By Craig Buckler

Will Microsoft Implement HTML5 in Internet Explorer?

By Craig Buckler

IE HTML5Microsoft has remained suspiciously tight-lipped regarding their plans for HTML5 in Internet Explorer. Google, Mozilla, Apple, and Opera all consider HTML5 to be the future and are eagerly implementing facilities within their browsers. Google has even developed Wave, their new online communication system, using HTML5 technology.

Unfortunately, IE is the only mainstream browser that fails to provide rudimentary HTML5 support. Bruce Lawson’s article, Yes, You Can Use HTML 5 Today!, provides a solution but it relies on JavaScript so it’s not viable in all situations.

However, it appears that the Redmond-based software giant is finally examining the implications of HTML5. The following message was recently posted by Microsoft’s Adrian Bateman in a mailing list:

As part of our planning for future work, the IE team is reviewing the current editor’s draft of the HTML5 spec and gathering our thoughts. We want to share our feedback and discuss this in the working group. I will post our notes as we collect them so we can iterate on our thinking more quickly. At this stage we have more questions than answers but I believe that discussing them in public is the best way to make progress.

The post reveals some valid questions and criticisms of the HTML5 draft specification, although it’s unclear whether Microsoft has raised the issues directly with the W3C/WHATWG working group.

Microsoft are in no rush to implement HTML5, but perhaps that’s not surprising: it’s still a draft specification. Could HTML5 succeed without Internet Explorer? The browser’s market share may be dwindling, but how may developers would consider HTML5 if 60% of users were unable to use it?

Historically, Microsoft have followed standards — and even led them — but only when it’s to their advantage. They conveniently drop functionality if it’s a competitor to MS products such as Silverlight. I suspect HTML5 will make an appearance in IE9, but doubt Microsoft will ever be inclined to implement rich-media facilities such as the canvas, audio and video tags. We’re still waiting for SVG support!

Can HTML5 be a success without Microsoft’s full backing? Could HTML5 be considered a “standard” if it wasn’t implemented in the world’s most popular browser?

  • Personally, I think it’s more the other way around – SVG and the video HTML5 element are more likely to appear than the strucural elements of HTML 5.

    When MS implmements something, they implmenent it BIG, even if later it turns out to also be “buggly BIG”. Case in mind – when IE7 appeared, they fixed all known IE6 rendering bugs, including CSS related ones and PNG alpha transparancy. When IE8 appeared, they implemented CSS 2.1 completely (or at least, REALLY closely to completely; passing more W3C accepted tests from the CSS 2.1 test suite).

    Usually, as a reason for not implementing something, MS have various excuses, like
    1. “It’s not a standard yet”
    2. “It’s not a W3C standard – it’s only a de facto standard”
    3. “No one has implmeneted it yet, so it’s not going to be used by developers soon”
    4. “We have more important things to implement”.

    None of those excuses is applicable to SVG. SVG 1.1 Full has been a reccomendation for years (1 – check), it’s a W3C spec (2 – check), all browsers have implemented it at least to some degree (3 – check), IE8 imlpemented CSS 2.1, and fixed a few DOM issues too. The only “more important” thing that they need to implement still is DOM 2 Events, and for the event model in general to become equivalent to that of other browsers. That alone is too small for Microsoft… they’d want to implement something bigger, which is still important for developers (4 – check).

  • Chris Pratt

    I think you’re going to see a stark decline in IE usage over time if Microsoft doesn’t get in game. HTML5 is more than just the next iteration of HTML, it’s the first spec to provide a framework for building web apps on without having to resort to Flash to do the heavy UI lifting. Indeed, HTML5 almost obsoletes technologies such as Flash and Silverlight, and that’s attractive to developers.

    Already, you can see a marked decline in the one ever-present philosophy that my web app must work with any browser under the sun, with the rash of web apps dropping IE6 support. The rationale is simple: developers are tired of holding back both their apps and their users trying to retain support for a browser that still commands 25% of the market share, mind you. I see the same resentment carrying over to browsers that refuse to support HTML5, namely and solely, IE.

    Microsoft needs to wake up and realize that their browser market share is due almost primarily to it being the built-in browser for Windows, but that only works as long as your browser works with the web at large. It’s developers who have the true power here. If developers begin implementing HTML5 in mass, then Microsoft will have no choice but to join the pack or it’s users will ditch it to the curb so that they can still access their favorite services.

