and other financial institutions that have long written their customer applications to work only in (the non-compliant) IE.

To avoid appearing to break all these pages, MSFT want to have their shiny new v.8 browser default to the broken rendering mode. Those of us who actually write pages that are compliant are expected then to add a new http-equiv meta element to opt-in to standards mode in IE8. What a crock!

MSFT should have the balls to do the right thing. Make IE8 default to standards mode. Instead of putting the onus on developers to cover for their mistakes, let the user select the rendering mode. If a page breaks when viewed, let the reader click the switch.

One thing I have always admired in Netscape was their decision decision to bite the bullet when they found themselves on the losing side in the W3 standards wars. V.4 was orphaned and v.6 aimed at standards compliance. I remember running both v.4.7 and v.6 so I could view pages written against either. Netscape did the right thing. I doubt that IE will.

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Joke

Plus ca change ...

The image here says it all ...

http://www.vilain.com/web-design.html

Bin there, done that !

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Silver badge

Microsoft should have some balls

The only way to fix the IE mess is to finally make a version that's standards compliant, make it available on all Windows/Mac platforms, and then leave it at that. Older sites break? Tough - recode them. Older browsers then don't support them? That's what you get for using IE - either upgrade to 8 or get FF/Opera.

It will be a ball-ache for some, but far less of a ball-ache for others, and it will solve the problem for good. We're all sick of MS wasting our time when building sites, so why not have one final bash at it, and then it'll all be over, permanently.

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Storm in a teacup

It seems to me that Microsoft is just trying to ensure backwards compatibility. This has always been a big thing for them in their business model.

If IE suddenly started rendering properly then all the old versions of pages (for their non-compliant browsers) would no longer render correctly.

What is a bigger headache to a web-developer? Adding a meta tag or recoding a page?

Think fast - Microsoft rolls out the new version so there are people using IE6 (the Win2000 crowd), IE7 (much of the planet) and IE8 (those who take the bait). IE8 renders in standards mode and now your pages won't render correctly. You've got until tomorrow to fix your pages before customers start to complain. If you make the page standards compliant then IE6/7 won't render. If you leave it as it is then IE8 won't render it properly. Oh did I mention you have until tomorrow?

The tag buys developers some time to test and amend pages.

Yeah I know its all their fault for not being compliant in the first place, but I think they're actually being quite sensible about this.

I think the people who are gnashing their teeth are people who don't like Microsoft on principle and refuse to be objective: "Anything that comes out of Redmond must be crap and evil just because it is Microsoft. Anything that Steve Jobs does must be hip and cool just because it is Apple. Even though Linux is terribly user-unfriendly and is only just beginning to mature it is better than Windows just because it is free". See things for their merit and not the hype.

I use Firefox. Its not standards compliant and its getting bloated and slow. Who are the Firefox people to moan about IE?

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Go

Web Standards Project

Why don't the web standards project just ask Microsoft to write the standard? That way they can make sure that all browsers follow the standard (even IE). If they are so toothless that they need to include two different switches to say "IE doesn't care about our standard" - they're pretty far along the path already.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Wasp support / @ What's the fuss

From the article: "So simple, the Web Standards Project supports the idea and has gone as far as to suggest this should be extended to other browsers."

According to http://dean.edwards.name/weblog/, *some members* of WaSP support this idea.

Comment by James Le Cuirot: "What's the fuss?"

What I understand from discussions on many blogs is that:

* This will not stimulate organizations to have their web sites made according to standards, as there'll always be an IE7-compatible mode - actually, it will be the default mode in IE8. This hurts other browsers and progress of standards.

* This (re)introduces browser discrimination. If other browser vendors include this too, newcomers or small players in the market will have to endlessly reverse engineer the major browsers' implementations of standards (including their bugs). For example, which rendering mode should Safari or Opera use with a site that says it's only been tested in IE7 and FF3? Their most compatible one? Or one with quirks to emulate IE and FF bugs? And in that case, whose bugs: FF's or IE's?

* This suggests that new versions of IE will always come with older rendering modes, so IE9 will be able to act as IE6-, IE7, IE8 and IE9. Competitors will then need to be able to render not just like one or two buggy IE versions, but like all of them since IE6.

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Gates Halo

@James

"I'm usually the first to berate IE, often describing it as my #1 source of work related stress." -

You must have a very easy life.

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Can't we all just get along!

