IE (h)8(eration)

Well, Microsoft released their first IE8 beta. This makes me simultaneously happy and nervous. Happy because it's another step towards having an Internet Explorer that actually renders web standards correctly (and another generation removed from IE6's rendering bugs). Nervous because it's certainly possible that this new release will, once again, cause a scramble to “fix” sites so they work in the latest debacle version of the world's (current) #1 browser.

I've been putzing around with it for about an hour now, just kind of checking out various sites and seeing how they behave. Here's a quick run-down of my first impressions:

Positives

  • In general, CSS support does seem to show a marked improvement over that provided by previous versions. I certainly haven't spent enough time nor done enough testing to say just how compatible it really and truly is.
  • It no longer takes 30 seconds just to open a new tab.
  • It passes the Second Acid Test.
  • The version targeting meta tag will be a life-saver for my company, which is beginning a complete system overhaul. As the lead developer, I have no interest in fixing all of our legacy systems so they are compatible with IE8 as they will all be obsolete within a couple years.

Questionable

  • Most sites I've visited (including this site) have some rendering quirks in IE8, though they mostly seem to be minor.
  • Links defined as block elements (for example, the links in my sidebar) only activate on the text, instead of on the entire block.
  • I've noticed a few quirks related to hover properties being properly recognized.
  • Sites reliant on JavaScript are going to have a tough time, I fear, though version targeting should help in the short-term.

Ironic

  • Gmail appears to run perfectly fine.
  • Hotmail does not.

I'll post more when I get a chance to do some thorough testing, but I think my first impressions validate my apprehension. While the browser does show improvements in standards support, it doesn't appear it's all the way there yet. Hopefully most of the problems are sorted out by the time IE8 sees its official release.

It's obvious Microsoft's browser team is making great strides in providing a standards compliant browser, but as a developer I'd prefer not having to code my way around three distinct, and bug-riddled, versions of Internet Explorer.