    Internet Explorer has held back the development of the web far too long, and it’s high time developers send a strong message that we, not Microsoft, are going to dictate where it goes.

  • curtismchale

    I think tactics like lacking support for HTML 5 because it conflicts with some of their own technology is what will continue to diminish the market share of IE. If they keep down this path we may not have to design for IE anymore.

  • What exactly have they refused to implement that conflicts with their own technology? I’m talking recently, not in the ‘browser wars’ days when the competitor was doing it as well…

  • Ultimatly they will however they’ll most likely take some time about it so that they don’t implement something that changes in the future. For eaxample Opera has implimented some HTML5 stuff, then the spec changed so some version of Opera now don’t follow the standard. This isn’t such a problem for Opera however MS only release a version of IE every year or two, so that’s a long time for the incorrect use of the spec to sit around and developers may just begin using the incorrect implimentation in favour of the standard, which is an even worse situation.

    Personally I think that MS is right to sit out a bit before they come in with their implimentation; however I do think it will be done (it might even be being worked on now).

  • Ah so NOW they join the party by reviewing the HTML5 spec after repeat requests over the past few years for their participation in the WHATWG.

    I don’t doubt IE will support HTML5… in a decade or two.

  • AndrewCooper

    Will Microsoft Implement HTML5 in Internet Explorer?

    Yes. I do believe they will, hopefully in Internet Explorer 9. The question we should be asking rather than your question is “Are Microsoft Developing IE9? If Not, When Will They Begin?”

    As noted above, Microsoft did later on implement all of the standards such as CSS 2.1.

    The first I hear of the Internet Explorer Development Team beginning development of IE9 and implementing HTML5 and other standards such as the DOM 2 Events I’ll be happy and content with the future of the Web.

  • I remembered a few more excuses I’ve heard over the years that MS uses for not implementing something… and they too are not valid for SVG, making it even more likely that we’ll have some SVG support soon.

    5. “There are not enough (convincing) use cases for this.”
    6. “There is low demand from developers about this when compared to other things they want us to implement.”
    7. “We risk breaking web site compatibility.”

    SVG covers many things that developers want to do by any means possible. Some, but not all, are covered by CSS3, which MS rightfully sets aside due to the fact no module is a recommendation yet. Things that SVG can do, among other things, include rounded corners, stretching images across the canvas (vector OR raster ones if you use svg:image), Flash like animation, and many more things that are essential for any good design today (5 – check). The number of requests and votes for SVG at the IE8 beta are practically tripled from the IE7 beta ones, and if the poor CSS 2.1 support was what Firefox fanboys used as their “primary weapon”, they now have SVG at this same position, despite the fact that Firefox doesn’t have that much great of a support either* (6 – check). DOM 2 Events appears as the secondary weapon, since that is the primary things developers face problems with, but have learned to work around. Since SVG hasn’t been implemented before in IE, there’s no way it could break existing web pages. Besides, we now have the X-UA-Compatible header just in case (7 – check).

    *Still, it has some support, which is indeed better than the total absence of SVG support in IE.

  • Tim

    Why don’t they just use Silverlight as the renderer for the canvas, video and audio tags? I’m sure they’ll find a way to make the rest of the Silverlight API available through those tags in the process as extensions.

  • Of course they’re not, yet. It’s an incomplete spec. You wouldn’t see car manufacturers installing incomplete technology in their cars, would you?

  • The HTML5 specification is incomplete but, realistically, no specification is ever complete. There are always issues to fix and improvements to make.

    In the early days of the web, MS did implement technology before the final specifications and they got their fingers burned (e.g. the box model).

    However, many of the structural HTML5 tags would be simple to add. The <header> tag is just another container and it’s been in the HTML5 spec from the start. One problem for MS is that HTML5 makes web apps easier, and web apps don’t need Windows to run.

  • Anon

    Beats me why the don’t just take the webkit rendering engine and bung an IE look and feel around it. It would save them a ton of development costs and keep them up to date with everyone else!!

  • Of course they’re not, yet. It’s an incomplete spec. You wouldn’t see car manufacturers installing incomplete technology in their cars, would you?

