Microsoft: IE 8-Friendly Sites on the Rise

Microsoft cited progress on Internet Explorer 8 use on Tuesday, suggesting that more Web developers are trusting the user experience with its newest browser.

One of the ways Web developers can ensure users see Web content correctly is to compel IE 8 to use a more compatible mode. By adding code to their sites, Web developers can emulate IE 5 or IE 7 displays in a visitor's browser via a "compatibility-view list" in IE 8. Microsoft found that fewer Web sites are on that list, indicating greater trust in how the content displays in IE 8 standards modes.

Microsoft measured  the use of the compatibility-view list in high-traffic Web sites and found a decline in its use -- from 3,100 Web sites in March 2009 to "just over 2,000" Web sites now, according to a post by Marc Silbey, a Microsoft program manager, in Microsoft's IE blog.

The blog provides a diagram illustrating how IE 8 determines the document mode, which affects how the content gets displayed for the end user. Microsoft designed IE 8 to render "in the most standards-compliant way by default," according to the blog.

Microsoft's survey of high-traffic Web sites found that 41 percent used "almost standards mode," indicating that a Transitional HTML doctype was used on the Web site. "Quirks mode" was the next most popular doctype at 26 percent. Pure "IE 8 standards mode" was the choice of 19 percent of the Web sites, while "IE 7 standards mode" was used by 14 percent.

Developers can control how content renders by using the X-UA-Compatible meta tag to override IE 8 user settings. It's a stop-gap measure until developers -- who typically designed their sites to be compatible with the infamous IE 6 browser -- are ready for IE 8 standards mode. IE 6 has a reputation of being an unsecure browser that skirted the W3C's HTML recommendations in many cases, although it's still widely used.

The next set of controls resides in the user's compatibility-view settings in IE 8. If nothing is specified there, IE 8 checks the doctype to determine how the Web page will render, selecting either "IE 8 Standards, IE 8 Almost Standards or Quirks Mode," according to Microsoft's blog.

Microsoft provided its document mode options to give developers more time to prepare their Web sites for IE 8, according to Silbey.

"IE needs to support all of these Web platform variations to ensure that our broad, worldwide user base has the best experience," Silbey said in the blog.

Still, there was much grumbling in the comments section of the blog. Readers accused Microsoft of waiting a year to explain IE 8's document mode and having too many modes in the first place. Others wanted Microsoft to ditch its Trident layout engine for the WebKit rendering engine used by other browsers, such as Apple Safari and Google Chrome.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.