IE8 Passes Acid2 Test, Web Standards Project Dies of Shock

By Kevin Yank

Although he goes out of its way to downplay the significance of the event, there is no missing the sense of achievement in the words of Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch on the IEBlog today:

I’m delighted to tell you that on Wednesday, December 12, Internet Explorer correctly rendered the Acid2 page in IE8 standards mode.


The Acid2 test was developed by the Web Standards Project (WaSP) as a challenge to browser developers. In a single page, the test makes use of a broad range of features from several different web standards that developers have wanted to have in browsers for some time, and it uses them to display a deceptively simple smiley face.

The first browser to support the Acid2 test was Safari 2.0.2, back in November 2005. Since then, iCab and Konqueror have announced their own support. The current beta of Firefox 3 comes close, but isn’t there just yet. With this announcement, it looks like Internet Explorer may actually beat it to the punch!

At the time this post was published, the Web Standards Project’s web server had collapsed under the strain of traffic generated by this announcement, but thanks to the Internet Archive I was able to collect this list of new features that we can now infer will be supported in IE8:

  • displaying images with the <object> tag, which enables you to include richer alternate content than the <img> tag
  • CSS tables, which let you use table-based layout techniques without misusing HTML table markup
  • generated content, which lets you insert extra content before and after elements using CSS

These are all incredibly useful features that the other major browsers have supported for some time, but which have not been available for real-world use because of the lack of support for them in Internet Explorer. That’s all about to change. Support for CSS tables alone will be enough to drastically change real-world CSS page layout techniques, making them much easier to learn and use.

Microsoft is promising to release a beta of Internet Explorer 8 in the first half of 2008. The big question for web designers who will be hoping for swift adoption of the new browser: will it run on Windows XP, or require an upgrade to Vista?

As Dave Shea of the CSS Zen Garden put it, “Better bundle up, it’s a cold one in hell today.”

Microsoft has published a fascinating video record of the rendering of the Acid2 test in internal builds of IE8 over the past six months. The video also includes an in depth interview with Dean Hachamovitch and Chris Wilson. Recommended viewing with a few holiday warm-and-fuzzys from Microsoft.

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  • tuna

    Yay, some good news from MS for a change. Maybe they are really taking this standards thing to heart. The key to this is a high adoption rate. without it we are all lost a sea waiting a good few years to use the features or using forked CSS IE development as we cater for the older browsers. Cross fingers it runs on XP and he marketing Dept at MS don’t force it for Vista only.

  • Asa Dotzler

    Kevin, you’re wrong about Firefox. Firefox has passed the ACID2 test for the better part of a year in the alpha and beta releases and the latest beta release, Firefox 3 Beta 2 certainly does pass.

    You may have been told wrong by people who were experiencing perceived failures due to the test being broken. The test creators have promised to fix the flaw soon. But I’ll repeat, Firefox beta 2 does pass the ACID2 test fully.

    – A

  • mate

    I’m over the moon! Yay!!!!

    Of course, as Tuna points out, it will be a long time before we can forget older versions of IE, but one day we will be able to. It’s a start and better late than never.

    What an incredible relief.

  • woodsikov

    With significant proportions of users still on IE6 and XP it would be a mistake of enormous magnitude for MS to make IE8 Vista only … but that hasn’t stopped them before, has it?

  • mihd

    Hmm alot of people are eating their words this morning

    this should be interesting to opera and their non standard compliance eu “complaint” (ahem “lawsuit” to me and you, but they seem allergic to the word)

    great now all they have to do is ship it in few months and maybe 1-2 years down the road we can finnaly not have to worry about this css crap

  • XLCowBoy

    This is obviously Microsoft’s answer to Opera’s lawsuit, and the dev community’s complaints, all in one shot.

    For once, well done Team IE. You deserve a Merry Christmas.

