Håkon Wium Lie on Microsoft and Acid2

23 January 2008 by Matthew Gertner - Category: Rants and Ruminations

Last month, Microsoft announced to general astonishment that the upcoming release of Internet Explorer will pass the Acid2 test of standards compliance. They even went as far as to publish a video containing interviews with leading members of the IE team and a fascinating inside look at their Acid2 quest. And there was much rejoicing.

Folks were inevitably looking for clues that this might be too good to be true, and the brouhaha surrounding Microsoft’s plan for preserving backward compatibility in IE8 has provided them with ample fodder. Opera CTO Håkon Wium Lie has added his voice to the chorus in a guest post on CNet’s News.com:

Finally, it seems, Microsoft has decided to take Web standards seriously. Designers will no longer have to spend countless hours trying to get their pages to look right in Internet Explorer while adhering to standards. Unfortunately, I think that the celebration is premature. I predict that IE 8 will not pass Acid2, after all.

Håkon goes on to outline three possible scenarios to explain the seeming contradiction inherent in Microsoft’s two announcements. The first is that users will have to take explicit action in order to turn on IE8′s standards mode. The second is that web authors will have to take on this responsibility by modifying their pages in some way. Either of these would mean that IE8 would technically fail Acid2, which requires that browsers render the test page right out of the box. The third scenario would sidestep this with a hair-raisingly audacious hack, hardcoding the address of the Acid2 page so that IE8 would know that for this page, and this page only, it should default to standards compliance.

The article is a bit self-serving because Opera very publicly uses its superior adherence to web standards as a marketing tool. In a sense, they stand to lose were Microsoft to follow through with its promise to pass Acid2 (though Opera would obviously benefit in other ways). Håkon has a point, however. People want IE8 to respect standards so that web authors can use new specs with the confidence that their pages won’t break if visitors happen to be using the wrong browser. If Microsoft requires that users take any explicit action whatsoever, past experience suggests that almost none of them will, and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

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  • well

    Actually, if you look at Håkon’s article in light of the recent proposal, it all makes sense:


  • Jacob Rus

    It seems to me that Opera, like every browser, benefits if IE gets with the standards program, because developers then no longer have to go out of their way to support each browser separately, and Opera, Firefox, etc. can compete on features rather than on how well common pages render. That is, for the foreseeable future developers will make sure their pages work on IE, because it has dominant market share, so having IE render pages differently from everyone else puts Microsoft at a (short term) competitive advantage.

  • http://cork2toronto.blogspot.com Mark Dowling

    The ACID tests were a great paradigm shift since they represented a change in how compatibility was viewed. Previously, if IE did not render according to standards, there was no pressure on them to do so, rather the pressure was on other browsers and/or developers to work around the failings of IE.

    By accepting the need to pass ACID2 the IE team have in a way opened themselves to being required to pass future such tests. For that the Web Standards Project is owed a debt not just by users of other browsers but by IE users too.

    Still doesn’t mean I’ll use Opera though. I keep trying it and I keep on going back to Firefox.

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