Hats off to Microsoft. They’ve hit on an elegant solution to the mess they’ve helped create in the population of websites. In the past, they’ve allowed anyone to design their website almost as they wish and it will likely appear well in Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer didn’t follow the W3C standards. The Internet Explorer standards were whatever Internet Explorer decided.
This has meant that web pages have had a whole series of hacks added to make standards-correct web pages appear correctly in Internet Explorer. Microsoft was then in a bind as there has been greater universal acceptance of the W3C standards. It’s the old legacy problem. You can’t change the rules and ‘break’ the websites of all those faithful customers who were living by your old flexible rules. I saw this as a major strategic headache for Microsoft. However I believe they have come up with a workable approach to gradually cleaning up this Augean stable of old websites.
With their new IE 7 Beta2 preview (which by the way is pretty spiffy), Microsoft has adopted a very astute way of handling this thorny issue. If the web page is correctly identified as following a Strict standard then the browser will display it according to that Strict standard. If it is not so identified, then it will be displayed according to the Quirks approach, whereby the hacks will still work. So the old, loosy-goosy websites display correctly and the new Strict standard ones display correctly. I feel that’s brilliant.
If you want to see how others are seeing this, there’s a thread in the Cre8asite Forums discussing exactly this topic.