Microsoft IE 8... The Fools Apprentice
Written by David R Jennings   
Wednesday, 23 January 2008


A lot of you nice people go to the Web everyday and don't realize the code war going on behind your screen. This week, despite having lost every major battle they have fought, Microsoft has chosen to continue the browser wars with their upcoming Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8) Web browser.
Let me over simplify a bit to explain.
A few years back most Web browsers worked differently from each other. This was bad. It meant that every Website had to be built to work as expected in each browser. This took developers many long hours and made building functional Websites tricky and often VERY expensive for you nice clients.

A short time later a lot of clever people got together and created some standards for the Web so that all the browsers would work a little better and more like each other. This was good.

A problem arose pretty quickly though. The most used Web browser on the market, "Internet Explorer" made by Microsoft was not following the plan. While the market drove ahead with this new improved browser technology Microsoft lagged behind. Because Internet Explorer was, and is, the most used browser, MANY Websites never switched over to the new plan. Many in fact ignored the new plan and just kept building for the masses who were using Internet Explorer. This is bad. It means that despite the new rules, your Websites still might look different depending on which browser you use, or worse yet might not work at all.

Well, Microsoft felt badly about this and decided to help us out. But instead of adopting the new rules everyone had agreed on they sort of "rewrote" the rules so that all those old sites would still function. (Protecting us from us I guess you could say?) This they called "Quirks Mode". It allowed old sites and new sites to "declare" how they wanted to be displayed. Although it appeared good. This was bad. It didn't solve anything. It meant that everyone building Websites the old wrong way would just keep on doing it wrong. It also meant that everyone who had decided to work to the new plan had to keep going back to the old school way and make their Websites compliant to both versions.

Microsoft felt that if they suddenly switched to the new plan that many old websites would fail. But MANY disagreed and felt that ultimately Microsoft has hurt the entire market by allowing bad technology to remain... well..., bad.

The past few months have heralded the release of a new Microsoft Web browser. It is to be called, "Internet Explorer 8". (Clever name by the way.) Microsoft bravely announced late in 2007 that their new browser would be compliant with the Web standards laid out long ago. Many rejoiced and sang songs of good cheer. This was VERY good. We knew IE 7 and earlier browsers would still be around for a while, but the end of the war was at hand. Until this week.

Microsoft has recently restated their proclamation and announced that the new IE 8 browser will be compliant with the new plan if users decided to turn on what they are now calling, "Super Standards Mode". This, like before, is bad. It means that although the new IE 8 browser has the ability to be compliant with the plan, it will still work as previous browser have.

In the long run nothing is different. Yes, your banking Website will still work next year, but the cost to build, maintain, and keep it running will still be high.

If Microsoft would stop acting like protecting parents and just "make the switch", the rest of the world would follow and the headaches of the past would slowly go away. But alas they appear to be unable to bring themselves to make the change.

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