Big Questions On IE8’s Big Progress

So IE is the first browser out of the gate to do something sane about rendering engine locking to content…and good on them for it.

Now we need to know a couple more details to see if it’s going to have real legs:

  • What is the precedence for resolution of conflicting rules? If the compatible rule is provided as an HTTP header and as a meta tag, which wins? If multiple tags occur, is it first or last wins?
  • If a rule is provided that ignores IE (assuming other renderers follow suit), and a subsequent meta tag shows up which specifies a rule for IE, will IE handle it correctly?

    For instance, if the following occurs in a document:

    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="FF=3" />
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" />

    What policy will IE use?

  • Will there be any way to specify the box-model behavior on a sub-page basis?
  • Will the IE 8 rendering engine now be distributed to users of the IE 7 chrome, invoking itself only when the right meta flags are thrown? And what is Microsoft’s policy toward distributing renderers now that they have logically cut the chrome/renderer chord?
  • Where will you be standardizing this convention? When?

These questions need to be answered, and soon. If the IE team has just replaced one scarce resource for another, we’re not much better off over the long haul. It’s great news that the IE team is really implementing the “renderer selection switch” which many of us have dreamed of for so long…but having it continue to be global to the page or in other ways encourage contention on yet another single element in the document wouldn’t be stepping forward enough.


  1. Posted January 23, 2008 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I agree, I’d like to see a little more detail on how this is actually going to work too. I’ll be starting to use the new tag immediately – I don’t see any reason not to.

    I hope that in addition to the meta tag they require a valid page before triggering IE8 mode. More on my thoughts on why that’d be good for everyone on my blog post, as I don’t think you’d appreciate such a large tangent of a comment:

  2. kL
    Posted January 23, 2008 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think its sane. We would have IE7 bugs gone after IE7 is gone. Now we’re stuck with them forever (because you can’t seriously count on everyone knowing about this tag, caring to insert it or using tools/CMS that adds it).

  3. Posted January 24, 2008 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Personally I’m very split about this. I’m very concerned that with IE9 they would realize that people that use IE=edge will scream and shout that the pages that they have written working around and making use of IE8 bugs will no longer work as they expected and Microsoft would then add a IE=edge-this-time-I-mean it… where will this mess end?

    Matt: Re validation… see below… :-)

  4. Posted January 25, 2008 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    @ Erik

    Indeed I saw below. It makes a nice point about whether standards matter right now or not (did make me grin). But it’s not pro-active in getting the web sorted out, and as the entire debate is about making things better for the future…

  5. Posted February 11, 2008 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with your post, MS needs to clarify. I think, that the HTTP-Header will overrule the Meta-Statement, as well as X-Robot Tags overrule other Metas. So your first question can be answered with “HTTP-Header overrules Meta” – quite sure about that

  6. Posted February 16, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Ugg. I moderated a comment wrong.

    Alex Mogilevsky wrote:

    Great questions, and I really hope more people and products get serious about adding information to web content that tells the browser what is the proper way to render it. Now IE8 vs. FF3 may look like an enormous difference, but think of what software will have to do 10 year, or why not 100 years from now… Considering the range of content sources that will exist then, just being pointed at a date range of a couple of years is a blessing!

    In fact, the more we know about a page the better. The whole idea of a version tag comes not from a page being “tied to” a browser but rather being “tested with”. It is fine to specify any number of platforms and versions, the browser should choose the best it can render.

    That of course means meta doesn’t “overrule” http header. Both apply.

    Will it be a standard? I think it should. If it does become a standard it may very well look different from “X-UA-Compatible” – we arrived to that one having constraints of maintaining valid HTML under current standards and being friendly to legacy tools… But of course for being a standard it needs a broad acceptance from multiple companies. Let’s see how fast it gets there…

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  1. By » Blog Archive » links for 2008-01-24 on January 24, 2008 at 12:20 am

    […] Big Questions On IE8’s Big Progress Good practical questions. Good to remember that the IE team isn’t doing this because they hate you, they’re doing it because they think it will be useful. Whether they’re correct or not remains to be seen… (tags: ie8 renderlock x-ua-compatible) […]