By Matthew Magain

Microsoft Backflips on Browser Version Targeting

By Matthew Magain

Microsoft Does A BackflipI had to double-check today’s date when I loaded up the IEBlog this morning.

Once I’d confirmed that it in fact wasn’t April 1st, I continued reading, transfixed. Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager of Internet Explorer, had announced that Microsoft had changed their mind about browser version targeting.

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we’ve posted previously. Microsoft recently published a set of Interoperability Principles. Thinking about IE8’s behavior with these principles in mind, interpreting web content in the most standards compliant way possible is a better thing to do.

In addition to referencing Microsoft’s recent public commitment to interoperability, he also cited feedback from the community as a factor in the decision. He was careful to remind developers of the reasons why Microsoft were initially convinced that defaulting to IE7’s Standards rendering mode was the only option — a decision made in consultation with the Web Standards Project and leading figures like the king of web standards himself.

The fact that Microsoft have taken this decision signifies a couple of things:

  • That they take this interoperability business seriously. Making such a big scene about openness and standards is one thing, but to, at the same time, require that developers add proprietary tags to their markup in order to trigger standards mode was entirely hypocritical.
  • That the Web really is owned by the people — not Microsoft, not WaSP, and not A List Apart. The Web Standards Project might have decided that defaulting to IE7’s standards mode for time eternal was good enough, but thankfully enough members of the community voiced their concerns via comments, blog posts and articles like the one by Jeremy Keith for them to pay attention and reconsider all the issues at hand.
  • Wait — do you hear that sound?

    That, my friends, is the cries of joy being uttered by web developers all over the world — web developers who still remember how painful IE6 has made their jobs, and who were reticent and insulted at being asked to add a proprietary tag to satisfy one modern browser’s demands.

    Huge kudos to Microsoft for making the right decision. You can dance around like a monkey and screaming Developers, developers, developers! all you want. But it’s actions like this that make us stand up and listen.

    And in this particularly relieved developer’s case, applaud.

  • It’s not often I’d say this, but: Bravo, Microsoft!

    (Ballmer still scares me though)

  • Nathan-Kelly

    I agree with Simon…

    Its good to see that MS finally did the right thing for once, they’ve earned my respect.

  • Didnt everyone say what a great thing IE7 would be. Theres no point in saying ‘bravo’ microsoft until they deliver what they promised to deliver and Im not holding out on it.

  • Didnt everyone say what a great thing IE7 would be. Theres no point in saying ‘bravo’ microsoft until they deliver what they promised to deliver and Im not holding out on it.

    IE7 standards support was a huge improvement over IE6. Enormous. And if IE8 renders Acid2 (and it sounds like the IE team can truly boast that this is the case, given this announcement) then the leaps forward will again be worth waiting for. The very fact that Microsoft’s management have agreed that “interpreting web content in the most standards compliant way possible is a better thing to do” is a huge win for web developers everywhere (except maybe those poor sods maintaining web apps built specifically for IE6).

  • Php_penguin

    well being the cynical linux user, I can only ask :

    Did they plan this all along?

    If they had merely said “IE8 will render websites according to the most standards compatible way possible” from the start, people would be just “so what”? The fact that they were threatening to make development in the future a right PITA, and have now rescinded this idea only serves to gain them respect and gratitude for following Google’s mission statement (don’t be evil).

  • ionix5891

    ^^^ take your tinfoil hat off @php_penguin

    congrats to Microsoft for making the right choice! they really are taking us puny web developers seriously this time

  • Well, after picking my jaw up off the floor, I can only congratulate the IE Development Team for trying to make this possible. MS is sick of having it’s Ass sued and handed to it on a plate, hence the opening of source code and the attempt to comply over standards. It’s the development team that has to lever IEs spaghetti code into a standards compliant format, so big hand for them.

  • Sojan80

    Yeah! Congratulations to Microsoft and Team IE.

  • Congratulations Microsoft, keep it up!

  • jfejsa

    As a web developer I can only say this “ABOUT @#%^#$ TIME MICROSOFT”. Web development was a pain thanks to Internet Explorer (Microsoft) and few other browser.

    In the past it was like having to build separate roads for different cars because some car manufactures didn’t like to drive on the same road as other cars and since they also certainly didn’t like to follow laws and recommendations made by governing bodies and people of the world these roads had to be made of different material and shapes – it’s still not perfect but getting better.


  • Anonymous


  • Bert Farry

    This is great no more hacks in web pages to get it to work with IE. I know that there will be IE 6-7 still out there but the numbers will get smaller at least for the clients I work for.

  • Katalutys

    Anytime time anyone conforms to standards, it’s a win (whether they are liked or not). If you have had to code around issues, to get your message across in most browsers !!!! you know this is a very good step forward.

    Does this put us all on the same page!!! (now thta’s a scary thought). Cheers

  • akayani

    I know it is only beta one but… MS have bragged for months that they have passes Acid2. Reality is that this is a lie. They ‘almost’ pass Acid 2 as anyone who downloads the beta can easily discover.

    But for Acid3 their current score is 11/100. Firefox 3 Beta 3 and Safari 3 both score >55/100.

    Therefore it’s not the time to take the pressure off MS with kind comments.


  • Therefore it’s not the time to take the pressure off MS with kind comments.


    That makes the assumption that it was the constant finger-wagging and nattering that made them eventually sit up and listen. I don’t think there’s much evidence for that. They felt no reason to develop IE6 from 2000 to 2006 despite almost constant bollocking from all quarters. People had pretty much got bored or simply run out of breath by the time Microsoft decided that Firefox was threatening their market position and they needed to respond with IE7.

    If they were seriously worried about criticism, it would have been far easier to have kept their heads down and put IE7+ in the too hard basket. This thread is proof that doing something,… anything,.. will attract more stick than doing nothing.

    The most pressure you ever put on Microsoft was the day you installed Firefox on your Dad/Nanna/brother’s computer and showed them how to use it.

  • bockereyer

    Hear, hear!

    Some healthy competition never hurts.

    One thankful web designer/Firefox user.

  • Amazing, that’s all I can say. I did *not* see Microsoft rolling over on this issue.

    I do wonder if they might now be succumbing to a tiny bit of ego? With IE7 (and IE8 to come) they’ve played catch-up like a champ, surpassing the expectations of many web-standards pundits. It looks like they have the ambition to thunder into pole position in the standards game, which undeniably would be the biggest bloody nose they could possibly hand out to the upstart Firefox. And, dare I say it, it’s beginning to seem like the IE team have the skills to achieve it as well.

    Watch this space! The next few months are going to be dramatic.

  • wolfear

    Do I think this is a good thing?…most definitely.
    Does MS deserve all this patting on the back and love fest? way.
    MS pundits and trolls will be raving now trying to convince us that MS really is going to live up to their promises.
    Putting in a new washer to fix the IE faucet doesn’t stop up all the other holes in the MS plumbing.

Get the latest in Front-end, once a week, for free.