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Martian headsets for Earth people: How to fix Internet Explorer 8

by Sander Marechal

Updated on 2008-04-10@10:47. Joel Spolsky recently published a very insightful piece called Martian Headsets on his personal blog Joel on Software. It's definitely recommended reading for everyone who deals with standards in some way. The core of his article is about the standards compliance of the upcoming Internet Explorer 8. IE8 presents a problem because, although it is pretty standards compliant, it renders a lot of websites quite badly. The problem is of course not in IE8 but in all the websites that were targeted at IE7, IE6 even lower.

The IE8 team presented a controversial solution that would have IE8 render all pages as if it were IE7 unless the developer specifically told IE that it would render well under IE8. Web designers worldwide revolted at the idea and the IE8 team changed its mind. But that still leaves the problem of what to do with all those sites that work badly in IE8.

In his piece, Joel tells us that there is no right answer. Whatever Microsoft chooses, it looses. Well, I disagree that it's this black-and-white. There is a third solution possible that allows IE8 to be fully standards compliant and ensures that the vast majority of websites will work just fine. In this article I will present three changes that Microsoft could implement that will allow the Internet Explorer 8 team to have its cake and eat it too.

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