Håkon Wium Lie on Microsoft and Acid2
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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