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IE8 Has Arrived

By Aaron Gustafson | March 20th, 2009 | Filed in Browsers, CSS, DOM, Microsoft, Microsoft TF

With a greater focus on standards-compliance, it seems possible that Microsoft’s latest browser may redeem itself in the eyes of standards-savvy designers and developers.

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As you may have heard, yesterday marked the official release of Internet Explorer 8. This new version of the oft-reviled browser has a completely rewritten rendering engine that was built, from the ground up, with the CSS 2.1 spec in hand. Improvements in this version include

  • the death of hasLayout
  • object fallbacks
  • stylable legend elements
  • generated content (including support for dynamic attribute insertion via attr())
  • CSS counters
  • support for the quotes property
  • outline control
  • data URIs
  • full access to the style attribute via the DOM
  • mutable DOM prototypes
  • and much more

This browser is a giant leap forward for standards support at Microsoft, but reviews so far seem mixed. What do you think?

Your Replies

#1 On March 20th, 2009 9:07 am Baxter replied:

I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to Google Chrome. IE8 is a mess–neither fish nor fowl– that I suspect neither developers nor users will muster much enthusiasm for.

#2 On March 20th, 2009 9:22 am Alexandre replied:

For the first time, there is no need to have special CSS fixes for IE, as CSS2 seems to be very well implemented (as shown by W3C tests and Acid2). Not much CSS3 and HTML5 so far (so don’t bother check the Acid3 yet), but this is to my eyes the first acceptable version of IE, a great ball of air after years of IE6/IE7 nightmare, and I look forward to IE9 with hopefully some more HTML5 (canvas, video, new form inputs/widgets…), SVG, CSS3 and XHTML.

#3 On March 20th, 2009 9:29 am Damjan Mozetic replied:

I must be the last person on this planet who hasn’t tried v8 yet. It must have something to do with the bugginess of the browser along with my clients’ tenacity in wanting full support for IE < 6… in 2009. Ranting apart, I hope this new release will push version six over that cliff already and ease our development efforts big time. One can dream, right?

#4 On March 20th, 2009 9:47 am WaSP Member ccasciano replied:

Mixed is probably accurate.

For today I think its a great leap forward and I wholeheartedly commend the IE team for their work. Generated content, proper object tag behavior and data uris all have the potential to make life as a web developer easier and as a standards advocate its great to know that it might be more commercially acceptable in the not too distant future.

But down the line there are a few features missing that make me wonder about how we’ll see IE8 in a year or two. Some CSS3 properties that are commonplace in other browsers have the potential to make IE8 look old before its time. [What I'd give to have rounded corners support!].

Additionally, in the commercial space already mentioned I don’t know if any new browser with any level of standards support will change the way we build websites and the choices we make when doing so until IE6 and IE7 are further behind us. IE8 gets us a step closer to that point, but we can’t just forget about what came before it on launch day.

#5 On March 20th, 2009 10:31 am Ollie replied:

Let’s hope we’re a little closer to the “Goodbye IE 6″ dream.

#6 On March 20th, 2009 12:17 pm DavidCOG replied:

> …reviews so far seem mixed.

I really hope this linking to Twitter thing isn’t going to catch on.

Aaron, did you read what appears on that Twitter search? It’s *noise* and nothing else.

Oh, yeah – IE8? Joy! Another browser to test for.

#7 On March 20th, 2009 12:30 pm Bradley Wright replied:

I think this post glosses over some of the issues involved with IE8, especially concerning the “compatibility mode” button (and the blacklist attached to said button), and the variable rendering mode based on HTTP headers.

Also, no mention of the fact that what they’ve ostensibly described as “compatibility mode” doesn’t even render the same as IE7, as it was promised to do.

Microsoft may have made huge steps forward in specification compatibility, but they’ve done themselves no favours in the eyes of the web community at large. I expect a more balanced view from the champions of web standards.

#8 On March 20th, 2009 2:06 pm Isofarro replied:

Web standards developers working on sites that are excluded from being on IE8′s blacklist still need to be careful. If you are developing your sites on a local network, you’ll still need to opt into standards compliant mode in IE8, because by default you get EmulateIE7 mode.

