Emulating IE7 in IE8 Beta 1
Forgive me for possibly coming across as ignorant – but when the IE team decided to implement this function, who did they think would use it? Is this a half-hearted attempt at a tool aimed at developers to allow them to test on both IE7 and IE8 on the same browser? Or is it a feature that they think their target market group are going to make use of?
Paul Cutsinger, IE’s Lead Program Manager explains over on the IE Blog that “it will help you with everyday browsing and with quickly checking your site as you work on it”; let me break his quote down:-
“it will help you with everyday browsing…”
How will it help someone with everyday browsing? If a site looks broken in IE8, the odds are that users aren’t going to wait around while the emulation process takes place (requires a complete browser restart); they’re just going to leave the site. I want to make my feelings quite clear – if a web developer doesn’t want to (or doesn’t know how to) create cross-browser compliant code then as a user, I shouldn’t expect to have to compromise my browsing experience due to their ignorance of standards-compliancy (or lack of knowledge) by having to take the regressive step of using the IE7 user agent string, version vector and layout modes.
Isn’t the ‘average joe’ going to be a bit bemused by the appearance of this shiny new button on their IE8? I have no doubt that they’ll disassociate themselves with it, as they’ll have no idea as to what it actually does.
“…and with quickly checking your site as you work on it”
Completing the backwards step of going from IE8 to IE7’s layout requires a complete restart of the browser. Even with the fastest PC, a user is still going to have to physically click buttons to complete the steps to switch layout modes. I hope this laborious process is simply down to the unpolished nature of a Beta; if we really have to go down the route of version emulation in the RC, the IE team needs to add an automatic close/open process- we shouldn’t expect end users to do this themselves.
So, who’s it actually for?
Well if I’m honest, I’m still not sure. Below I’ve highlighted the two possibilities:-
- For developers- Why then is the emulation button in the position it is within the browser window? I recognise it’s a Beta, but if this feature does makes it through to the RC (which I fear it probably will do), this button needs to be removed from the main viewport and into the developer tools. The ‘average joe’ won’t understand what this feature does anyway, so leaving it on the main viewport is likely to lead to confusion as to what it actually is and does. Looking back over the history of emulation software, is MS unaware that just by simply emulating IE7 you shouldn’t expect to gain a true representation of an IE7 standalone. There’s no substitute to virtualisation and running a cloned base image alongside the original, with IE7 on one and IE8 on the other; failing that multiple versions of IE would be the second best solution; in the instance of IE6/7, it was down to a third party to provide developers with a solution for running two standalones side by side- it would be great if MS developed an official standalone version which doesn’t automatically overwrite IE7 and doesn’t muck with registry files.
- For IE’s target market group- If in fact IE is marketing this feature directly to their target audience, then for a start they need to illustrate this feature (and the button) better. ‘Emulate IE7′ is likely to mean very little to the users that IE is targeting IE8 for.
It’s no secret that MS are engaged in talks with the EU over anti-competition laws. I share the same opinion as others in that the sudden reverse decision to remove the opt-in standards mode days before the public Beta release of IE8 could have partly been down to MS taking note of what the EU were ultimately looking for them to do. I’m not complaining though; I’ve already expressed my delight before that the initial decision was reversed. From MS’s point of view it’s killed two birds with one stone; from the EU’s point of view it could be seen as a step towards opening up the browser market more. For us developers ultimately more vendors means more healthy competition, which means faster adoption of standards (think if FF hadn’t have come along, where would we be now; forced into using defacto standards and proprietary properties devised by IE?), and of course, the IE team now suggests IE8 is standards compliant (like we haven’t heard that statement enough times already).