Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "ie8"

IE8: Doesn’t Completely Suck

Ray Drainville

If you’re a web developer, you’re going to be interested in the fact that Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 has been released.

There’s a lot of good news: it’s passed the Acid2 test & supports CSS tables, making it the last major browser to achieve both of these. Apparently it’s also more secure than previous versions, although that has yet to be fully tested in the real world. Finally, it’s also faster than previous IE versions, although according to Computerworld, IE8 is still the slowest browser based upon SunSpider benchmarks. In my (very limited) experience, IE8 is significantly faster than previous versions—not dramatically so against Safari or Firefox, however—but more importantly I’m grateful that it hasn’t munged up any of my layouts!

What a difference a few years make: when IE7 came out, it’s only real competition came from Firefox (with Opera as well, of course). It’s now a very full field, with Safari & Chrome freely distributed as well. It’s really great to see such strong competition, and it has to be said that the IE team seem to have done a good job on the browser.

It remains to be seen what the new release will mean for IE’s declining market share; I can’t speak to that. For developers, IE6 was pretty odious & IE7 a bastard step-child of a browser, as it only made half-steps towards standards compliance. IE8 has removed support for HasLayout, the code that trips up most developers, including me.

But… the insta-reviews aren’t positive, and although they’re concentrating mostly upon installation problems, the centre of my concern lies in advanced standards support. There’s still a lot of room for improvement from a developer’s point of view. Whilst the other major browsers have passed the Acid3 test, IE8 still fails, and pretty miserably.

Just as important is the lack of CSS3 support. One might argue that CSS3 isn’t a full recommendation yet, but its development was modularised so browser vendors could start implementing portions as they were completed. And on this score, Safari & Firefox roundly beat IE8. I know I’d love to have multi-column & RGBa support across the board. Yet even if IE8 did support these, it’d be years before we could use them with confidence, that is until older IE versions finally dropped off the face of the earth The fact that the IE team haven’t supported them yet means the day is that much farther away.

Maintaining Older Browsers for Testing

If you’re like me, you’ll have multiple slices of Windows so you can test sites against IE versions. To not get tripped up & accidentally overwrite an IE6 or 7 install because of an automatic update, I’d suggest you install the IE8 blocker toolkit.

IE8 Lagging in Standards Support (Comparatively Speaking)

Ray Drainville

I don’t know how I missed this (well, I do, I’ve been ridiculously busy), but about a month ago Microsoft issued a statement about planned CSS standards support in the upcoming IE8. The good news is that CSS 2.1 support will be almost complete—good, but not great, considering that this standard is rather old now, as it’s been a “candidate recommendation since 2004”.

The bad news is the level of support for CSS3 elements. Look through that list & try to keep afloat in the sea of red “no”s that signify their CSS3 support—or lack thereof. Of course, CSS3 is still very much a work in progress and is unlikely to be a candidate recommendation for another decade, judging from the pace of “Last Calls” for various components of the CSS3 spec. Nevertheless, the developers behind Safari & Firefox have been implementing a lot of the spec. There’s some fantastic stuff in it (multi-column support! colours with opacity!), that I for one would like to use immediately—and which we do, on our own site & some others we’re currently developing. But for the foreseeable future, if you’re using IE, you won’t see these things.

Given the clusterfuck of discontent that was IE7, and that Safari & Firefox have cleaned their clocks with current & emerging standards support, one might think that Microsoft would take the opportunity to really push IE8 to be a 1st-class browser. But no, they’ve just decided to tread so softly, so slowly, that the net result will be that IE8 will be that much farther in the distance. I mean, IE8b has just passed the Acid2 test. Hooray. Safari & Opera have worked on complete compliance with Acid3—and have succeeded.

This sucks. There are fantastic things taking place in CSS, in particular CSS3—which you can experience right now in Firefox & especially Safari. And I’d like all my site’s viewers to be able to see these effects in action.