Good news, everyone: There are merely 2,000 high-traffic Web sites that aren’t compatible with Internet Explorer 8, according to MS. That’s down from over 3,000 last year. Well done! But…wait…isn’t this argument back-asswards?
The news emerged on a Microsoft blog yesterday, a piece that sets out the various tricks and tropes of the open standards compliance IE8 observes, and which Web sites you need to use IE 8’s new “compatibility mode” to get to render properly. To help you navigate this complex Web of intrigue, MS has even provided an infographic that makes a map of the human nervous system look pretty simple by comparison. I’ve not reproduced it here, because this is kind of my point: IE 8 got some industry support for MS when it rolled out because it was much more Net standards compliant than previous versions of the aging monster that is MS’s browser of choice.
But with so many big-shot sites still clearly incompatible with IE–surely this is Microsoft’s problem? Not so, according to the strange way MS is spinning this news. While it’s been improving IE to be more compatible, MS is clearly putting the onus on Web developers to tweak their code to be IE-friendly … and damn the open-standards consequences. Way to re-purpose the PR, Microsoft!
On the other hand, there’s a certain ring of familiarity to this story … is anyone else thinking about the Apple iPad/Adobe Flash fiasco? Apple, like MS, has a behemoth product (the iPhone, and soon the iPad) which is openly flaunting something other developers consider as standard–Adobe’s Flash. In the case of Steve Jobs versus Adobe, though, the apparent intention is to force the Web to ignore a proprietary, buggy piece of code that maintains its high user-penetration simply through inertia, rather than its own innovative benefits. At least, this is how Steve would like us to think. MS’s spin regarding IE8 is, on the surface, something similar–its browser is the Net-surfing world’s leviathan … and it would like the Web to comply to its vision of the future. Hmm.
While the Web coders of the world may take issues with either of these stances, the average Net user is the person who’ll be exposed to the problems more often than not. For one of them, Joe Public finds difficulties with Web-page rendering, and faces technical tweaks to get it to work. For the other, Joe gets missing Flash-based Web content, which exhibits as a empty spaces when surfing the Web on an iPhone or iPad. I suspect Joe’s opinion will become increasingly important for both MS and Apple.