James O'Neill's Blog

August 30, 2008

IE 8 is coming: are you ready ?

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 12:59 pm

IE8 has features to please users, which makes me expect a pretty rapid uptake (Read Eileen for a user’s eye view of accelerators) .

We’ve also tried to remove the standards issues which annoy developers. Here’s the problem though. If you have diverged from official standards in the past, then what do you ? (a) preserve that difference for ever – so the product is always broken in the eyes of some, or (b) insist that "we have the biggest share of the market. What we do is the standard or (c) Fix it and know that it will break some things.
Path (b) is very "old Microsoft" behaviour, so let’s cross that one off the list straight away. We can have a compatibility mode to deal with the old stuff, but here’s another problem: HTML is HTML – how does a the browser know if it needs to be in compatibility mode ? The browser could tell which code would render differently in "standards" mode and "IE7 and prior" mode but which did the author intend ?

There are two solutions to this, one is that the user can toggle compatibility mode at will, and the other is that if you know pages rely on one of IE7’s "divergences" instead of correcting them, you can add a header to tell IE8 to go into IE7 emulation mode.

If you have externally facing web sites, and you’re not testing already with IE8, you need to start. Seriously. How many of your users do you want to annoy ? 1 in 50 ? 1 in 20 ? 1 in 10 ? How quickly do you think IE8 will get to 2% , 5%, 10%  share ?  If people see your pages breaking because you didn’t flag them, some won’t go into compatibility mode. They’ll just see the site is broken and wonder "for how long did they know a new browser was coming, and not fix this ? What does that tell me about their responsiveness  ?" 

What abut internal sites, ? Apart from the handy collection of links here that is ?  I had a mail this morning about what we’re doing internally

IT is actively testing all applications with the goal of providing timely and accurate information regarding compatibility. To find more information about which Line of Business (LOB) applications are supported and which are currently being tested, please go to {URL} for up-to-date information. The site will be updated continually by IT as additional applications complete testing

That’s very Microsoft IT. "Yes you can deploy it but be warned the apps still are catching up". So if you’re responsible for IT, what is your plan for IE8 ? Are you doing compatibility tests ? If you’re a theory Y company which lets users have some control over their software are you being pro-active in your role as trusted advisor and telling them what you’re doing and how long to wait before they can feel safe about using IE8 ? Or, if you’re a foot-dragging theory-X IT department which just tells people to be grateful for IE 6, then are you preparing your excuses for when a company bigwig demands to know why his children have better tools to get information from the web at home than he has at work ? (I always assumed those kind of people don’t read blogs. )


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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