Internet Explorer 8 was released as a beta around February of 2008. About the time of the beta release Microsoft announced that the IE 8 had passed the Acid2 test. Everyone was shocked that Microsoft actually was able to get a version of IE to even past the test, since everyone’s view is that Microsoft has turned their back on industry standards. On March 19th, Microsoft finally released the final version of IE 8, which many people may have missed since there was not a big celebration like when FireFox 3 was released.
So what has changed in IE 8? Microsoft seems to be more open and accepting more of the W3C standards for CSS in this version of Internet Explorer. According to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network), “Windows Internet Explorer 8 is fully compliant with the CSS, Level 2 Revision 1 (CSS 2.1) specification and supports some features of CSS Level 3 (CSS 3).”. If this is true, then developers should be very very happy. There should not be a need to use hacks to get around IE issues in the future. In the same article, Microsoft even list what parts of CSS IE 8 supports, even listing the CSS 3 standards in the list. When looking at the HTML and CSS Matrix which is linked from MSDN’s Internet Explorer Compatibility Center is reporting that IE 8 will support Pseudo Classes such as :before, and :after. This is very exciting as a designer since psudeo classes can be a very powerful design element. This does not mean that Microsoft does not throw in their own CSS standards. According to Microsoft these do comply to CSS 2.1 standards. So now all vendor standards, will start with ms- which will make it very easy to know what is industry standard and what is Microsoft standard.
Another feature which was added in IE 8 was the ability to use different style sheets for the same site. This is similar to the personal style sheets that a user may use, but still allows the designer to have control over the site. This feature will find all the alternative style sheets listed in the site’s code and allow the user to choose which style they want to use. This is very good if you have special style sheets for users with disabilities or from the designer aspect you can test different styles without editing your live style. I am hoping that this is a feature which other browsers will support in the future.
One of the issues that previous versions of IE had was the lack of built in developer tools. Before the Firebug add-on in Firefox was created, most designers had to use either third party software, or the very basic built-in browser tools to try to fix issues with their site. Firebug added a lot of what developers have been wanting for a while. Opera picked up on this by adding DragonFly in the beta version of 9.5. Microsoft has chosen to follow Opera’s lead and add a built-in developer tool to their browser which for the lack of creativity is called Developer Tool. From the screen shots that are on MSDN, Developer Tools seems to be very similar to Firebug. This will be a big hit with developers, because now they can edit their sites “live” just like they can with Firefox and Opera.
Microsoft also is trying to increase the security in Internet Explorer 8. In order to do this, they did something that most companies will not do with their products, they removed CSS expressions. Microsoft also stated that they removed the feature not just for security reasons, but to also comply with W3C standards even better. Steps like this are the right steps for Microsoft.
With the release of Internet Explorer 8, it seems that Microsoft is starting to wake up to reality. It maybe the loss of market in the web browser field, or it maybe just Microsoft showing more maturity, but with the information provided it seems that Internet Explorer is stating to take steps in the right direction. The entire web will grow faster, the more compliant Microsoft makes IE to the industry standards.