CyberTech Rambler

September 1, 2008

Microsoft decision to default to less web standard mode for intranet in IE8

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:45 am

TheRegister is reporting that in the beta preview of IE8, Microsoft chosen to default to less-web standard compliant mode for intranet. Please note that we are talking about intranet, i.e., a company’s internal network, not the internet at large. For internet, Microsoft will use the higher web standard compliant mode.

According to the article, Opera does not like it. Initially, I did not like it either. But almost immediately, I think I know why Microsoft did it. It wants to maintain business-continuity for its business clients. With so many companies’ website still stuck in IE7 bastardized web standard mode, it is not good to breaktheir internet websites as it might means business users cannot use it. Before you say itI know it is simply a matter of ticking a box on the preference page to toggle compliant mode but trust me, to perform this seems to be beyond a lot of users.

On the other hand, the vast majority of user use companies’ intranet on company’s computer, desktop or laptop. Most are trained not to install third party software on those computers, and Windows Vista do a better enforcement of no-install policy than XP where it effectively relies on the users as everyone “has” to run as administrator. Companies that have intranets are medium to large companies, not your mum and pap shop. They have IT department dealing with those computers and can always, toggle into the less standard compliant mode for users if needed. Most probably do this automatically with new disk images.

That leaves us with companies who allow staffs to log in from their own computers at home. The question here is how difficult is it to get them to switch to the less web-standard compliant mode? Not difficult. Why? Their computer vendors, who cannot know that it is for the company, will not setup the computer to treat their companie’s website as “intranet”. Therefore, the user would already have to learn to click here and click there to “fake” itself as their companie’ intranet. Trust me, this is a more complex procedure than just toggle into less web standard compliant mode. If they can do that, then changing the web standard compliant toggle is child’s play. Therefore, the value of switching to less web-standard compliant mode for intranet diminishes.

That leaves us with simply notifying users that they have to toggle between the different web-standard compliant mode. Most companies will simply put a prominent notice teaching staff how to toggle between the two modes. In fact, most importantly, sooner or later, if Microsoft continues on its pledge to bring IE to web standard compliance, companies need to put a notice on their website anyway.

Moreover, your mum-and-papa shop round the corner, even if IT savvy, will not run its own intranet. If it does use the web for business, it is very likely to be outsourced to someone else and this Microsoft’s decision would not help them since their outsourcing website partners are treated as the internet and have to go to the stricter web standard compliant mode. They are thrown into the deep end immediately. Arguably, since they do not have a dedicated IT team, they are in deeper trouble than companies. Microsoft seems to think that it is OK to throw them into the deep water first, probably reflect the fact that they have less bargaining power than companies’ IT department.

It should be obvious by now that I do not think Microsoft’s decision is correct. However, right now, I think I can live with intranet using lesser web standard compliant mode. If Microsoft wants to suckle up to big companies’ IT department, that’s their choice. As long as the end results is every website, intranet or internet, goes to web standard compliance I will grudgingly accepts this transition path, even though I think Microsoft is simply delaying this problem for IT department with this decision.

I, however, disagree with Mary Jo-Foley when she defended Microsoft’s decision and asked “Why should users or Web site owners be punished for the fact that Microsoft originally broke standards compatibility with IE and is now trying to undo that damage…”. Users, i.e., you and I are already being punished. They had been doing that to me for years for not using IE (because I cannot) and now you because websites on the _internet_ you used was customized for bad IE. For website owners? They allowed their web sites to be customized for bad IE, instead of insisting Microsft comply with webstandard They deserve the punishment. At the minimum, they could had followed my example by taking the most basic step, i.e. insisting on their website being workable in bad IE and another web standard compliant browser by working around IE’s limitation (instead of customing for IE).

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