It seems the IE team recently announced that IE8
will have a new rendering mode. This hasn't been controversial, or news in the slightest. ;-)
The concept has been met with an overwhelmingly negative response from the web development community.
While I understand why the IE team is attempting to provide this feature, my gut feeling is that this
is a very bad move. And there are a number of reasons why I feel that way.
First of all, Microsoft has more customers than just huge ginormous corporations with poorly written and
poorly maintained intranet applications. We also buy your operating systems, office products, etc.
And while I may have switched to Mozilla, and then to a Mac long ago because I was utterly disgusted with
the stagnation in IE's development, as a web developer, I still have to test on Microsoft's products. Would
you rather upset a single customer who represents 600,000 licenses, or 600,000 web developers? I don't envy
Second, this concept of version-freezing promotes wholesale laziness on the part of the incompetent developers,
designers, and managers that made the enlightened decision to lock into the IE platform in the first place.
The web was created to be inter-operable, cross-platform, and standardized, and this move couldn't be a
bigger slap in the face to the web. By preserving in stone, forever, IE7's rendering, Microsoft sanctions and
encourages bad development practices and vendor lock-in.
You cannot guarantee backward-compatibility forever. Take the bandaid off. What happens when developers
start blindly asking for IE8 standards mode while relying on specific IE8 bugs? Do we get a new switch in
IE9? The old engine will have to be maintained. There will be security fixes, patches, etc.
The barrier to entry for web development is increased exponentially. It's already difficult enough for
new-comers to learn the complex standards and technologies that make up the web today with having only
standards mode and quirks mode to contend with. Now you want to create a new engine for every old version of
your browser. This means IE6 will never die!
It was suggested that other browsers implement this functionality as well. Thanks, but no thanks. I, for one,
don't want an exponential increase in variations in rendering engines. I'm pleased that future version of
Safari, Firefox, and Opera will improve their support for standards, become more consistent and predictable,
and continue working toward the goal of supporting W3C standards reliably, and making the standards themselves
more rock-solid for potential new comers.
Personally, I'd rather see Microsoft work toward making a clean break from the past. Provide a legacy browser
for viewing legacy content but make it clear that browser is a legacy product with a definitive end in sight.
Make your new browser standards compliant by default. Dispense with quirks mode. Promote the evolution of the web
and web standards, not laziness. Stop living in and promoting the past.
I feel that the IE team is unlikely to reverse its position on this new "feature". That being the case, I
continue to hope that the world moves away from IE. As IE's market share continues to slip, soon the
pig-headed IT managers that created this quandary will be IE's only supporters and only customers, when once IE had
the whole world.
Of course, this is merely my opinion, and I understand others may disagree.
Other reactions to the new IE rendering mode...