There was a controversy storming over the way Microsoft proposed to handle standards compliance in their upcoming Internet Explorer 8. At first, MS released a screenshot that showed IE 8 rendering the Acid Test (a web standards compliance test). Everyone in the web development community was ecstatic. Finally, IE wouldn’t “break” the Internet! Then, it was revealed that a special trick was needed to render standards-compliant web pages correctly: a <meta> tag instructing IE 8 to follow standards. The community was in an uproar and most everyone (including me) agreed that it was wrong to have to specially code web sites to force IE 8 to do what it should be doing right in the first place. MS’s argument was that having IE 8 follow standards correctly would mean that dozens of corporate intranet web apps written specifically for IE 6+7’s quirky behavior would break, leaving their poor customers helpless. It seemed like business as usual at Microsoft. Today, however, the IE team announced that they are reversing their decision and that IE 8 will render sites following standards by default and that developers of IE 6-specific intranet applications can stick the <meta> tag in their apps to give IE 8 the proper handicap to render their apps correctly. Phew! Now, we just have to wait 10 years for IE 8 to be adopted on a wide scale and we can dump all of our IE6+7 hacks!
Some developers took that approach of writing web pages that will only work correctly in IE and even went to lengths to try and block other browsers from visiting their sites. This means that if you happen to own a Mac or run Linux, you’re out of luck or are forced to trick the site into thinking you are running IE.
IE 6 was released in 2001. While there were some improvements over IE 5.5 in terms of features and standards, it still was nowhere near perfect, and it took Microsoft 5 years to release IE 7. Again, while IE 7 offered some improvements, it still had plenty of “quirks” that made it difficult to develop for. Now, nearly 2 years later, Microsoft is just starting to talk about IE 8 and has not released any sort of early testing version. It may be another 2 years before IE 8 sees the light of day. In the meantime, IE 6 still controls a healthy amount of usage, enough that, after 7 years, developers cannot choose to dismiss it and must ensure that their web apps work with the ancient pile of rotting garbage that is IE 6.