[ISSUE 24] Use of Meta tags to trigger standards-compliant rendering in browsers

Chris Wilson has posted a very interesting note [1] on his Microsoft blog 
explaining some things about the plans for support of standards-compliant 
rendering in the upcoming Internet Explorer 8.  Chris discusses some of 
Microsoft's past experiences with changing rendering conventions in IE, 
and then says (I've added links in [this form] for the benefit of those of 
you who will be getting this note as text/plain): 

"Aaron Gustafson, one of the members of the WaSP-Microsoft Task Force 
wrote an article [2] detailing where we ended up that was posted on A List 
Apart [3] today; I highly recommend reading it for a different 
perspective. I’ll summarize, though, that: 
1.        “Quirks mode” remains the same, and compatible with current 
2.        “Standards mode” remains the same as IE7, and compatible with 
current content. 
3.        If you (the page developer) really want the best standards 
support IE8 can give, you can get it by inserting a simple <meta> element. 
Aaron gives more details on this in his article."  

Point 3 suggests that Microsoft will be using a nonstandard (I.e. not 
blessed by HTTP and pertinent Recommendations) <meta> tag to trigger 
interpretation as standards-compliant HTML+CSS.  The TAG, before my time 
as a member, considered the issue then known as "contentTypeOverride-24" 
which is registered in our new Tracker-based system as Issue 24 [4].   The 
TAG also published a finding title "Authoritative Metadata" [5], which 
focuses on the importance of correctly using standard mechanisms such as 
Content-Type for conveying and determining representation metadata.  From 
the Summary of Key Points in that finding:

1.      * Metadata received in an encapsulating container, such as the 
metadata within the header fields of a message that describe the data 
enclosed within that message, is authoritative in defining the nature of 
the data received.
2.      * Inconsistency between representation data and metadata is an 
error that should be discovered and corrected rather than silently 
3.      * An agent MUST NOT ignore or override authoritative metadata 
without the consent of the party employing the agent.
4.      * Specifications MUST NOT work against the Web architecture by 
requiring or suggesting that a recipient override authoritative metadata 
without user consent.

I am writing here for myself, not for the TAG as a whole, and it is not my 
intention to prejudge the decisions that Microsoft is making in trying to 
balance adherence to Web standards with a need to preserve 
interoperability with Web content that's already deployed.  I do think it 
would be worthwhile to discuss a bit on this list what we can learn from 
the experiences that Chris has shared in his blog.  Maybe or maybe not the 
TAG would eventually want to weigh in with suggestions on how Web 
architecture might best be applied, but I think that in any case a bit of 
discussion and consideration might be interesting at this point.


[1] http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2008/01/21/compatibility-and-ie8.aspx

[2] http://alistapart.com/articles/beyonddoctype

[3] http://alistapart.com/issues/251

[4] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/group/track/issues/24

[5] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/mime-respect

Noah Mendelsohn 
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

Received on Monday, 28 January 2008 21:43:11 UTC