I've spent the last 4-months developing a web application that simply MUST be primarily compatible with IE as about 99.9 of users in the company use IE 5 and higher.

Unfortunately for me, this makes the page slightly screwy in Firefox and Opera but there is simply nothing I can really do about that.

I don't find that IE's HTML rendering is that bad as XHTML compliant pages sometimes render better in IE than in Opera/FF, how is that possible?

Now if M$ want me to alter my pages so they can sidestep their responsibilities, they can go take a very long jump of a very short plank. I just wish Mozilla, Opera & M$ would get together, form a binding agreement so support web standards 100%, with fines to be paid if they break the agreement.

That way we can all stop faffing about trying to make pages that render in all pages and just get back down to designing functional and attractive web sites, confident that they will render the same in all browsers.

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@Graham Dawson

I'm a long-time Opera user so I haven't forgotten about how they did that with msn.com. Didn't hear about Hotmail. But I stand by my point because to do that with Acid2 would be so blatantly obvious and the backlash would be so horrendous that it would make no sense to do it in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Other ways to 'super standards mode'

I think the meta (or http) tag idea is pretty retarculous, but from reading Chris Wilson's various comments, it sounds like this won't be the only way to put IE8 into its new super-duper standards mode. It can also be triggered with an HTML5 doctype, or by sending XHTML with an XML mimetype.

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Anonymous Coward

"Microsoft could find a way to get around genuine Acid 2 support"

Instead of getting around genuine Acid 2 support, why can't they just whole-heartedly support it?

Sorry to belittle Firefox (it *is* my main browser btw) but I imagine Microsoft have a hell of a lot more money/manpower/etc dedicated to building a browser. Why can't they just do the job properly?

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Flip the meta's meaning

It would make more sense to flip the meaning of the meta tag - run in IE7 mode if it's there, otherwise run in standards mode. This way non-compliant sites have a simple fix, but sites that are doing it right work properly. It should be sites that are broken that get fixed, not the other way around.

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Better way..

..Can't they just write something that bypasses rights management and detects if you are using some dusty old version of non-compliant garbage and then install a stands compliant browser instead?

Do they think that seeing "Microsoft™" at the top the page works like advertising (doesn't) and makes us all want to spend money on them? It has the opposite effect, we see "Microsoft™" we see an ill-rendered page and we alt-tab to Firefox™ for instance, and see it looking fine. Then we hate Microsoft™ just that little bit more.

As toen of the early posters said, surely coding a new standards(un)compliant web browser will just be a waste of time/money/ball-ache on El Reg? WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER ONE. JUST MAKE THE NEXT SERVICE PATCHES INSTALL FIREFOX INSTEAD!

If any "business" has an intranet that only allows IE use then.. erm. So? Their coders continue writing bad code for the sake of a bad browser, they prevent IE updates so the status quo is continued. If they want to improve security then they should have moved to something better a long time ago. The fact their employees won't be able to view external webpages properly is a minor aside. You made your bed, you lie in it. Removing IE-broken code and then starting to write correct code from then on will pay for itself after a while.

Plus with HTML 5 soon it's just going to be another raft of "IE doesn't support this, so we can only tentatively use it for now". Pretty fucking infuriating.

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IE

A no brainer.

Rename IE to "Windows Update".

Opera easily outdistances it, and SeaMonkey fills in for the very few sites that seem to have issues with it.

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Gates Horns

It's about the users though.

Whatever MS does it's going to be a ballache for developers. I'd love it if they finally bit the bullet and went fully standards-compliant; I'd have a bit of work to do fixing the sites I've built but that would be the end of it.

The trouble is the large swathe of unmaintained/unmaintainable content out there. If a standards-compliant IE8 fails to render it at all, the majority of non-technical users who've never even heard of W3C and wouldn't know a doctype from a div tag aren't going to know what's happened. The support headache would be massive.

The web doesn't exist for developers. Some of us make a decent living from it, some do it because we have something to say or just because we're geeks and we love it. We make the effort to understand these things and make our pages render in all the browsers so Joe Public doesn't have to, and it looks like that's going to be the case for the forseeable future...

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Gates Horns

Not supported by the Web Standards Project

Actually, there's a lot of controversy about whether the Web Standards Project 'really' support this... See the comments on 'Beyond Doctype' for some of the feather-spitting.

http://www.alistapart.com/comments/beyonddoctype/

Basically, IE is a bag of shit. I don't code for it any more. Fuck 'em.

