Internet Explorer Drama… 9.0!

With the latest IE9 announcements, designers and developers have been going mad with what one might call Internet Explosion.

Stuff like the following: (not real quotes; just paraphrasings)
“No!!11 Just stop developing IE!”
“Only Acid3 score of 55/100? Other browsers did that YEARS ago!”
“It’ll be five years behind!”
“We’ll have to support FOUR browsers!”
“Why don’t you use webkit; Trident is dead.”

People are proving to be extremely closed-minded about IE. What I find very ironic is that a lot of them say things like, “MS, stop developing IE!”
That happened. They stopped after IE6, right at the end of the Dark Ages. And you see what life became?

About five years later, they picked up the pieces and race to bring IE into the future. IE7 is still annoying, but IE8 (released in early 2009) is a perfectly good browser for its time. IE9 should be competitive, with basically everything being clamoured for today.

A few misconceptions

There have been a host of ill-conceived arguments. I’m just going to list every correction I can think of:

  • Acid3 has little to do with compatibility. It tests edge cases, in a sort of wish-list for developers. It can be important for high-level cross-browser online applications, but you really wouldn’t tell a difference between browsers in a regular web-page.
  • Firefox has historically had a fairly ‘low’ Acid3 score, with 71 in Fx 3.0. The Firefox team has even said something like, “We aren’t going to bend over backwards for it, because it’s not really what we’re aiming for.”
  • IE8 is soaking up both IE6 and IE7; and you don’t have to ‘support’ IE8 in the same ways as IE6 and IE7, any more than you have to ‘support’ Firefox or Safari or Chrome. Things tend to test pretty well in them, by default. IE9 will be similar.
  • There is a non-negligible percentage of users on Firefox 2, Firefox 3, and Firefox 3.5. Nobody is complaining about supporting four different versions of Firefox. Thankfully, Fx2 is almost dead.
  • Even two years ago, CSS3 was nearly unheard of, and nothing had HTML5 features. Now a browser with border-radius and HTML5 video is five years behind?
    The things we’ll be deciding in the next year likely won’t find their way into the final release of IE9; but CSS3, HTML5, SVG, and various other standards we never ever expected to find in IE are already there, with more to be added. It’s coming along.
  • Actually, IE9’s current compatibility score, as counted by the When Can I Use charts, is similar right now to Firefox 3.0’s July 2008 release — less than two years behind, in the context of every toy we’re asking for as developers.
  • Trident is fine. When we speak of the Trident layout engine today, and we’re talking about IE9, then we’re talking about Trident in IE9, and that’s a perfectly fine engine. Overall, it’ll be lacking some features, but will not be holding itself together with duct-tape and paper-clips. There’s a difference.
  • As a company, Microsoft has gone through some huge changes in its history. The Internet Explorer development team isn’t the same team who gave us IE6. Don’t harass them (the development team) for things they couldn’t have possibly helped.

Almost every current browser team has its demons to face. IE is no different, but we should look to the future with optimism. Help where we can, and condemn where we must, but don’t frivolously argue about things that aren’t relevant to today.

And maybe help IE6 along by preaching Progressive Enrichment, hmm?

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