IE7: Still sucking, still "our" fault

AngstyBill is back.

The IE7 Myth

The IE compatibility team contacted this guy to say his site didn’t look right in IE7 because he was using IE6 CSS hacks to correct for bugs which are now fixed in IE7. That sounds like a fairly reasonable concept, unless you actually know how a CSS hack works.

CSS hacks are little bits of CSS that trigger bugs in certain browsers, which allow a website to specify different code for different browsers. Generally the idea is to make good standard code, then use a CSS hack to apply a fix to one specific browser which doesn’t follow the standards, and thus hoarks up your good standard code. The CSS specification actually specifies that invalid CSS should be ignored, so all other browsers simply ignore this extra kludge and use the good standard code.

The problem with what the IE team told this guy is that if they really did fix the problem in IE7, it should ignore the code like other good browsers do, and the hack will have no effect on the page layout. If the hack really is causing problems in IE7, then IE7 still has CSS support problems causing it to try to interpret the extra code. Short and sweet, either IE is still broken or this isn’t really a problem.

Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. I think it’s very likely that these people are just dumb. However, being Microsoft, it’s hard not to think of the possible malicious intent. Their suggestion of removing the CSS hacks to fix IE7 will obviously break the page in previous versions of IE (or the site wouldn’t be using the hacks in the first place). If a whole bunch of sites stop working in IE6, many people will upgrade to IE7. That in itself is probably a good thing. However, IE7 is only for XP and up. I think there’s been enough Firefox publicity that a user would switch to an alternate browser first, but I’m sure there are people who will find a site that doesn’t work on their Win2k/IE6 box and instead pay for WinXP so they can upgrade to IE7. So is MS asking you to help them break a bunch of older PCs to force an upgrade, under the guise of updating your site to work with their new “standards-compliant” browser? It’s impossible to know for sure, but I wouldn’t put it past them.

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