March 24, 2009

IE8 et compatible, vous

Microsoft released the final version of IE8 last week (3.19.2009); your users will soon be automatically upgraded unless auto-updates have been explicitly blocked. Are you ready?

There are a million new features that I won't cover here, but along with much welcomed CSS 2.1 standards support and enhanced security come compatibility issues. If you've been paying attention, chances are your sites already employ X-UA-Compatible meta tags that instruct IE8 to render either in standards mode, or to act like previous versions of the IE renderer. You may even have found that your site works fine in IE8 w/o these tags.

You're probably going to want to add them anyway. Here's why: While IE8 defaults to standards mode, at install time users are offered the opportunity to use the Compatibility View List, a sort of black list of sites that have been reported to render poorly. For users who have opted-in, sites on the list are automatically rendered in compatibility mode. Some examples off the top of the list include Amazon, the BBC, and Craig's List.

While IE8 in compatibility mode mostly matches IE7's standards mode, there are some differences; to ensure your site renders as you intend, it's probably best, at least for the time being, to declare for yourself which render mode to use if for no other reason than to limit the number of platforms and configurations you must test.

For further reading:

The Windows Internet Explorer 8 Fact Sheet.

The IEBlog's release overview; lists many blog articles on the feature set, for instance the Compatibility List FAQ, Tab isolation and Automatic Crash Recovery and Developer and Designer Tools.

The MSDN tech article META Tags and Locking in Future Compatibility.

Microsoft's IE8 release notes and Microsoft Connect's open IE bugbase, where you are invited to enter any bugs you find, or explore previously reported issues.

Posted by Lewis Francis at March 24, 2009 8:51 PM

Instead of downloading and parsing the Compatibility View List .xls, visit the IE8 Compatibility View Blacklist Checker site, which will parse it for you!

Posted by: Lewis Francis at March 24, 2009 11:40 PM

You'll want Eric Lawrence's über-useful ShowDocMode favelet that alerts the documentMode. Trust me on this.

Posted by: Lewis Francis at March 24, 2009 11:45 PM

CORRECTION: users will NOT be automatically upgraded to IE8, rather they will be offered the upgrade. WinXP and Server 2003 users will classify the upgrade option as High Priority, Vista and Server 2008 will list as Important.

Rollout of auto-update notifications begin the third week of April according to this IEBlog post.

Posted by: Lewis Francis at April 15, 2009 10:30 AM
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