internet explorer 8 Released, Already Obsolete
Internet Explorer 8 has been officially released. Now it's time to download it and start seeing what it really does to your website or web application. For some, things may go smoothly, for others, not so much. Trouble is, IE8 may be new, but is it already obsolete?

A Little History

It was mid-December 2007 when Microsoft officially announced that IE8 would support key web standards. The first public beta that came out in March of the following year demonstrated Microsoft's commitment to standards. But they choose to do in a manner that did not "break the web".

With a Web Standards Project (WaSP - Microsoft Task Force) moto that said, "...enable (and encourage) interoperable web development, but don't force IE to break pages that work properly in IE today", Microsoft choose to develop three different modes of compatibility for IE8:

  • Mode 1: Quirks: This is the same mode that has existed since Internet Explorer 6. It continues to support content developed for older browsers like IE5.5. No changes to this mode will ever be made (intentionally).
  • Mode 2: Standards that are less than standard: This is the so-called "standards" mode of IE7. It's a start on standards, but does not really achieve fully standards support.
  • Mode 3: True Standards: This is the newest "standards" version of IE and the third mode. Some call it "super standards."

Beta 2 of the browser came available in September of last year with the promise of better security, reliability and privacy. And of course some cool new innovations that included: a smart address bar, accelerators, web slices and Feeds on the Favorites bar.

Is Your Site Compatible?

With IE8, Microsoft has striven to be more compatible with standards. But in doing so, they have also caused more than a few problems. And your site may be one of those with the problem. Late February we told you about the IE8 Incompatibility list.

This is a list of websites that don't render properly in IE8. This is a downloaded list and there's a version for XP users and a version for Vista users. The list is used by your IE8 browser to allow you to opt-out of viewing any website on that list in standards mode. There's also a button that allows you to add websites to the list.

What About Your CMS?

Now this list may be fine for public websites, but what about your internal web applications, including your Web Content Management System? Do you know if your Web CMS support the IE8 browser?

You will need to test carefully, both the front-end display site and the back-end admin site. Check with your vendor as well if they haven't already informed you of their solution's compatibility.

Organizations are traditionally slow to adopt new browser versions. Given Internet Explorer's history, this is with good reason. Many develop most of their applications for the web today and they need to be really sure these apps will continue to work in new browser versions.

Of course, IE8 does provide a metatag that help force it to emulate IE7, so this may encourage organizations to transition over a little faster.

New to You, But Obsolete?

So Internet Explorer 8 has finally made it to the big time, but some say it's just a little too late. According to Tristan Nitot, founder and chairman of Mozilla Europe, IE8 is already obsolete.

Why does he say this? IE8 does not implement three things that Nitot considers important browser functionality today:

Learning Opportunities

  • SVG: Enables drawing lines and shapes in your browser (it is used in Google Earth).
  • HTML5 Video tag: Enables native open video, without e.g. flash.
  • HTML 5 Canvas: Enables drawing on a screen and rastering images.

(Note: thanks to Rick Mans at CapGemini for providing some translation of a podcast for ICTRoddels, where Nitot made these comments on IE8)

A commenter on Rick Mans blog pointed out that IE8 doesn't have to offer some of this capability, because that is what Silverlight is for. Problem is, that's a separate install and it's functionality that other browsers implement natively.

IE8 does implement some HTML5 features though, as do most of the other browsers.

Is There Really a Browser War?

We can talk about browser "wars" until we are blue in the face. Mozilla, Safari, Google and Microsoft all working hard to make their browser the best. Each one has it's advantages and disadvantages, but is there really a war going on?

Despite what many may like, Microsoft's reign over the organization does still continue. And as of February they still hold 67.44% of the market overall, with Firefox trailing at 22.77%. Will IE8 help this lead continue for Microsoft? It's unlikely to hurt it.

As for it being obsolete. Well, Microsoft has not exactly been known for being first to the party. But they always seem to get there and stake out a prime seat. So maybe it's not so important to have it all right out of the gate.

You can continue to learn more about Internet Explorer 8 on their website. It is available for download in 25 different languages and there is a version for both Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista.