Monday, March 17, 2008

"8 billion existing web pages be damned"

"8 billion existing web pages be damned" is my favorite one-liner from the latest article on It is was the idealists said when they said IE8 needed to be strict when rendering web pages.

It is a good description of the chasm between idealistic engineers and compliance with the standards and pragmatists who want to make the software work with the existing customer base.

There is no solution. Each solution is terribly wrong. Eric Bangeman at ars technica writes, “The IE team has to walk a fine line between tight support for W3C standards and making sure sites coded for earlier versions of IE still display correctly.” This is incorrect. It’s not a fine line. It’s a line of negative width. There is no place to walk. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

That’s why I can’t take sides on this issue and I’m not going to. But every working software developer should understand, at least, how standards work, how standards should work, how we got into this mess, so I want to try to explain a little bit about the problem here, and you’ll see that it’s the same reason Microsoft Vista is selling so poorly, and it’s the same issue I wrote about when I referred to the Raymond Chen camp (pragmatists) at Microsoft vs. the MSDN camp (idealists), the MSDN camp having won, and now nobody can figure out where their favorite menu commands went in Microsoft Office 2007, and nobody wants Vista, and it’s all the same debate: whether you are an Idealist (”red”) or a Pragmatist (”blue”).


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