One of the big development goals for IE8, which officially hit the streets a fortnight ago, was to take a more rigorous approach to implementing web standards, which should ensure that a site coded in a given way appears more or less identically on any compliant browser. Earlier releases of Internet Explorer often effectively ignored standards, and because of its market dominance the way in which it rendered pages was often the major focus for site developers, rather than taking a broader view.
Making IE8 more standards-focused was a worthy goal, but there was a big problem: what about popular sites which assumed that that IE would render in its usual, non-compliant way? In practice, Microsoft needed to come up with a compromise so that it could push its standards-based approach without making popular sites that assumed its previous behaviour look like rubbish. The solution it chose was Compatibility View. If a site doesn’t render properly, users can click on the Compatibility View button to have it displayed the “old” way. And to ensure that people didn’t need even that level of skill, Microsoft also developed a Compatibility View list: a register of sites which tended to cause problems which can be automatically rendered the “old” way without any user intervention.
Ideally, Microsoft would like the owners of those sites to redevelop their underlying code to work in a standards-relevant way. But in practice, that doesn’t seem likely to happen. After all, NineMSN — a site half-owned by Microsoft — is one of the prominent examples of an Australian site on the Compatibility View list. There are 38 high-traffic Australian sites currently on the list (which you can view for yourself in IE8 by entering the address
NineMSN might be the most embarrassing inclusion, but there are plenty of other big sites that don’t meet the IE8 requirement, including both major newspaper groups (News Limited and Fairfax), Telstra’s Sensis sites, Google, the Bureau of Meteorology, eBay, many government sites and three of the four major banks.
Of course, the fact that the list has been developed is undoubtedly better than the alternative of sites rendering poorly. But it doesn’t say much for Microsoft’s negotiating skills that it hasn’t managed to persuade some of those developers to rework their sites.
Here’s the full list of Australian domains that are on the Compatibility View list as of this posting: