Microsoft reverses IE8 compatibility decision

On Monday, Microsoft announced from their IEBlog that they were reversing their decision for how Internet Explorer 8 would be compatible with Web pages designed for Internet Explorer 7 as well as Internet standards. You may recall that earlier this year Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer 8 in "Standards Mode" would actually be rendering pages in Internet Explorer 7's "Standards Mode". If you really wanted to have IE8 follow the latest standards then you would need to insert a special tag to your pages.

While developers and users expressed opinions on both sides of the issue, I think it would be fair to say a large number of people were not happy with this decision. In my own comments, I stated that "this is just plain crazy" of a move by Microsoft as it held onto ideas of the past and not the present. In a March 3, 2008 post, Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8, the IE team explains what you can expect with IE8 compatibility based on their changed decision.

Now, IE8 will show pages requesting “Standards” mode in IE8’s Standards mode. Developers who want their pages shown using IE8’s “IE7 Standards mode” will need to request that explicitly (using the http header/meta tag approach described here).

While the feedback from users was one of the driving forces for Microsoft to make changes in their plans for IE8 compatibility with previous versions of IE, it wasn't the only reason. In the past months, Microsoft has been making some changes at the strategic planning level for their products to become more "open" and interopertable with third-party applications. Why is Microsoft doing this?

Despite the law suits of the past two decades trying to nudge Microsoft to play better with it's competitors, I don't think the courts is the only reasons for Microsoft's change of heart as others have suggested. My guess, is that for Microsoft it now just makes perfect business sense for Microsoft to introduce better interoperatbility in their products. Microsoft is seeing the writing on the wall where many businesses now see it as a disadvantage to implement single propriety solutions in their IT shops.

Whatever the motives behind Microsoft's decision, it appears that Microsoft's new Interoperability Principles is having an effect on how Interent Explorer 8 is designed and built.

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.

We think that acting in accordance with principles is important, and IE8’s default is a demonstration of the interoperability principles in action. While we do not believe any current legal requirements would dictate which rendering mode a browser must use, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue. As stated above, we think it’s the better choice.

What are these Interoperability Principles? The four new interoperability principles and corresponding actions Microsoft says they will be following:

  1. ensuring open connections
  2. promoting data portability
  3. enhancing support for industry standards
  4. fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities

So we close by saying "thank you" to Microsoft for listening to their customers and following more open principles. Yes, I know some of you will claim that Microsoft still can't be trusted...and you may be correct. However, I say that if you want to take up the right to complain about a company, you also need to responsibility to give kudos when that company properly responds to your complaints. This is a good decision by Microsoft.