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Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Dave!If you're viewing this site in Internet Explorer 8 it might appear messed up. Or so I've been told by a half-dozen people.

Needless to say, I may die of un-shock. Microsoft has been screwing up the internet for a decade so why should they stop now? Oh well, from what I can tell everything looks fine in Safari, and Firefox, and Opera, and even my frickin' iPhone... so I guess it's something IE-specific. Yet again. I jumbled a few things around that I though might be suspect, but won't have time to thoroughly check into the problem until next week.

In the meanwhile, I guess my blog will just have to look like crap in the latest Internet Explorer fiasco...

Browser Render

A lot of people are asking themselves why in the hell Microsoft cant make a standards-compliant browser after seven revisions. Web standards, after all, ensure that everybody sees the internet the same way. At this point I think it's safe to assume that it's not because Microsoft can't make a standards-compliant browser... they just don't want to make a standards-compliant browser. They just don't give a shit, and are once again using their massive market share to dictate that everybody look at the internet the Microsoft Way.

This is rather obvious when running the Web Standards Project Acid 3 Test, which has been out for over a year. Internet Explorer 8 returns a score of 20 out of 100. EPIC FAIL...

Acid3 Test in IE8

Apple's Safari browser passes just fine...

Acid3 in Safari


Acid3 Test in Mobile Safari

I mean, seriously, what does it say for Microsoft when a PHONE is better capable of surfing the internet than their browser? And it's never going to stop. Microsoft will continue to screw over web developers just because they can. Internet Explorer is the de-facto browser for bajillions of Windows users, which means more hacks, work-arounds, and kludges (not to mention untold hours of frustration) for anybody who wants their web pages to be seen properly by a huge chunk of people.

And don't even get me started on how Microsoft wants MS Word to dictate how we view email.

I need a cookie.


  1. ssp says:

    I am not a big fan of MSIE (even though one is tempted to think I’d love it as half the money I get for web design seems to be earmarked for making things work down there – but I consider that compensation for the pain and suffering rather than the real work) and I’m surprised by your findings. When checking a wide range of non-trivial designs I couldn’t find significant mistakes in IE8’s renderings, getting the impression that it’s the first in the family to be worthy of the 21st century.

    And so what about those Acid tests. Haven’t those developed into a wanking ground for geeks? Particularly Acid 3 which doesn’t do anything meaningful for people who don’t use JavaScript? Is Safari 4 with JavaScript turned off a POS? Or lynx?

  2. Dave2 says:

    Wanking ground for geeks?

    No, I really don’t think so. Acid 3 is a legitimate test for modern browsers which uses web standards to ensure that web developers can create dynamic sites which can be counted on to function properly and consistently for everybody, regardless of platform or browser. Without tests like Acid 3 pushing the boundaries of what we can do with standards, we’re going to be forever tied to plug-ins like Flash to build websites which require complex interactions demanded by the modern internet. This is catastrophic, because it relies on Adobe to ensure Flash is released for all platforms (it isn’t) and run well (it doesn’t, running like shit on every platform except Windows).

    Since modern web standards include JavaScript in their model, Safari would only be a piece of shit if Apple didn’t include it… but they did, and if a user wants to turn it off, that’s their problem. Is a Ferrari a piece of shit for night-driving if the operator refuses to turn on the headlights? As for Lynx, how can one consider it a piece of shit when it isn’t a modern browser that was never meant to work with anything except text? That’s like saying a toaster is a piece of shit because it can’t forecast the weather.

    We need cutting-edge web standards to keep moving us forward in a way which guarantees a free internet for everyone. If you’re happy that Internet Explorer can display “non-trivial designs” properly, that’s great, and I am happy that Microsoft is improving. But this says precious little to those of us who are wanting a lot more out of the modern web browsing experience. To those of us who want to be able to create or use sites which allow complex and immersive interaction… OR JUST WANT TO PLAY A FRICKIN’ VIDEO WITHOUT A PROPRIETARY PLUGIN… Microsoft’s non-compliance attitude towards web standards is getting in our way and making the internet worse-off because of it.

  3. John says:

    “…they just don’t want to make a standards-compliant browser.”

    Nail. Head.

