***UPDATE**** I really think people are misinterpreting this post. What I am trying to say here is that if Microsoft can get IE8 out there, and can get the majority of Windows users on it, then it will be a huge step. But I very much question whether this will happen. Read on to find out why. ****
With today's news that IE 8 is now passing the ACID2 test, I started thinking about what that would mean to us web developers. (Well, I'm an asp.net developer, not really a web developer. It is like web development with training wheels, only the training wheels are really heavy, uneven, and make riding the bike harder. :-) Oh come on, have a sense of humor) So, what would a standards compliant IE8 mean for web developers? Call me cynical, but I honestly don't think it will mean all that much for a long long (long long long long) time, and lets look at why I believe that.
Within the developer community, how many people still use IE anymore? (This has nothing to do with overall IE use, but just bear with me) Sure we have to all still account for it when we are doing our development, but how many of us actually use it for our daily browsing? In order to get some sort of idea, I decided to use the traffic from this blog. So, to get some recent data I pulled up Google analytics to look at my browser numbers on my site since December 1st.
This is probably about what you expected to see on a technically oriented site. You have about 70% Firefox, 20% IE, and then the last 10% is split among the rest of the browsers. Okay, this is all fine and good, but lets look at the breakdown of the numbers on Firefox…
Not too bad, we have over 80% on 184.108.40.206, and then over 2% on the Firefox 3 beta. Between 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 we have almost 8%. Of all Firefox users though, less than 1% are using Firefox 1 and even those are using Firefox 1.5. So, 99% of all of these users are on Firefox 2 or above even though Firefox 2 was only released just over a year ago.
Next, lets take a look at the same breakdown for Internet Explorer…
IE7 was released in October of 2006 as well, and so the time on market is almost identical. So, what is up with these numbers? Only 56% on IE7 and a full 44% on IE6! (Also, why in the world is there more IE 4.01 users than IE 5.5? Ha, that is an aberration if I ever saw one) Now, before you say, "but hey, IE7 is only available for XP and Vista. That is why so many people haven't upgraded!" Well, that is B.S. Look at the numbers for Windows operating systems…
XP, Vista, and Server 2003 (all of which have IE7 available for them) make up almost 98% of all Windows users. So, apparently IE users just don't want to upgrade. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they don't like tabs, or hate the fact that they hid the File menu. The whole point is that if this is IE7's adoption rate after it has been out for over a year, then what do you think is going to happen with IE8? Somehow I doubt that there is going to be a huge uptake, since I would imagine that in the non-technical crowd this problem would be worse. Also, Microsoft doesn't have a new OS release to push IE8 out with either.
On top of all this, it appears that IE8 is going to require a special "head" tag (I keep seeing this, but I don't know where it is coming from, so take it with a grain of salt) in order to turn on IE8 standards mode and if that tag is not there then it will render in IE7 "standards" mode. I completely understand their reasoning for this, but it just makes my head hurt. I guess most of the other browsers haven't had to deal with this because they have mostly supported standards from the beginning and their users actually upgrade their browsers!
So, what does a standards compliant IE8 mean for us? Well, unless Microsoft forces users to upgrade when it is released (which just isn't the way Microsoft does things), it means that sometime around 2013 when IE6 and IE7 are sunsetted, we might finally be able to stop worrying about stupid browser quirks in IE. But on the bright side, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel…even if it is a few light years away. So, what do you think, is IE8 going to change anything? Or am I just being jaded?