Internet Explorer 8: What's Changed

It has been close to a month since Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8, and there hasn’t been too much news about the browser.  For Microsoft, this could be a good thing if you live by the saying “No news is good news”, but it can also be a bad thing for the large company.   A Google search with the key words Internet Explorer 8 comes back with more Microsoft sites, including MSDN, then any other third party site.  People at Microsoft may start to worry, since they haven’t been effective in letting the world know the changes they have made to the latest release.  One of the really big changes with IE 8, or Microsoft in general, is that they are really starting to comply with standards.  Dean Hachamovitch, who is the manager of the IE team, indicated at MIX09 that the IE team is committed to industry standards.  In Dec of 2007 everyone got a glimpse of this commitment when Microsoft announced that a beta version of IE 8 passed the Acid 2 test.  One of the larger standards that the IE Team is proud of meeting the standards for CSS 2.1.

In order to meet the CSS 2.1 standards Microsoft had to drop some proprietary CSS features.  One of those features was CSS Expressions.  If you don’t know what CSS Expressions are, they are a way to “script” in CSS.  An example would be if you wanted a darker background at night, you could use CSS Expressions to change the background color based on the time of day.  CSS Expressions used Javascript to handle the scripting side of the feature.  Microsoft stated that they removed this feature because they wanted to comply with standards, improve performance, and to improve security.  Seems like Microsoft is starting to change, and actually listen to their customers.  If you have used expressions in the past, there is a way with IE 8 to make for sure that expressions is still work, until you fix the CSS code and replace it with DHTML.   To force the browser to use Quirk Mode, aka compatibility mode, you must add <meta http-equiv=”X-UA-Compatible” content=”IE=EmulateIE7″ > in the header of the document.  To see the different modes that you can force IE 8 to use review this ( MSDN article.

Microsoft has also changed the way that filters are used in IE 8.  MSDN’s blog ( stated that in the past to use filters, the designer would have to use filter:progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(opacity=50;.  This attribute doesn’t comply with CSS 2.1 standards because the colon (:) is not used properly as a delimiter.  The CSS 2.1 standard does provide browser developers the ability to use their own CSS standards as long as they are formated properly.   In stead of removing the filters the IE team chose to handle how each filter is called and handled.  With IE 8, to use the same filter the developer will have to use -ms-filter:”progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(opacity=50)”;.

From what Microsoft has expressed and spoken about with IE8, the future of web development looks even brighter.  Not having to worry about creating a work around just for IE users will mean more time for developers to code their site.  Developers can also use CSS code which they have been wanting to use for a while but couldn’t because there wasn’t a work around for the IE.

Leave a comment