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Gates Horns

Ehm..

Here's a novel idea:

How about making your browser compliant? You know, make it work like it should've in the first place?

Oh wait, that's how you get the monopoly thing rolling again, right?

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Linux

@Andy

"...Even though Linux is terribly user-unfriendly..."

Try any of the new Linux distributions - Suse/Fedora/Mandrake.

I'm sure you'll take back your words after working on the new KDE/Gnome desktops.

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Tag name?

DTD or Tag ?

<!DOCTYPE HTML IESH1T

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@Sandeep Sandhu

Actually I've tried the latest Ubuntu and still have it installed on a harddrive in my box. I dual boot it every now and again to show it to people.

I'm completely in love with the Compiz Fusion desktop and adore the Gnome user-interface. I found everything exactly where "it should be" without having to bother reading the help files to find the hotkeys. It was also fast and smooth on my box. I won't say anything bad about KDE, I just like Gnome.

The package manager was awesome - point, click, install, use. The Ubuntu update manager was also really nice. Everything I tried out on Ubuntu worked first time without needing any head scratching or fiddling in the shell.

But Ubuntu isn't stable on my hardware configuration. After installation it crashed after 30seconds to 2 minutes (not a graceful crash either - just a system freeze). I spent hours (2 or 3) reading the Ubuntu user forums for help and saw that it's a fairly common problem. I rolled back my nVidia drivers (3rd party, not Ubuntu's "fault") which improved my uptime to around 5 to 10 minutes.

I read that there are issues with Firefox in Ubuntu, but I'm not sure if I can replicate that yet and not running Firefox doesn't really seem to help my uptime.

The default Ubuntu installation didn't cope very well with setting up my Grub options so the thing wouldn't boot. I had to get Supergrub to fix things up.

Ubuntu is supposed to be the newbie's Linux and so I think my statement about Linux being user-unfriendly is something I'll stick to. I will back down from "terribly".

I think the next Ubuntu will be the one that gets me to swap permanently. I'm betting it will be stable on more hardware configurations and hopefully mine will be one of them.

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Internet Explorer.. isn't that what you use for Windows updates

That is until we got WSUS working.

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RW
Alert

Fallout from the Browser Wars?

Glenn Gilbert: "It was Microsoft who decided to fall asleep for half a decade and stop developing IE -- or fixing any bugs for that matter. The world didn't stop just for them and things have moved on without them. Just get used to it Microsoft; adopt the standards and stop bloody whinging. If your Trident rendering engine's not up to it, is that really the fault of anyone but Microsoft?"

Anonymous coward: "Sorry to belittle Firefox (it *is* my main browser btw) but I imagine Microsoft have a hell of a lot more money/manpower/etc dedicated to building a browser. Why can't they just do the job properly?"

I wonder if the reason MS abandoned IE for so long was that, once they'd bashed in Netscape's head, working on IE didn't generate any ROI. In fact, given the amount of effort they'd put into IE by then, it probably had a big debit balance on MS's internal accounts.

The same may very well be true today: MS doesn't see any real payback from upgrading IE hence are reluctant to do the job right. Costs too much money.

Andrew: "Why don't the web standards project just ask Microsoft to write the standard?"

Because MS don't know how to write a standard. Redmond has a long-established reputation for not documenting their software even for internal purposes, going back to DOS days. A lot of MS's software troubles are traceable to the fact that all they have is source code that no one understands, the original author having long since left for greener pastures.

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Thumb Down

So...

All we have to do is change all of our "standards-based" web-pages to comply with Microsofts non-compliant, "standards-compliance"..?

No problem. Of course, Microsoft "IE" simply, actually, being "standards compliant" (like almost every other web-browser in existance) would have been nice.

Dont ya, just, love... MicroTHINK..?

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Why should they?

If "standards compliance" was important to Joe End User they'd all be downloading Firefox and using it. They aren't, by about 2:1.

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Compatibility

I am truly shocked by the number of people that throw flippant comments like "sod backwards compatibility, just force people to re-write old applications". That sort of attitude is what causes IT and business to clash so badly.

First of all, a de facto standard is still a standard, and the fact many hundreds or thousands of development hours are spent on applications targetting an earlier platform should not go unnoticed. Of course it is nice to always have the latest and greatest but it is very ignorant to assume it is always possible.

