Microsoft has now released its first production version of Internet Explorer 8 web browser (IE8). Is your site ready?

Internet Explorer 8 has been released

Microsoft has now released its first production version of Internet Explorer 8 web browser (IE8).

At this stage it is a manual download and not yet an automatic update so only the keen ‘tech-heads’ will be likely to start using it, but it wont be long before Microsoft makes this an automated update and we would expect a very fast take-up at that time.

Internet Explorer 8 is a significant upgrade from Microsoft and it signifies a considerable change in direction in terms of browser compatibility. Microsoft is now aiming to build a web browser that complies with internationally recognised standards and ultimately make web page development easier.

Back in the IE5 days nobody cared about compatibility but then there were less web sites, HTML was far simpler and really only two main browsers – IE and Netscape. When IE6 was released Microsoft did not care about compatibility but most new browsers (Firefox, Safari) did, so we saw a divergence in the way browsers worked. As a result web developers started to build websites twice – once for IE6 and once for all other browsers. Then when IE7 came out, it only got worse – today we find that Firefox, IE6, IE7 and Safari all interpret HTML differently and we have to build our HTML and style sheet code as many as 4 times to make it work on all browsers.

The one saving grace for non-Microsoft web browsers is that users tend to upgrade quickly and all versions of the same browser tend to behave very similarly. But with Internet Explorer each and every version works totally differently and each new release signifies extraordinary pain for web developers and cost for website owners.

IE8 is supposed to improve this situation, but ironically it will actually make it worse in the short term, because although IE8 will now comply with most web standards, IE6 and IE7 are likely to remain widely used and as such we will now have to build our code for 3 distinctly different Microsoft Browsers in addition to Firefox and Safari.

So what does this mean for existing website owners? Well, in some cases it will mean the need to have your HTML, style sheets and JavaScript reworked. The extent of this work will depend very much on the design and the functionality. If your site is mostly simple HTML and does not make use of many dynamic features then this may not be much work. But if your site has features such as Flash, JavaScript, complex layouts, pop-ups or other dynamic affects then it may mean quite a few hours work.

There is some good news here – IE8 offers an “IE7 emulation mode”, in this mode it will work almost like
IE7 ( If you are lucky and this works for your site then we can add a new “emulate IE7 meta tag” to your site code to instruct IE8 to use this mode and your site will work instantly. But you should note that this will not work perfectly for all sites and to a certain extent it only defers work that ultimately will need to be done as newer versions come out.

Now that we have the first release, we are in a position to assess and test sites with the new browser. If you want to test your site in IE8, you can download it now, but be warned, it is a one way process – once installed it will remove your previous IE browser and you can’t go back.

At Mooball IT we have machines setup with IE8 ready for testing and can assess your site and provide feedback and recommendations. Now would be a good time to consider getting your site tested and upgraded before this becomes an automated release.