Aaron Gustafson’s article on A List Apart No. 251 titled Beyond DOCTYPE: Web Standards, Forward Compatibility, and IE8 and Eric Meyer’s follow up article in the same edition titled From Switches to Targets: A Standardista’s Journey have made the web standards community a heated forum of debate this week. At the time of this writing the article has been up for a mere 3 days and you’d be pushed to find someone without an opinion about the value of providing a meta tag which targets specific versions of Internet Explorer (IE) to be locked in when newer versions or IE are released.
My gut instinct is this isn’t the way to go and as the day progresses I am less and less impressed with the idea. How many older versions of Internet Explorer will be piggybacked on top of the new versions as time progresses? How will this growing complexity of meshed versioning deal with the introduction of new bugs – for example, if IE7 original breaks because IE7 within IE9 has introduced a new bug? And, ultimately, if its either about once again suggesting we lower the bar for the lowest common denominator OR that its about Microsoft’s ownership of the web somehow through market share then I’m very cautious. And for good reason. This company is quite capable of suffering a financial hit in rebuilding from the ground up for IE8.
I do get the argument that the DOCTYPE is broken. But bad authoring will always be an issue in web development and whether we have a new switch or not then ultimately we’ll be back at square one eventually. Or am I wrong? Am I just plain dumb in the pants wrong?
Because what will your default WYSIWYG editor insert in that meta tag for its template? What about in three years when there are several versions of that software pumping out templates? You see the more you think about this one the deeper the issue goes and the less this browser lock in makes sense. While it sounds simple its actually very far from it.
My recommendation isn’t to follow my opinion about this proposed new Internet Explorer feature. Its to send you off to read some more posts and comments that will lead you to even more posts and comments on the subject. Form your own opinion and sit down to think about it for a while. If you’re like me you’ll get a growing concern rather than a relieved one.
- Robert Nyman’s Version targeting in IE 8, and an alternative path for Microsoft
- Roger Johansson’s Standards mode is the new quirks mode
- Anne Van Kesteren’s The Internet Explorer Lock-In
- Drew McLellan’s Microsoft’s Version Targeting Proposal
- Russ Weakley’s Very Worrying Developments
- Molly’s Me, IE8 and Microsoft Versioning (added Jan 25th)
I somehow get this classic line in my head from my childhood in front of the television…
Danger, danger! Danger Will Robinson, aliens approaching!”