  • mihd

    @XLCowBoy notice in the channel9 video it passes ACID2 in November and the devs keep mentioning it was committed few weeks ago and since then they were testing things

    but you right once the shit hit the fan this week they can no longer keep it quiet

  • jasongraphix

    Hey, I’m just excited that (for the majority of projects) we can ignore IE5 and below. For IE8 to pass the Acid2 test makes me ecstatic. The course MS is setting toward standards and interoperability is ensuring for a much brighter future…and for now, a very Merry Christmas.

  • JB

    Yeah, well done for being last at the party, dragged and screaming like a little girl after your daddy BillG promised Molly that he’d make the bad Chris apologise… and see the FUD in the video about IE8 Standards Compliance mode that will be required for IE8 to render the acid test properly. Well let me see, that means that the build they showed us is way incomplete if you also need this extra flag to turn on True-Standards-Compliance-Mode

  • malikyte

    How is it incomplete if they built in multiple modes for it? One for standards compliance, one for backwards compatibility? Seems like it’s over-complete. Just like we have to cater to people still using IE5 on the Mac, Microsoft has to cater to businesses that developed their websites in Frontpage 3.0 and never upgraded. (I’m exaggerating here to make a point, in case you didn’t notice, but it is a very valid point.)

    I do like your imaginative metaphors though. :)

  • mrsmiley

    IE9 is code named Triton?

  • devberlin

    Wow let’s hope the other browsers will follow soon, so that noone needs to switch to IE.

  • XLCowBoy

    I read on Digg that standards mode switches on when you declare a doctype – exactly what should’ve been done ages ago.

    @mihd – I’m just about to view the video now actually. Didn’t know they passed it in November.

  • amessinger

    I read on Digg that standards mode switches on when you declare a doctype – exactly what should’ve been done ages ago.

    The Digg user was misinformed.

    I seem to have closed the tab that had the CSS Working Group e-mail archive in it, but there’s a discussion about this going on over there. Håkon Lie is needling a MS representative about the need to declare a special MS-proprietary standards mode switch rather than using DOCTYPE declarations like we’ve all been doing (or at least should have been doing) for years.

    One could argue that this isn’t all that different than the conditional comments that have saved time for many CSS authors, and I can see that perspective as long as this remains an IE-only thing. Unfortunately, the last time I checked (several months ago) MS was trying to codify this as part of HTML 5.

  • Darren884

    Wow I can’t wait!

  • peach

    I read on Digg that standards mode switches on when you declare a doctype – exactly what should’ve been done ages ago.

    Thats already how it works in ie6 and ie7, they have a ‘standards mode’ and ‘quirks mode’ for backward compatibility.

    This is awesome news btw!

  • jjpmarketing

    This is awesome news. I went from IE6 to Firefox 1.0 because I wanted to have multiple tabs. Then I went from Firefox 2.0 to IE7, because Firefox kept crashing all of the time because of plugins and I couldn’t load every single page in their browser, particularly banking sites. So I switched to IE8. I haven’t seen IE8 in action yet, but can’t wait to see the final release. I am hoping they make it like the Office 2007 interface. Once you get used to that interface, you kind of want it on everything you use.

    JJP Marketing Blog

  • sadara

    don’t be under any illusions: micro$oft does nothing from a desire to benefit users, nor out of respect for the obvious advantages of adhering to standards. if they’re making IE8 (more) standards-compliant, it will be ONLY because their profits are threatened.

  • The Tal

    Hello people,

    For me, IE8 or 9 doesn’t matter, I will continue avoiding this crap as long as I can, it’s still the best target for all spyware-adware-stupidToolBarWare and so… I use Opera 9 and Firefox and I’m really happy with them.

    But… at all it’s good for developpers to have a common rules set, less headaches :-)


    PS: sorry for my english, french motherthongue

  • dkeesler

    Regardless of one’s opinion of Opera’s lawsuit, at least they practice what they preach. Opera v9 already passes the Acid2 Test, and is the only release version [major] browser to do so.

