IE8: Love or Hate?

by Jon Davis 5. March 2008 23:04

Been playing with IE 8 for a few hours. Here are some initial observations.

  • Love: WebSlices. I don't like WebSlices entirely, but there's something that feels just so Web 2.0-ish and, well, evolved. If you don't know what WebSlices is yet, let me try to describe it. I'll assume anyone reading this is famiilar with either the Firefox or Internet Explorer web developer toolbar. Both toobars have the ability to hover over any DOM element and you can click on it and it will tell you all about the CSS styles and classes associated with that element, as well as perhaps give you a look into where the element is in the DOM tree. Okay, .. uh, well, that's NOT WebSlices. But that thought in mind, imagine if a web site developer marked some tags such as some div tags as "webslices". They gave them GUIDs (not literally GUIDs but, unique IDs) to make them unique. With WebSlices, forget about introspecting the element with the web dev toolbar, imagine if you could subscribe to that element, as if the element was itself a web page, or an RSS feed. Yes, you can literally put a DOM element into your Favorites. That is way cool. I am not entirely comfortable wth its implementation, though, partly in the same way I felt about IE4 channels; it's sort of a browser-centric, stuff-it-in-your-toolbar way of managng personal data, the last thing I think people want is even more junk in their Favorites menu or yet another toolbar. Microsoft got RSS subscriptions right by retaining a more modular approach, allowing for an Explorer Bar or MS Outlook integration, hopefully they'll figure something out in this respect for WebSlices.
  • Hate: Activities. It's not the technology I hate. It's the branded spam. For those unfamiliar with IE8's "Activities", it's basically the same as the Windows File Explorer's "Send To" context menu option. You can basically right-click on a selection on the web and invoke an Activity which happens to mean a URL + querystring. Will be useful, no doubt, I'm just sick of all the MS Live and MS MSN and Encarta this and Yahoo that and Wikipedia and Google Maps and, oh good grief, stop shoving it all in my face already. But I'll give it to Microsoft, they didn't do nearly as much damage as Adobe did when I installed Acrobat Professional. There are literally eight (8) (!!!) individual PDF options in my browser context menu from Adobe Acrobat. Aargh.. [~silence as I go to Options and disable ...~] I also hate the name "Activities". It sounds like calendaring or meetups.
  • Love: Inline Javascript debugger. I haven't even tried it yet, but .. OMG, Yaaay! Microsoft came through on this one! We finally get a Javascript debugger built into the browser! No more mandatory installations of Visual Studio tools, which in the script debugging department has tended to get corrupted in the integration bits more often than I've managed to debug. Mind you, this ain't Firebug. But it most certainly is an essential part of a web browser, and Microsoft is showing that they are finally starting to see the light on this one.
  • Hate: Beta 1 form fields performance in Standards mode. I'm not sure what the deal is, but on this editor page, using, I was forced to enable the Emulate IE7 mode because in Standards mode I literally had to wait about five seconds for my keyboard cursor to respond after each individual keystroke. This is just a beta glitch, though; I'll live.
  • Love: Standards mode. ACID2 passes. 'Nuff said.
  • Hate: XHTML compliance exists in parsing and rendering only. Microsoft is still using an internal IE-HTML DOM that is not XHTML-compliant, even in XHTML documents. All you have to do prove this out is, in script, alert(document.documentElement.outerHTML); and what do you see? The most obvious observation is a total disregard for XHTML 1.0 § 4.2, which reads, "Element and attribute names must be in lower case; XHTML documents must use lower case for all HTML element and attribute names. This difference is necessary because XML is case-sensitive e.g. <li> and <LI> are different tags." Why does this matter? It matters because of DHTML. It matters because there is an implemented and oft-used setter on DOM elements' innerHTML. It matters because people actually use the DOM programmatically, both in evaluating and assigning markup. It matters because the browser has a Content-Editable mode that is often used with online content editing whereby the innerHTML contents are posted to the server for viewing as content. It matters because Internet Explorer has a COM interface that can, and often is, used to parse and tidy HTML markup, or to provide a WYSIWYG rich text editor for applications. It matters because it's broken, has been all along, and has never been deemed acceptable.
  • Love: It's in my hands. Huh. That was fast, I mean it was just, what two months ago that IE8 was even named? Well, um, .. thanks, Microsoft.
kick it on


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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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