Be very careful of this, otherwise you’ll have pages that look fine in IE8 when served from your local development server, but be broken in the very same browser when published to a public-facing server.

To avoid this pain and hassle, you’ll have to always opt into IE8′s standards compliant mode.

The standards opt-in can of worms is now open.

#9 On March 20th, 2009 3:19 pm Daniel replied:

I think it’s a good step mostly in the right direction.

I can only recommend to install IE8 on any PC possible, even if you’re not a user of it. Many people still look for the blue E, they should use the latest version as well.

#10 On March 20th, 2009 4:54 pm Steven Clark replied:

They totally lost me last month when it came out that they were blacklisting to IE7 – – but overall I think they realise they’re not getting the one third back who migrated away to Firefox and friends.

For that to happen they’d need to be faster (nope they’re not faster) and / or have something worth moving back to IE for (nope nothing new or surprising there either).

Just my 2 cents.

#11 On March 20th, 2009 4:59 pm David Naylor replied:

After having run both Firefox 3.1 beta 3 and IE8 through quite a few of the CSS 2.1 tests …

- IE8 fails quite a few of the tests that Firefox fails. (And therefore can NOT be considered fully CSS 2.1 compliant as MS claim.)

- The only test that I’ve managed to find so far where Firefox 3.1 beta 3 fails and IE8 passes is the green square test that Dean Hachamovitch demoed in his keynote.

#12 On March 20th, 2009 5:03 pm David Naylor replied:

Hmm … it seems that MS have not claimed full CSS 2.1 compliance … (where did I get that impression?) so maybe they should cool down the whole holier-than-thou-art attitude.

#13 On March 20th, 2009 5:56 pm David Naylor replied:

…now I know where I got that impression:

“We commited to full CSS 2.1 support.”

- Dean Hachamovitch, demonstrating that goals and accomplishments aren’t necessarily the same thing.

#14 On March 20th, 2009 6:07 pm Gérard Talbot replied:


You wrote

“full access to the style attribute via the DOM”

…but there are still issues to fix, to adjust with other browsers. E.g.:

getAttribute(“style”) on an element returns an object in Internet Explorer, not a string

Among the top improvements are numerous bug fixes on
- float and clear properties (section 9.5 of CSS 2.1),
- [adjoining] margin collapsing (section 8.3.1 of CSS 2.1),
- z-index bugs (see Aleksandar Vacić’s article)
- various bugs on overflow, abs. positioning and rel. positioning: many left: auto and top: auto bugs fixed
- many bugs on accurate CSS parsing
- correct inline box model, including many vertical-align bugs fixed
- many background property bugs fixed, many inherit keyword bugs fixed

Still several bugs remaining to be fixed on
- font (font-family, font-size): see bugs 133, 134, 141
- shorthand (for border and font),
- at least 3 not-fixed bugs on hoverability (a:hover)

Rather very serious bugs (application hangs!) still not fixed:
- IE beta feedback bug 366200
- IE beta feedback bug 414807 (see bug 221)

Unfixed CSS 2.1 conformance test suite test:

word-spacing: every other browser passes such test.

Many many DOM 2 Core and DOM 2 HTML bugs remaining.

People can examine some of the non-fixed bugs at my own IE 8 bugs webpage.

regards, Gérard

#15 On March 21st, 2009 6:19 am Nostromo replied:

It’s good. It advances the day when IE6 is used a by small enough number of sites that people still using it can just be told to upgrade. Saying “but it could be better” is redundant – everything could be better.

Let’s hope IE9 will be able to understand the correct MIME type for XHTML.

#16 On March 21st, 2009 9:04 pm Gérard Talbot replied:

Apparently and according to Arron Eicholz [MSFT], the word-spacing testcase at CSS 2.1 Conformance Test suite I mentioned earlier is invalid. Arron Eicholz [MSFT] explained why in the public CSS Test Suite email list on february 28th 2009

So, that would mean that Microsoft IE Team and IE team of testers think IE 8 final release passes all valid tests currently in the CSS 2.1 conformance test suite.

regards, Gérard

#17 On March 22nd, 2009 12:55 pm Ajit Singh replied:

I wish IE20 or higher will match upto Opera 9 standards

#18 On March 23rd, 2009 8:55 pm Murray Nuttall replied:

There is a serious problem with the way it rounds em line-height and font-size.

