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/ log / Mar, 2008 /

Adios, IE8 Meta Mayhem!

I’ve been holding back on a comment on the recent furor about the IE8 meta http-equiv switch. Mainly because the great and the good had it covered, but also because there was already a possible workaround, which John Resig pointed out: Use a HTML5 DOCTYPE.

Dean Hachamovitch and the IE team put out the fire yesterday with a switch of their own:

“We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can.”

Great news! Now the legacy application vendors using IE as the platform, and relying on less-than-perfect rendering will bear the burden of telling IE which rendering engine they need. (Another radical idea might be for folks who are refactoring applications to use conditional comments like any good self-respecting developer should.) At least, with this announcement, the folks producing standards-driven code will not face the bizarre requirement of having to tell IE8 to not use IE7’s rendering engine. Makes sense to me guys, what took you so long? OK, the problem is more complex than that. After all, as Nigel Parker of Microsoft pointed out in his follow-up post to Kiwi Baacamp where he entered the debate:

“Microsoft’s view [is] to support backwards compatibility for at least 10 years…”

By anyone’s measure that’s a hefty commitment, and probably leads the field for backwards compatibility. Even more so when you consider that most new “killer apps” are targeted at the cool kids using the latest OS or browser, and often don’t work without Javascript. (Nudge, nudge Twitter.) A fact that always concerns me when you consider that “universality” is at risk of becoming a hackneyed word, and there’s a whole world out there getting online, often with less money than we spend on Starbucks, and the equipment to prove it.

Anyway, I digress. Congratulations to the IE team and the collective intelligence in our community for reaching scientific solutions, intuitively. It just goes to show all the cynics out there that, as well a flaming each other, we also have a rare capacity for collectively recognising Robert M Pirsig’s metaphysics of quality.


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  1. 1. By tyGosBTS on 4th Mar ’08 at 07:10am

    Thanks for pointing out John Resig’s posted article, I don’t think I'ld seen that one. Thanks also for not flaming the fires of controversy, html 5 looks to be going in the right direction. They mention backwards compatibility also:

    -html 5 differences from 4, I think I can be an early adopter then.

  2. Jon 陳’s profile 2. By Jon 陳 on 7th Mar ’08 at 02:46am

    John Resig’s post was definitely very useful in the midst of the outrage. In fact, even after the recent announcement, it pains me to see so much ridiculous ranting about what I consider to be a practical way for the IE team to meet their backwards compatibility commitment and put their best foot forward.

    See Preparing for HTML5 with Semantic Class Names for more on HTML5 new elements.

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