  4. whall says:

    Clearly you hold a private company to standards that are too high for such a company to meet. Therefore you must be for government takeover of this enterprise so that they can be made to conform to everyone’s standards.

    They are, after all, too big to fail.

    (I wonder if the writers of acid2 and acid3 hate Microsoft. Pretty convenient that Apple’s two products score the highest. and acid3 tests html5 which isn’t even ratified yet, so is MS supposed to wait for the standards board to get their act together when they have millions of enterprise customers who need certain features now? And Office XML (and VML that goes with it)was ratified by standards board in 2006 but IE, who supports that, gets points knocked off for not using SVG.)

    You know what happened last time Microsoft decided to bake in non-ratified draft standards into their web browser? Yup, IE6. I’m pretty sure IE6 lies on your hate graph somewhere between Pat Robertson and Bill O’Reilly. So MS puts in these draft features because they think that people want them and BAMMO the standards get changed from underneath them, but it’s too late – they’re already baked in because of the complainers. This time, they’re taking a more cautious approach and being consistent with what they support, some arbitrary ACID3 “test” or not.

  5. Dave2 says:

    IE 6?!? And you accuse ME of bringing up irrelevancy for an argument! I’d say that it was the IE 6 fiasco which made Acid 3 necessary, but whatever. 🙂

    I still think you are missing the entire point here. If Microsoft were to work together with other browser manufacturers to come to an agreement as to how browsers would function (i.e. Acid 3 or something like it), all of this would be moot. But any effort Microsoft has made has been half-hearted at best, and they have made it quite clear that they will not support anything that infringes on their proprietary technologies… like video, which would conflict with their Silverlight technology. So back we go to the dark ages of plug-ins and other crap that keeps us mired in a broken internet.

    If Microsoft wants to add on proprietary stuff to their browser for enterprise use or Windows support, that’s fine… but the base browser should be able to support common standards that are being established for the modern internet. You can defend Microsoft all you want, but other browser makers are doing just fine in achieving a goal that Microsoft doesn’t care to even try for. In this regard, you’ve got it backwards… Acid doesn’t hate Microsoft, Microsoft simply doesn’t care about Acid. Acid 3 was released over a year ago and Safari’s ability to render it properly was no accident… Apple’s browser team worked hard to make it happen because developing common standards is important. Whine all you want about HTML 5 not being ratified… it makes no difference if it is ratified or not. Microsoft will continue to do whatever it wants to do because it can. What’s so stupid is that if Microsoft HAD worked toward the Acid 3 goal that everybody else is working towards, the stuff it contains WOULD BECOME STANDARD BECAUSE THEN EVERYBODY WOULD BE USING IT!

    Make no mistake, I praise Microsoft for making a better effort to comply with standards in IE 8 than with any other version (and their implementation of version targeting will be a big help for all of us) but it isn’t enough. Acid 3 is only arbitrary because Microsoft decided it was. Unfortunately, Microsoft controls how the majority of us view the internet, so you’re right… arbitrary it is.

    Apparently it’s Microsoft that’s too big to fail. Even when they do.

  6. Hilly says:

    How funny that Safari for Windows only got a 75/100. Apparently Windows fucks everything up. 😉

  7. Dave2 says:

    Odd. Are you using Safari 4 that was just released?

  8. Hilly says:

    I stand corrected! I upgraded to Safari 4 for Windows and got 100/100. Plus, this browser is awesome!

  9. martymankins says:

    I’ve yet to install IE8 on any of the virtual machines I have. I know I need to just to see how my blogs look.

    But even still, IE6 and IE7 still have errors on my blogs, granted in the smallest of places, but they are there. And it’s not even trying to do anything special. But yet Firefox and Safari don’t seem to have these issues.

    You know there is something special about a browser when you have to include special commands and settings so your web site displays correctly in it.

    I would think across the board standards would mean something to a company like Microsoft. Obviously, they don’t since they were late to the internet game at the beginning of all this and have been coasting on the pure fact that they still command the biggest lead of browser use.

    Keep coasting Microsoft. Just ignore those whooshing sounds from Firefox and Safari in the next little bit.