  • jjpmarketing

    Those viruses you speak of, normally come from users going to adult sites/warez sites. They get spyware from those sites, and then click on those popups and download the viruse themselves. Viruses are an issue with the user, not the browser. Yes the browser could have some functionality built in to protect the user from these threats, but Microsoft can’t fix user habits. If you walk into a jungle carrying a big juicy gazelle steak… chances are you will attract lions… and probably get attacked. Same goes for computers and viruses. People think that they can just download any old thing off the internet and be safe. Have you seen the scary movies where people just open the door for the monster/villain? Once he is in there, he ain’t leaving without some big dramatic fight. Viruses are no different. If you open the door for the virus, you are just asking for trouble.

  • John Bowling

    So what’s useful about it when it’s restricted to Vista or possibly XP? I don’t use either. As a Linux user to avoid all the crap ware that MS and IE maintain an open door and welcome invitation for, I’m happy using open source browsers.

    As a web page developer, I HATE making a web page that does all kinds of weird stuff to try to make it work with all the stupidity IE has maintained over the years and versions.

    So any future pages I do will not do ANYTHING to make IE work. If it isn’t fully standard, the viewer can go elsewhere!

  • Ben Tudball

    About time! It has taken 3 years and IE8 will be officially released in about a year, so make that 4 years.

    Where is the built-in support for:

    Video element?

    Internet Explorer is still holding back the Web until it is up to speed with the rest of the A grade browsers.

  • Pancho

    Opera 9.5 beta (kestrel)is the best and fastest browser I ve seen…

    It renders satellite and radar weather Java loops much faster …

  • feketegy

    I think Microsoft should end support for ie6 and force those users to upgrade to at least ie7, because if not I think many problems will come in the developers community.

    Think of the many CSS stylesheets and hacks we will use to render a page correctly in all the major browsers ie6, ie7, ie8, firefox, opera, safari (at least).

    I think a good approach from Microsoft would be to shorten the support date for every major internet explorer…

  • Hal9k

    I’ll die of shock when IE 8 surpasses the level of penetration of IE 6 and 7 combined.

  • AlexW

    Those viruses you speak of, normally come from users going to adult sites/warez sites. They get spyware from those sites, and then click on those popups and download the viruse themselves. Viruses are an issue with the user, not the browser. Yes the browser could have some functionality built in to protect the user from these threats, but Microsoft can’t fix user habits.

    That’s like saying, “Sure, we sell front door locks, but if you’re going to live in a dodgy neighbourhood, we can’t be held responsible.” You can’t stop people from actively opening the door to hoodlums, but you can at least make sure the door doesn’t open with a mild shove.

  • scollins77

    I’m surprised iCab and Konqueror rate a mention as passing the Acid2 test, but no mention is made of Opera (my browser of choice!) in the blog post – as dkesler pointed out, they are currently the only major release browser which does pass the Acid2 test, and have done so for a while.

    According to

    Opera 9 passes the Acid 2 test, making it the second browser to do so, and the first browser for Windows or Linux/UNIX to pass. It is the only current browser available for download for all of Windows, Linux/UNIX and Mac, that passes Acid 2. The other browsers that pass are either tied to a specific operating system, or must be built manually.

  • foobar

    Those viruses you speak of, normally come from users going to adult sites/warez sites. They get spyware from those sites, and then click on those popups and download the viruse themselves. Viruses are an issue with the user, not the browser.

    I guess you’ve never heard of ActiveX; remote exploits aren’t just a user issue. Microsoft’s also to blame for their braindead handling of executables versus data files; every properly designed filesystem uses an executable bit in the file metadata to identify executable files, while MS filesystems rely on file extensions, and that’s hardly the only problem with their filesystem permission handling. If it wasn’t for the reliance on file extensions to identify executables, downloaded viruses would be completely impotent unless accompanied with effective social engineering attacks, significantly lessening their total impact potential.

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