    I’m so sick of this argument! CSS2.1 only became a candidate recommendation (that’s two steps away from being a full recommendation, ie a completed spec) in April this year! But all the latest crop of browsers fully support it, even though it’s incomplete.

  • Beats me why the don’t just take the webkit rendering engine and bung an IE look and feel around it. It would save them a ton of development costs and keep them up to date with everyone else!!

    I like that idea a lot. I’m all for competition but sometimes when something is really that good (webkit), it should be the majority. Non developers don’t care how the browser was built, it’s all about the appearance. If it looks and feels like IE, then it’s IE. If it looks and feels like Safari, then it’s Safari. We developers are really the only ones taking into consideration how the internet works because that’s part of our job. Yea, there will probably be some developers and tech guru’s bashing MS for “selling out” but who cares?

    If MS used webkit not only will it save them time and money, it’ll save us time and money too. We’ll spend less time worrying about how our code works in IE and everyone will be happy :)

    Of course this is all a dream because MS has too much pride and I think the pressure and competition from all these new products/software and Google is already starting to cloud their judgment.

  • carlosbernal

    I have made accurate predictions with Standards and IE/Microsoft. Here’s my latest…

    First let’s get off the MS/IE bashing and just stick to promoting the best browser because it is not in MS interest to follow some obscure committee (W3C) that can’t make up it’s mind.

    HTML 5 will mostly likely not see the light of day because some new technology will change the paradigm again and make it irrelevant.

    IE will continue to dominate market share until there is a compelling reason for the average user to switch to an alternative so lets stop with the bashing and taking them to court.

    Chrome will over take Firefox due to new innovations among power users.

  • I’m not how excited I am about HTML 5 with the exception of video tags…

  • Pintar

    Just remember IE was the first to implement asynchronous calls using XMLHttpRequest. So if it weren`t for that who knows how long it would of been before we would of had AJAX.

    Also with IE being the default browser for Millions of people around the world. So if they started implementing all these new standards that keep on changing they would have to keep updating their browser which means more money spent on development and testing. Since they have so many different languages to support, testing costs alot. So they can’t afford implementing experimental features that continually change. It also means a lot of updates that have to be pushed to users. Users who actually don’t know(or care) what a browser is.

  • @Pintar
    Implementing HTML5 shouldn’t affect existing HTML or XHTML code — the DOCTYPE should control how the page is parsed and rendered.

    Unfortunately, if MS wait for HTML5 to become a fully-approved standard, it’ll never be added to IE!

  • Pintar


    I totally forget about doc types. So just forget what i said about all that. But the fact about testing still is a valid statement.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft did implement some HTML5 features into the next version of IE.

  • Let’s be realistic here – when are we going to reach the point when the majority of sites and apps are developed in HTML 5? Not for years and years, that’s when. So why would MS bother to implement it? Why does any vendor – because all the other vendors are involved in the spec process, so of course they have to, otherwise they’d look uninterested. MS on the other hand are clearly disinterested at this point, and rightly so. HTML5 is a blip on a blip – it’s not even close to being worthy of serious attention yet.

    What will probably happen is that MS offer lots of suggestions to the working group, which will be dismissed by its cabal, and so MS will “take their toys and go home”. And I don’t think thats a good thing (from either perspective). But it doesn’t really matter. Nor will it matter for many years to come.

  • Silvia

    “..although it’s unclear whether Microsoft has raised the issues directly with the W3C/WHATWG working group.”

    You are linking to an email on the W3C HTML working group (public-html). The WHATWG group is working independently from that, so, this feedback has gone straight to the W3C and not the WHATWG. The editor of the HTML5 spec, Ian Hickson, is taking input into the HTML5 specification from both, the W3C HTML working group and from WHATWG. Therefore, these issues will get addressed.

  • Just cos they hear them, doesn’t mean they’ll get addressed. You not had any dealings with with WHATWG I take it :-O

  • stelt

    @Craig Buckler , Google is ramming SVG into Internet Explorer, see

  • Brad

    Lets not forget how much money Microsoft is spending to go its own way and provide its own rich content. Expression, Silverlight, etc. IE will not go silently into the night. They may decide they don’t need HTML 5 and that you need them more.

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