Surprise of the year: IE8 will use Standards mode by default

When I woke up this morning and checked my RSS feeds I had to rub my eyes and look again. Was I still asleep and dreaming? But no, I was awake, and what I saw reported from multiple sources is that Microsoft has reversed its decision to make IE8 behave like IE7 unless specifically requested.

Wow. I didn't see that coming. And even more surprising is their reason for making the change. In Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8 on the IEBlog, IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch says:

In light of the Interoperability Principles, as well as feedback from the community, we're choosing differently. 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).

And in a press release titled Microsoft Expands Support for Web Standards, Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie states that

there is a concrete benefit to Web designers if all vendors give priority to interoperability around commonly accepted standards as they evolve

No, I'm not making this up.

It seems like Microsoft actually listened to the developer community, which is so surprising to me it hasn't quite sunk in yet. As a standards-advocating web developer I have become so used to Microsoft completely ignoring the needs of myself and my fellow standardistas that I could never have imagined them changing their minds on this.

And it doesn't stop there. Dean Hachamovitch goes on to say that:

Long term, we believe this is the right thing for the web. Shorter term, leading up not just to IE8's release but broader IE8 adoption, this choice creates a clear call to action to site developers to make sure their web content works well in IE.

And Ray Ozzie hints at better education for developers who do not use web standards:

we will work with content publishers to ensure they fully understand the steps we are taking and will encourage them to use this beta period to update their sites to transition to the more current Web standards supported by IE8

Sounds great. Thanks for listening!

I hope that this new focus on web standards and interoperability also means cleaning up the horrible, stinking, inaccessible piles of code that are regurgitated by products like MOSS and Visual Studio. I also hope that it means educating Visual Studio cowboys to use and understand web standards.

Posted on March 4, 2008 in Web Standards, Browsers