  10. ssp says:

    I think you’re overstating these things, Dave. Of course it wouldn’t have hurt anybody if IE8 supported Acid 3, 4, and 5000 and it’s surely a nice idea to push the limits of implementations but it’s just not _that_ important. The issue here being that sites which require the fancypants scripting features tested in Acid 3 will need an alternative implementation anyway to serve people who cannot use the latest browsers or appreciate their capabilities. As we know from Flash driven sites, most web site creators simply don’t bother providing such alternative versions.

    Interactive web sites are still very young. While they may be the way forward, even obvious issues like bookmarkability or accessibility remain huge unsolved issues for them and it seems like people will need to learn a lot more before a reasonably good solutions for such issues become commonplace.

    I don’t think your ‘point’ about watching films is any point at all. Plug-Ins are a great idea for web browsers. They reduce the effort for creating a browser to focus on the structural rendering of the page while leaving the rendering of specialised content types to software that’s good at it. If there is a problem at all these days then it is that people think that Flash is a video player even though there’s stuff like QuickTime / WMV / VLC around that’s much better for video playback, but less homogeneously distributed. But all that is moot as there isn’t even a web standard defining video content. Let’s wait until HTML 5 is published and and see whether using a tag is feasible then. Particularly if your aim is to not exclude parts of the audience for technical reasons.

  11. Dave2 says:

    And I think you’re understating things, Sven. It is not only important… but highly critical… that these things be decided on as standards now. It doesn’t matter that not everybody can use the latest browsers, because we’re working towards the future here. Eventually everybody will be using these features, and for things to spin out of control with proprietary plug-ins and endless hacks and work-arounds is just not acceptable. You talk as if building for Acid 3 invalidates all the work that’s come before, and this simply isn’t true. Sites which don’t require the interactive features of modern browsers will still be able to access current content (whether sites actually provide alternative access to this content has nothing to do with the browser, but the site, just as it is now). Contrast this to the current model of building sites for plug-ins where if Adobe suddenly decided to drop Flash for the Mac, Mac users would be fucked. Flash isn’t some open standard that anybody can create tools to access, and that’s the problem. You talk about excluding an audience for technical reasons, what about excluding an audience for corporate politics? Any time one company decides who has access to information, the internet fails.

    And in saying that my “point” about video is no “point” at all, you’re talking as if video is some new technology that’s not a part of the internet and is going to happen far off in the future. I hate to break it to you, but video is everywhere on the internet right now. But you need Quicktime, Flash, Silverlight, Real, or heaven only knows what else to view it. To imply that the people behind all these various formats can’t come together and create a standard is absurd. Of course they can, but they won’t, because it all comes down to money and market share. To come up with a common format that would allow everybody access to video would mean giving up control of how people access information. Never mind that this is supposed to be the entire point of a free internet, there’s money to be made! But all that is moot, because there are plenty of smart people out there who are perfectly willing to come up with an open format for video on the web… but why bother if Microsoft won’t support it in Internet Explorer? You want to wait for HTML 5? Fine. But what then? What if the video format is perfectly fine, but Microsoft won’t support it because they can’t control it? Do we wait for HTML 6 and see if they will do it then? No. The stand has to be taken now. The convergence needs to be happening now. But so long as people continue to support and defend companies like Microsoft who wants to control what we do and how we do it, open standards for the internet are so much fantasy.

    Look, the last thing I want to do is stifle innovation of a key internet technology like video. So long as a company supports an open standard where free video can be accessed, then I’d be happy. They can pile on all the proprietary crap they want to allow for pay-per-view or higher quality or whatever fancy future technologies and features come along, but they have to support a common format first, and commit to continuing development of that format. Anything less is internet FAIL.

  12. Robin says:

    I agree with you 100% regarding internet browsers – it’s very frustrating to come to work and have IE not show a website correctly (we use the base model at work), then go home and not have an issue.

    To address Whall’s point, call me crazy, but this issue has nothing to do with big business or about Microsoft being too big to fail (this economy is proof positive that NOTHING is too big to fail…hello?!?!). As a matter of fact, to me it makes BETTER business sense and encourages competition, because at that point it would be up to the consumer to make the choice as to what browser they want to use – all things being equal – and would force the companies putting out the software to release working, non-buggy versions and provide excellent, competent customer service if the browser fails.