But they’re not going to fix it.

#19 On March 24th, 2009 12:12 am Nivaldo Santos replied:

Excuse, but, I prefer the Google Chrome.

#20 On March 24th, 2009 9:10 am WaSP Member agustafson replied:

Many of you have noted your dislike for the IE8 “blacklist” (which Microsoft refers to as the “compatibility list”) and I can’t say I blame you. I had the same initial reaction. After spending a great deal of time analyzing the mechanism, however, and piecing together my overview of it for the WaSP Annual Meeting at SXSW last week, I’m less concerned. As promised at the meeting, I plan to have a video of that overview up shortly (once I get over this cold and can record the audio with a slightly less nasal voice). Hopefully, that will assuage some of your fears as it did mine.

As for those of you mentioning bugs in IE8, this is great. We need to put more pressure on Microsoft to stand behind their proclamation that IE8 will have full CSS 2.1 compliance. I’m hopeful that some of the folks on the IE team will join this discussion and address the issues we’ve found (and are continuing to find) in hopes of reaching the goal they’ve set for themselves.

Also, in response to DavidCOG, the thing you need to realize about the Twitter Search is that it is far more volatile than any other search engine as it is constantly indexing new data. I’ll agree, the signal-to-noise ratio may not be great and perhaps linking to a search as opposed to individual tweets may not have been the best way to go, but there have been numerous succinct and exacting comments on IE8 made on Twitter. You may not care for the service, but that doesn’t mean there’s not valuable content produced on it.

#21 On March 27th, 2009 5:48 am Teddy replied:

Stylable legend… right. By just removing the legend with display: none you remove either the whole fieldset (if unstyled) or half of it (if styled). Great work M$. Great work not noticing.

Took me about 20 minutes with IE8 before the bugs started to appear.

#22 On March 27th, 2009 1:50 pm Cecil Ward replied:

I am enjoying using IE8/x64 on Vista. It seems fairly fast, and I like the new feature that allows the blocking of content from 3rd-party websites, such as web beacons and user-tracking javascript. On Vista or Windows 7, IE7 and IE8 still stand unchallenged as far as security goes because of the extremely powerful foundation provided by their low-rights/”protected mode” design exploiting the new core os “integrity levels” capabilities introduced in Vista.

I’ve enjoyed using Firefox in the past, although I rather prefer Opera, but for everyday browsing there’s no reason to use these less secure browsers on my main systems. The challenge of competition has proved a very healthy stimulant. Firefox and Opera need to get back into the game as a priority, and that means getting to a secureable rearchitected design as a priority, whilst thinking about improving the user’s experience at the same time.

#23 On April 2nd, 2009 3:05 pm Clump replied:

Internet Explorer 8 is one cool browser and I like it a lot.

W3C claims IE8 is fully level 2 CSS compliant. I like its “Protected Mode” that prevents indiscriminant writing to the harddrive. IE8 also enables a lot of button customizing with its huge slew of buttons that can be arranged on the toolbar.

#24 On April 3rd, 2009 1:38 pm Finanzen replied:

I dont will use IE8 its better then IE7 but the best is Firefox.

#25 On April 5th, 2009 7:11 am directory replied:

I tried Ie8 it really creating some issues like system will hang while working, slow loading with those two reasons i stopped using ie8 and installed mozilla it really rocks and feel ie8 needs more changes like it is using more ram for processing it need to be reduced.


#26 On April 6th, 2009 10:43 am Jason Grant replied:

Judging by what I have heard so far about IE8, it’s not that much significant improvement compared to what was expected at least.

I still haven’t installed it, although I am on Chrome and FireFox3 for a long time now.

I suppose I will have to give a try soon, but the multiple IE testing is always a bit of a problem on the same machine anyway.

Standards compliance will ensure that sites will work nicely in IE8 as usual as with other browsers too.

