Doctype switching for IE 8

So. A few weeks have passed since the version targeting Microsoft will introduce in IE 8 was made official and I posted my initial thoughts in Standards mode is the new quirks mode. I've had time to read many articles and hundreds of comments that discuss version targeting, and have thought some more about what it means and what I think about it.

After that thinking, my initial reaction holds: I don't buy it. It doesn't matter how many arguments in favour of version targeting I read, it still seems so utterly and completely wrong that standards aware web developers will have to opt in to opt out.

I think version targeting as it has been presented is an incredibly bad idea to force upon the minority of people in the web industry who have a clue and work hard to stay updated. If the switch was reversed, i.e. you'd have to insert the meta element if you wanted IE 7 rendering, it would make a lot more sense to me. If your site breaks in IE 8 and you can't or won't fix it, just insert a meta element and the problem is gone.

The argument against reversing the switch is that the clueless are too clueless to ever find out that there is an easy way for them to force IE back to IE 7 rendering. That may be true, but why should we let people who refuse to keep their skills updated get away with it?

Make doctype switching stricter

An idea that makes much more sense than forcing standards aware developers to opt in to opt out was put forward in WaSP Round Table: IE8's Default Version Targeting Behavior. The idea is to keep using the doctype to switch modes, but require a strict doctype with a full URL for standards mode. I like that.

I don't have any statistics to back it up, but my gut feeling is that most of the sites that accidentally trigger standards mode today (and would be most likely to break in IE 8) have either a transitional doctype or an XHTML 1.1 doctype. So unless there are statistics that prove that theory wrong, why not simply let the absence of a strict doctype (HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0) be what makes IE 8 pretend it's IE 7?

I believe that many of the people who argue against the version targeting switch would say "Yeah, that seems like a good idea, let's do that." I know I would.

Realistically though, I doubt it matters what you or I think or say. In the end we'll all have to do whatever Microsoft tells us to do. Either that or keep pulling our hair out while dealing with CSS and DOM bugs in IE 7 forever.

Posted on February 25, 2008 in Browsers, Web Standards