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IE8: steps in the right direction

After the furious controversy and rationalisation unleashed by Microsoft’s embrace of version targeting from IE8 onwards, we were thrilled by their u-turn on the decision yesterday. Instead of acting like IE7 unless instructed otherwise, “IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can.” Big sigh of relief.

And today Microsoft released the first IE8 Beta. Thanks to John Resig for his excellent review, pointing out all the significant improvements as well as omissions. As Resig points out, it’s primarily my JavaScript-coding colleagues who’ll see the greatest leaps forward, but I’m amazed and happy to see support for ARIA, meaning we can finally improve the accessibility of Ajax-based web applications. And I love the Firebug-like integrated debugger — you can even use it when in IE7 mode!

In the review, Resig makes one comment that resonated with me: “I simultaneously feel both joy and anger in seeing these fixed. Happy that they’re being released and anger for the fact that I had to struggle through them and that they now consume some portion of my brain.” Joy and anger. That’s exactly what IE8 makes me feel. We’re made to feel grateful for the fixing of years-old bugs that on any normal software product wouldn’t have been tolerated for longer than a few months.