#27 On April 10th, 2009 9:25 pm John Scott replied:

I hav tried IE 8 and it has less problems like crashes then IE 7. Have also tried Chrome and Firefox 3. Really not impressed with any of them because none of them seem to work well with all sites. I really think their are too many (Standards) but not enough compliance. Seems to me like things are getting worse and not better.

#28 On April 15th, 2009 3:00 am Yani replied:

Can’t we just put IE to death and save the pain of it all.

It doesn’t as was suggested “For the first time, there is no need to have special CSS fixes for IE”.

Here is a site I’m working on

It fully drops the background png in the menu bar and it makes the fades in Lightbox look like they came from the stone age.

It remains a plague on web design.

#29 On April 19th, 2009 11:34 pm Sarjiteng replied:

I prefer MF than IE. Always do. So I don’t care about any improvements they made on IE8.

#30 On April 22nd, 2009 10:58 am Alex replied:

I’m currently using Firefox 3.0.8 and Google Chrome when using Windows XP, and just Firefox 3.0.6 on CentOS 5.3.
When I tried the 2nd beta version (for less than 10 minutes) of IE it was really slow loading, and it didn’t always load the page, just complain that it had detected insecure browsing.
I’m always checking the pages that produce output from PHP that I make with the HTML 4.01 Transitional doctype, so that I can ensure compatability for all browsers (Well… Most anyway…) but its really annoying that people use IE because it came with windows and they haven’t ever thought about upgrading it or changing to a better one (probably Firefox or Google Chrome)
All I can say to people using IE is this:
Change to Google Chrome or Firefox or at least make sure you always use the latest version of IE.

#31 On April 30th, 2009 1:45 pm ewgino replied:

Unfortunately I have to support the browsers most used by our customer base, which is IE6 and IE7. Having said that, I have so many problems with positioning, padding, etc.

I was really optimistic about the arrival of IE8 and the CSS compatibility but after a few days of testing I was disappointed to find that the new version had a laundry list of its own problems.

I will still do my best to develop and design for the new version but I can think of better things to do with my time rather than spend every moment creating special style sheets for the one browser that won’t just jump on the compliance train with all the other happy passengers.

#32 On May 20th, 2009 4:43 am Rich Higgins replied:

>Steven Clark replied:
> but overall I think they realise they’re not getting the one third back who migrated away to Firefox and friends

a third!!? where you getting these stats homeslice?

#33 On May 26th, 2009 9:10 am Damian Dawber replied:

Wouldn’t it be lovely if Microsoft one day woke up and said: “I can’t be bothered with IE anymore, let’s bundle Firefox in with Windows 7″. Since that isn’t going to happen, we’ll have to carry on ranting and raving and hoping IE6′s market share continues to plummet quickly, then IE7′s, then IE8′s and probably indefinitely hope the worst of the IE browsers vanish as quickly as possible.

That said, i’d much rather develop for IE8 than IE7 or IE6 — except for one thing — every time I install IE8 I have to disable VISUAL STYLES on form elements: submit buttons are tiny! How could they release IE8 when something like this DOESN’T WORK!? The average user is probably gonna mooch over to and search a few things here and there and rarely think about browser functionality. EXCEPT when they can’t see their ‘search’ and ‘are you feeling lucky’ buttons!

So, overall, “IE8 is better, but still awry!” I say.

Hold on, anyone here got a horrible sense of déja vu?? I’m guessing this was pretty much how IE7 was welcomed out. Same old same old with IE.

Anyway, I live in hope:

“The World Wide Web is broken for all IE users!”

“Web developers have refused to develop for Internet Explorer. This means the vast majority of websites appear broken, in some cases illegible. It is recommended that users of the World Wide Web go to and download the latest version of their browser.”

#34 On May 28th, 2009 8:17 pm Girokonto replied:


Which problems you mean?

#35 On June 9th, 2009 12:55 pm temhawk replied:

IE 8 sucks, retards at MS are simply incapable of producing a useful browser that doesn’t hurt the web devs, they should stop developing IE once and for all, these ignorant bas tards

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