IE8 – the death of progressive enhancement?

Posted on February 3, 2008


At Foocamp today there was a lively debate about IE8’s controversial approach to rendering engine switching.

Personally, I think the approach sounds good. Like most people, I don’t love the way it introduces a new meta tag. But I’ve also always thought the use of the DOCTYPE to control quirks-mode switching is a bit of a fragile approach — certainly not a scalable one.

So Microsoft’s solution is at least scalable into the future. The big question is, how will it be used in the future.

Will it become a “get out of jail free” card that allows Microsoft (or any other browser that implements the scheme) to pursue more radical changes to the browser, without having to worry about the consequences of version-to-version incompatibilities?

I think the real shame is the potential death of progressive enhancement. Historically the mission of browser developers has been to make the entire web better — not just documents created or modified into the future. Locking old pages into their old rendering engines means they can’t take advantage of advances in typographic rendering as seen in Firefox 3. That’s a shame.

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