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Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8


In an effort to promote interoperability across the Web, Microsoft is now configuring the settings in Internet Explorer 8, to render content ? by default ? using methods that give priority to Web standards interoperability.

The evolution of the Web has necessitated that browsers such as Internet Explorer include multiple content-rendering modes ? both supporting strict interpretation of certain Web standards and also supporting behaviors designed to maintain compatibility with existing Web sites. Web site designers generally have the ability to specify which mode they are designing for; in the absence of specific instructions from a Web site, browsers are pre-set to use one of the modes by default.

Internet Explorer 8 has been designed to include three rendering modes: one that reflects Microsoft?s implementation of current Web standards, a second reflecting Microsoft?s implementation of Web standards at the time of the release of Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, and a third based on rendering methods dating back to the early Web. The newest rendering mode is forward-looking and preferred by Web designers, while the others are present to enable compatibility with the sites across the Web that are currently optimized for previous versions of Internet Explorer.

"IE8 has been significantly enhanced, and was designed with great support for current Internet standards. This is evidenced by the fact that even in its first beta, IE8 correctly renders the popular test known as ?Acid2,? which was created by the Web community to promote real-world interoperability," said Ray Ozzie, Microsoft chief software architect. "Our initial plan had been to use IE7-compatible behavior as the default setting for IE8, to minimize potential impact on the world?s existing Web sites. We have now decided to make our most current standards-based mode the default in IE8."

"This is obviously a complex issue, with important considerations on both sides," Ozzie said. "On one hand, there are literally billions of Web pages designed to render on previous browser versions, including many sites that are no longer actively managed. On the other hand, there is a concrete benefit to Web designers if all vendors give priority to interoperability around commonly accepted standards as they evolve. After weighing these very legitimate concerns, we have decided to give top priority to support for these new Web standards. In keeping with the commitment we made in our Interoperability Principles of being even more transparent in how we support standards in our products, we will work with content publishers to ensure they fully understand the steps we are taking and will encourage them to use this beta period to update their sites to transition to the more current Web standards supported by IE8."

"While we do not believe there are currently any legal requirements that would dictate which rendering mode must be chosen as the default for a given browser, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue," said Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel.


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