Sunday, September 7, 2008

IE 8 beta 2 compatibility

The upcoming version of Internet Explorer, IE 8, is now in public beta and can be downloaded from Microsoft's website to test out.

There are a ton of new features in this browser, and some are very useful, such as the Smart Address Bar and Tab Groups.

Microsoft explains that 'the Smart Address Bar in Internet Explorer 8 matches what a user types in the Address Bar with titles in the history as well as content in their favorites and feeds, making it easier to locate sites the user wants to visit.'

Tab Groups is a superb way to keep organised automatically: 'When one tab is opened from another, the new tab is placed next to the originating tab, and both are marked with a colored tab, so users can quickly discern which tabs have related content.'

Despite all these cool stuff, the big deal to me is that Microsoft promises IE 8 to be more standards compliant by default. This is normally thought of as a good thing, since the browser now adheres to web standards and thus is more compatible, but apparently this isn't the case.

With beta 2, users are reporting more compatibility problems viewing websites than with IE 7. Many websites will not render properly in IE 8 (such as Gmail), with misalignments and stuff which messes up the page. To solve this, supposedly, you can click on the 'compatibility view' button up next to the address bar to display the website as viewed in IE 7, which will correct display problems like misaligned text, images, or text boxes. This option is on a per site basis and all other sites will continue to display with IE 8 functionality. But even in this view, there are still bugs present and rendering mistakes!

This is very disconcerting to me, that the latest version of a browser is less compatible than the previous version. I really hope Microsoft figures everything out by the final release, and if need be, throw out a beta 3.

We all wanted standards compliant, and now that it is more standards compliant, is this really what we desire? I don't really know why being standards compliant ends up being less compatible, but my guess is that developers tend to put in IE specific code in their websites that doesn't run well in IE 8's default standards compliant mode.

This is so important for Microsoft... compatibility is one of the key fundamentals of any good browser. If it doesn't work right with sites, then people won't want to use it, no matter how many superb features it offers. Either web developers have to start getting rid of IE specific code in time for the final release... or Microsoft has to work some magic to make everything render right. I believe they will do so, but for now, this product is kinda half-usable and non-technical users should hold up downloading this first.

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