More on Standards Compliance in Internet Explorer 8

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After the IE Team posted their intent and work on compliance to standards the debates have begun. Revelations have shown that the standards compliance is really an an option that would be invoked by a developer with a META tag or header using the value of  ‘X-UA-Compatible’. Now, IE 8 will have 3 modes:


  1. “Quirks mode” remains the same, and compatible with current content.
  2. “Standards mode” remains the same as IE7, and compatible with current content.
  3. If you (the page developer) really want the best standards support IE8 can give, you can get it by inserting a simple <meta> element. Aaron gives more details on this in his article.

There is much debate on how this will impact the Web, user experience, as well as how developers will program. There are interesting thoughts around all of them. What is most intriguing to me is that IE 8 is going to be standards compatible. With news like this, I can now test that a Web application conforms to a standard. The standard is now my guideline for my set of test cases. But really will it be a “set of test cases”? Quite possibly it could be only one: Load the page and validate that the page is rendered using “Best standards mode”. But hopefully the test wouldn’t even be of my concern, with the right Content Management System, the code will be compiled by a developer and the check will be done by the CMS before release to QA. Either way, conforming to standard lowers the risk of a browser compatibility dramatically.

Another interesting feature in IE 8 is the idea of “Version Targeting”. In other words

“The idea is that when IE10 loads up my IE7 page, it rewinds itself to act like IE7 did, all those years ago—no matter what changed in the meantime.”

What will “Version Targeting”, do to my browser compatibility testing list when IE 8 is released? My first impression is that it won’t slim my test list at all. For example, if you have a page that is coded for IE 8 and X-UA-Compatible, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will look good in IE 7 or in IE 6 since the code is targeted for IE 8. Using that same Web page (IE 8 and X-UA-Compatible), will the testing list shrink with the release of IE 9? It depends… Will the standards and the compliance to those standards change between IE 8 & 9? How many compliance to standard defects were in IE 8 and fixed in IE 9. If their were few defects and the standards didn’t change then the risk is low and you probably wouldn’t need to test both IE 8 and 9, just 9.

It’s too early to speculate and come up with concrete answers. The IE Team is still working through this stuff with themselves and the active community. But I’m happy to see their attention on the matter.

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