    But I digress….

    I was an IE whore for years until I discovered Firefox for Windows. I do believe that Firefox is a cleaner, less buggy browser to use – it hogs up less cpu resources and the customization is fabulous. And, if I recall correctly, the last 2 versions of IE were pretty much rip-offs of Firefox to appeal to the IE users that were switching over.

    I will try your acid test when I get home – but I already know what the test results are going to be….

  13. annie says:

    I agree with you Dave, 100%. It’s driving me crazy.
    Trying to design web pages for customers, that is a problem for me; the people I design for averages 99% using IE. I really try to make sure everything works in different browsers, and then I’m thinking to myself “Why?!” Ugh.
    If you tell people to use another browser besides IE, they look at you like you just spoke to them in a foreign language or ask that same question “WHY?” and if you explain and even install another browser for them, they won’t use it.
    And then yes! there’s the video thing – “The video doesn’t work!!!” Oy.
    Of course Firefox is OK, but I’m a hardcore Opera fan, and if i’m just going to cruise around the internet, it’s definitely faster. But I’m not going to sit here and extoll the virtues of one browser over another, except to say that IE sucks.
    How can we change the world?!

  14. i’m such a computer / tech challenged individual that i didn’t even know there were other browsers until adam insisted i download firefox. (or fox fire depending on how many cylinders my brain is firing on that day.)
    someone shoot me now. just don’t take away my blog.

  15. Poor Ty-man saw your enhanced photo of Jennifer Aniston and ran out of the house, waving his arms willy-nilly, and screaming “She’s a witch! She’s a witch!” I haven’t seen him since 9 AM this morning.



  16. I was looking forward to a pleasant read about drugs. So disappointed.

  17. Jeff says:

    I’m glad you said something. I tried the test on my Firefox but it failed miserably at 72%, but I was only at V3.0, so I just upgraded to 3.5 and now it’s much better at 93% – but still not 100.

    IE was just a garbled mess and it asked me about installing some Active X crap – which doesn’t surprise me because I never use it for anything.

  18. ssp says:

    As you already hint, Dave2, it seems unlikely that we will have any agreement on actual film formats for commercial reasons. Apple and Microsoft will continue to ignore anything they don’t own and the open source folks will have to reach for sufficiently free codecs and implementations. So it seems rather unlikely that people will agree on such a topic anytime soon.

    Video decoding is a difficult topic that requires a lot of research, development and programming. A lot of the software is still quite new and expensive. The well-understood free stuff only seems to be MPEG1. QuickTime already refuses to play MPEG2 out of the box and the majority of ‘free’ codecs seem to be some early versions of MPEG4. More recent stuff like H.264 seems to have all sorts of financial or ‘patent’ problems attached to it while the ‘open’ alternatives have even less traction (close to zero from what I can see). People living in the universes of Windows or ‘HD’ optical drives may even have gotten to know a few more powerful and restricted codecs.

    Requiring browser makers to ship a decoder with their browser to be standards compliant could easily kick many out of the game. Which I would consider to be a bad thing as Firefox taught us that competition is essential for development of browsers (by inspiring WebKit and lately by even managing to shame Microsoft into making a bit of an effort.)

    In addition to that, we have had working video support in browsers and their standards via plug-ins for over a decade. If a browser maker like Apple is lucky enough to own video playback technology as well, they are free to provide their own plug-in right away. If they aren’t, like the Mozilla people, they can still use the power of other plug-ins to enrich the experience. Everything else seem like a needless duplication of effort (code and bugs…).

    From my POV things have only become worse recently in the wake of YouTube and everybody thinking that Flash should be used to play video. That degraded both the quality and the experience significantly (and I’m happy every time ClickToFlash kicks in and replaces the video on a YouTube page by its H.264 / QuickTime version right away).

