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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Safari So Goody (Sorry…)

Congratulations to Dave Hyatt for getting Safari to pass the Acid2 test so quickly and publicly (results for other browsers). Yeah, he’s still got plenty of bugs to deal with, but it’s real progress. Safari seems to be getting better and faster.

Meanwhile over at the terribly ‘nice’ IEBlog (most daring statement so far: I really love browsing with IE) they’re tackling cutting-edge (cough) features like floats and PNG transparency (maybe even new-fangled tags like <abbr> and <q> if we’re really lucky?).

Microsoft’s approach of arrogantly setting its own iffy ‘standards’ (as in the lightbulb joke) and sticking with them must have seemed great to start with. IE couldn’t fail to dominate, and by giving it distinctive quirks, deficiencies and additional features the rival browsers were soon at a disadvantage. Many thousands of intranet applications have been built specifically for IE and will never work with anything else without major changes.

But now that approach, and the complacency it encouraged, is also a burden. I don’t know exactly what state the innards of IE are in, but supporting modern features without affecting fundamental rendering quirks and ‘tag soup’ parsing must be hard work and can only get worse. Perhaps at some point Microsoft will have to add a separate engine to get a clean slate to work with, although they probably won’t bother given the size and complexity of the rest of Longhorn.

With a little less arrogance and a little more thought they probably could’ve had it both ways. If IE had been aggressively maintained to give it solid standards support and been given the temptingly-useful extra features then it would still have been hugely successful but wouldn’t now be widely seen as an old, flabby has-been.


I would have thought you would know that IE does do something similar to what you suggest (re having it both ways). IE6 contains both a "standards-compliant mode" and a "quirks" mode. has details on the !DOCTYPE switch.… is also good info.

— Sam, 20th May, 1:32am

Yeah, I always ensure IE6 is in "standards mode", but apart from fixing the box model and treating HTML as the page container it doesn't make an awful lot of difference.

It was a half-hearted effort to support standards and IE6 has been left to stagnate since then.

Matt Round, 20th May, 6:00am

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