The other thing is it is very short sighted not to see the meta-tag solution as an interim solution. With reasonable time the default position can change as old applications are phased out. Of course within 3-4 years it is probably acceptable to change this.

Finally, how people can slate IE7 like they think they know something others don't. The fact of the matter is IE7 works very well and despite using Firefox for testing, I still prefer IE7. It is faster starting up, more stuff works currently and I get SharePoint and Project Server integration - and this is the sort of stuff that is actually important.

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Gates Horns

@Fenwar

Actually, we already have the DOCTYPE switch. It was included in IE6 for precisely this reason - to allow cobweb sites to render using the IE5 tag soup engine, and this works well. The question is, why are they now penalising those developers who've already gone to the trouble of developing their sites to standards? The big change has already happened: IE6 to IE7. We have already felt the pain of that, and in fact it wasn't anywhere near as bad as Chris Wilson makes out. IE7 is 99% compliant with Firefox, which most developers use as their standards benchmark. It is fairly safe to assume that a site that has a proper DOCTYPE has been coded to work properly in Firefox, so all they have to do to make IE8 work with these sites is to plug the parsing holes which have been used to feed IE7 different CSS in the odd place where it needs help.

This smells of a directive from on high, maybe from Gates himself: "Don't break the web, like we did with the transition to IE7" Well, maybe you broke some IE-only intranets, but you didn't break the web because developers already have to support standards, thanks to the rise of Firefox. The only breakage was where you got standards support wrong. If IE8 really does fully support standards, you have nothing to worry about.

Good on Dean Edwards for standing up against this insanity.

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Unhappy

firefox standards compliant???

I think somewhere down the line people have deluded themselves that firefox is standard compliant! when it does not pass the acid 2 test itself! the only standards compliant windows browser worth downloading is Opera. However having said that i use FF just due to its user friendliness and its ease to develop in due to the plethora of extensions available.

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Most of you are already doing this...

You stick in hacky bits of CSS that explot internet explorer's traditional failure to support voice browsers, the "!important" directive, or, well other bits of CSS, generally.

Internet Explorer ahd become the new Netscape 4. All that's being proposed, is that we agree to indentify it, as such in a future-proof and explicit manner, rather than relying on clever ways to trick it's bugginess into rendering the page correctly.

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Coat

easy fix

MS could have IE 8 identify itself as firefox or opera by default ;)

Then all the old IE browsers can still be identified as IE and v8 can be fed proper standards-based html.

A little "render as IE6/7" button could add the current page to a list of URLs to render in the old manner to allow broken pages to be rendered (in future) in the old manner without user intervention. These could auto-expire after a set amount of time to encourage developers to fix things.

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Flame

Flash to the rescue

Werl, the easiest way out is to code all your websites in Flash ! It's a universal standard, can do purty moving thingamajigs and even "creative types" can code in it.

And all you need to do is plug in a big ole <object> in your page, and every browser will render the same thing ! (except Links, but that's only used by commie b**tards anyway).

So why don't we let the W3C play with itself in the corner and adopt a proprietary standard proven time and again by the stock exchange! Besides, ever since they took away the blink and marquee tags, HTML just hasn't been the same...

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Gates Horns

Surely ...

... the simple answer is for M$ to default to "compliant" and have a big button at the top of the window labelled "Render in broken IE Mode".

problem solved

User gets screwy page, clicks button, page rendered in broken (ie legacy) mode, and page header shows a banner proclaiming "Site is using broken IE legacy code".

Hmm, can't see that happening myself !

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Anonymous Coward

Very consistent from MS

This is actually very consistent: MS knows that a whole bunch of web desiners are actively supporting their monopolistic ways, by coding IE-only websites even when they know that this is nothing like proper HTML.

MS doesn't want to disappoint its minions... so they can't go the standards' way straight away.

To all the "preserve backward compat" comments: people who coded IE-only websites did it on purpose, knowing that they were coding crap. And if they didn't, they shouldn't be allowed to put code online anyway. They made the bet that MS would dominate the world completely, and that the standards would adapt or die. They actually actively pushed towards that. Now that it appears that they have been a bit too "optimistic", they don't want to bite the bullet. Pathetic weenies.

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@Chris Ovenden

"It is fairly safe to assume that a site that has a proper DOCTYPE has been coded to work properly in Firefox"

If only...

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This topic is closed for new posts.