  19. Dave2 says:

    While I understand that video compression is a complicated technology, I honestly don’t think that it’s as complicated as you are making it out to be. There are terrific open source codecs like Dirac that are here now. Getting people together to start building from Dirac (or a similar codec) with the goal of having a transportable player that could be dropped in a browser is not an unrealistic goal. Treat it as a plug-in if that makes you feel any better… but a plug-in that is fully open so that if I want to write my own browser for my own platform I don’t have to go begging Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, or anybody else to make me a plug-in (which in all likelihood they wouldn’t do anyway). If the spec is open, I could take the source code and make it myself. All of this is doable right now. The real problem is getting Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, Opera, and everybody else to fully support such a project. Without industry support, it doesn’t matter how standard something is, how free something is, or how superior something is. When it’s not pre-installed in Internet Explorer, nobody is going to ever see it. Look at Real Networks. Real was an innovator in internet video, but where are they now? Once video became important enough to Microsoft, other video alternatives were chosen to be pre-installed with IE, so Real is pretty much dead. Just as the struggle for open and free standards are.

    I will reiterate… allowing any company to have control over how we access information and who gets to access that information goes against the very ideals of an open and free internet. The longer things are allowed to continue as they are, the worse it’s going to get. Heck, it may already be too late for video. As more and more of our lives become intrinsically linked to the internet, the scarier this prospect becomes. Will I one day have to pay Microsoft in order to view my medical records? Will I have to shell out money to Apple in order to listen to music? I don’t know. But I’m not going to let that stop me from taking companies like Microsoft to task for letting their personal goals dictate how I view the internet and access information. Continuing to fight for open standards for the free access of information… in whatever form it is in now, or will be tomorrow… is essential not only to the future of the internet, but any technology that makes use of it. I don’t understand how anybody could think otherwise.

  20. ssp says:

    @Dave2: I can agree with your call for openness, I just wanted to say that plug-ins are a good idea for browsers as they split the complexity of these very different programming issues and that specific video formats don’t really sound like they should be part of a HTML spec to me, even if it may be politically opportune.

    Alas, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get such open codecs in widespread use as long as huge corporations like Apple or Microsoft (and without doubt many others) can have their say in this. The problem isn’t a technical one (as far as I can tell, VLC, the most competent film playing software, is open source) and as long as everybody keeps happily consuming their formats, it seems unlikely that anything will change.

    You may find this summary interesting: It essentially touches the same topics and makes it sound like Google would be OK with an ‘open’ codec as long as it’s efficient and that Apple and Microsoft would rather die than not having it their way. I imagine it may be fun to play through scenarios. Apple is powerful with stuff like the iPhone. Do they have power over YouTube because of that? Or does YouTube have power oven them? How much good could Google do by switching formats on YouTube? I have no clue in which way that’d end but I’d be keen to watch the fight…

  21. Zuke says:

    So what does it mean if you get 100/100 and a fail? I use Chrome on every computer I have (Vista, Vista 64, 7, and 7×64) and it still says fail, despite being 100/100.

    And Dave, yes, that means that beautiful desktop picture you sent me is on a Windows Vista machine!

  22. Mik says:

    I always use Firefox, my PC keeps asking to install an “important update” and when I look it is Internet Explorer 8 for Vista and I don’t even have IE on this machine.

    I don’t tend to use Office much anymore and use open office.

  23. Avitable says:

    This is why I stick with my trusty old Netscape Navigator.

  24. JES says:

    One thing that cracks me up when people defend MS’s departures from the alleged standards: MS participates in the organizations which set the standards. They just don’t feel particularly obliged to go along with the various committees’ recommendations (technically the right term, rather than “standards,” but what the hey).

  25. I totally agree about IE and standards. I’ve been using Chrome for about a month or so, and I can’t get myself back to IE or Firefox.

  26. Great discussion.

    IN SHORT: Until a majority of users are using web-standards compliant browsers, IE will continue to be the proverbial handcuffs on web developers trying to bring major andvancements. This is the lay of the land. It’s not complicated.

  27. annie says:

    Also, I need to add –
    I would like everyone to witness my stupidity.
    I did not know you could put Safari on Windows. I did an update of Quik-time or something or other & there was the icon on my desktop & I thought, “Whaaaat???” and then went & read up that it’s been available for TWO years now?!


    Have you been informing the world of this Dave? I think it’s worth repeating.
    Safari is fantastic and SUPER fast! Even on Windows. Or is that a “No-No”? Better than nothin’, right?

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