Meta New Browser?

posted on January 24th, 2008 by Anthony

I never seem to get around to actually writing about technical stuff on here. I always mean to, but never get around to it – there are plenty of other people with more highly developed and opinionated brains in web land to add there tuppence.

But the last couple of days has seen a whirlwind of excrement – and other less nasty detritus – being whipped up and thrown about with something approaching gay abandon.

It’s only proper that I add my foul smelling wind to the twister.

Bloomin Microsoft

The Microsoft team circa 1978

I have no hate for Microsoft.

I am not a Microsoft basher.

I have happily used their products my entire adult life.

I think people often forget the bewildering vastness of Microsoft’s installed base and their need to keep as many of them happy as possible. Every time they release anything.

For the most part I think they do a pretty good job.

Their size is their main weakness. You could liken them to a lumbering T-Rex or other big and powerful, but pondering and slow beast. But that wouldn’t really come close to capturing their ubiquitous presence in modern computing. If anything they are more like oxygen – and you can’t just suddenly make changes to the make up of oxygen. It would probably cause a few issues for a few people.

OK, that oversells them a tad, but it makes my point. It’s easy to point the finger at them sometimes, call them rude names and refer to them as M$. It has to be remembered that they have a tough job – much tougher than Apple (as much as I love ’em) or anyone else.

Oh Noes We Broked teh Webbiez!

Having said all that, sometimes they do seem to make some odd decisions.

Apparently when IE7 came out it ‘broke the web’.

Sorry? Did I miss something?

I don’t remember turning on BBC News and being told the web wasn’t working any more? I don’t remember there being widespread teen panic because ‘MySpace woz teh brok3d’.

Oh there were issues, of course there were, but broken? I don’t think so.

Microsoft seem to actually believe that they somehow brought the web to it’s knees with their last release and they have developed a bit of a psychosis complex about it.

You Meta Believe It

Since breaking the web – and presumably fixing it again – they’ve been off developing a wonderful new rendering engine. One that brings in all of the lovely things us web types have been chomping at the bit to use for the last few years.

They showed us a carrot a few weeks ago with the news that IE8 has passed Acid 2 (does that mean much in real world terms…) and for a few brief moments it looked like we could finally be headed towards a browser utopia…

What they hadn’t yet revealed was the big wooden stick they had behind their back for ‘self defence’.

That stick is shaped like this:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" />

If you don’t use that you get beaten to death by (I assume) the old IE7 rendering engine that actually <scaryvoice>brrroooke tthhhhe weeeeebb</scaryvoice>.


I can sort of see why they’ve chosen to go with that route. It is, after all, a solution to the problem. (The problem they created for themselves in the first place…)

I’ve already said Microsoft are huge, and I know that they have a tough job getting innovative stuff through the door, but the fact of the matter is that they are HUUUUGE. They do have their problems but they also employ some of the biggest, most talented coders in the world to help them solve them.

The best solution these guys came up with is to basically ask to use a secret phrase into our code so we can get past the IE7 muscle on the door and into the IE8 club.

Sorry sunshine, not with those meta tags


At the end of the day it won’t be the end of the world if we have to do it. It’s just so bloody clunky!

It’s the kind of fix you wouldn’t mind coming up with yourself in a hurry. If you had a small team. Or it was 1998.

It’s not what you expect form the biggest software developer in the world.