Acid2 reference image.After looking at how Safari 3.1 handles the Acid2 test, and finding that under some circumstances/platforms it fails the test, I realized: that one line, with the eyes, has been the cause of most regressions in browsers that previously passed the test.

Rows 4-5 test fallback behavior for objects. The idea is that if a page tries to load an external resource, but can’t—the file is missing, the server’s down, the network’s slow, the browser doesn’t have the right plugin, etc.—the page can provide alternate content. And it can be nested, so you can try, say, a video clip that falls back to an SVG image that falls back to a PNG that falls back to text. Continue reading

When the first Firefox 2 beta was released, I looked into Microsummaries, a feature that enables bookmarks to automatically update their titles with information. I concluded they were useful, but not for anything I was doing. The main application would be my Flash site, but it already had an RSS feed for updates, and a microsummary could only really include the most recent item.

Now the first IE8 beta supports Webslices. They’re similar in concept, but can include formatted data (not just plain text) and use microformat-like markup on the web page instead of a <link> element in the head.

I figured with two browsers supporting the concept, I’d give it a shot. I adapted the script I use to generate the RSS feed so that it will also take everything on the most recent day and generate a text file, which is used for the Microsummary title. For the Webslice, to start with I just marked up the “Latest Updates” section of the home page. Since I haven’t installed IE8b1 at home, I’m using Daniel Glazman’s experimental Webchunks extension for Firefox to try it out. Unfortunately the extension doesn’t seem to resolve relative links in its current state.

The real question, of course, is whether either technology offers anything better than what feeds can do now.

I think I’ll end up going the external-feed route for the Webslice as well, since it’ll use a lot less bandwidth than having a bunch of IE installations pulling the entire home page once a day. Plus since I’m using SSI on that page, it doesn’t take advantage of conditional requests and caching, and a static file will. But that’ll have to wait. Lost is on in 2 minutes, and after getting up earlier than usual this morning, I’ll probably be going to bed right after the show.

Update: I checked in IE8, and the webslice does work as expected. A few minor differences: Webchunks pulls in external styles, like the background and colors, while IE8b1 only uses styles in the chunk itself. Interesting bit: I’m marking up list items as entries, and IE8 is actually displaying them as a bulleted list, while Webchunks is simply showing the content.

So it at least works. Maybe tonight or Sunday I’ll see if I can refine it a bit.

Internet ExplorerInstalled the first Internet Explorer 8 beta. Some thoughts:

I’m impressed that it can import settings from Firefox & Safari.

It detected Firefox extensions and even offered to look up similar add-ons. Unfortunately it was a big long search string with all the titles, and therefore a useless list of results for things like cameras (yeah, how am I supposed to install a $1000 Nikon D80 on my web browser?) and the hint book for Splinter Cell.

Activities: My first thought was, “hey, they’re doing stuff with microformats!” Which is key to the underlying support (recognizing types of data and only offering relevant services, like maps for locations but not for book titles). But on the face of it, it’s a lot more like the way Flock integrates with various web services: Set up your blogging provider, and you can easily send stuff to your blog. Though right now they mostly have Microsoft-hosted services.

“Emulate IE7” appears to involve restarting in an alternate mode right now. I assume automatic switching is something planned for later betas.

Other than that, the UI seems about the same as IE7 so far.

It does indeed pass Acid2 (assuming the page isn’t swamped when you try to load it).

So, how else does its rendering differ?

Minor visual glitch: I have CSS-based banners on some pages (W3C validation, for instance), using spans with borders. If it’s on the last line of a page, IE will cut off the bottom border, because it extends past the end of the page. Other browsers show it. I’ve gotten around this in the past by adding a blank paragraph afterward, but now IE8 collapses the empty paragraph. That’s probably the correct thing to do, but it does mean adjusting things a bit. Not a big problem, though, because I’ve just noticed that it handles other pages fine, without the <p></p> workaround, which means that I’m probably already using a better solution elsewhere.

Several cases of re-styling UL lists seem to confuse it. The tabs running across the top of my Flash page, for instance, or the sidebar on the Alternative Browser Alliance. Others appear just as they do in other browsers (including IE7). This will bear investigation. (Edit: 2 different problems; see below.)

Still no sign of generated content. Beta 2? Please? Edit: according to, it does support generated content, but images don’t work (yet?). I’d been using this, progressive-enhancement–style, to add icons for outgoing links on my Flash site. It works in, well, everything else current.

Additionally: I’m surprised to see it so early, and to see it as a public beta and not something that required an MSDN login. And they had the sense to release a version for Windows XP! I was half-expecting it to be a Vista-only release, which would’ve been seriously annoying.

Further updates will be added below as I think of them.

It turns out the problem on the Alternative Browser Alliance menu wasn’t related to lists as I’d thought, but to a change in the CSS parser. For whatever reason, IE8b1 is susceptible to the Caio Hack (/*/*/ place code here /* comment */) normally used to hide CSS rules from Netscape 4. At this stage I should probably be able to remove it and not worry about NS4 anymore. (And it turns out that since I added media types to the link a while back, NS4 doesn’t even read the stylesheet in the first place!)

On the issue with the tabs on the Flash site, it looks like IE8b1 isn’t extending backgrounds beyond the text line on inline elements (oddly, also like NS4). This is probably what’s really going on with the CSS buttons I mentioned above. I’ll have to check which behavior is correct, but my money would be on the Gecko, Opera and WebKit interpretation. If so, this will probably be changed before the final release. If not, I’ll use inline-block instead. Which perhaps I should be doing anyway, except for the annoying fact that Firefox 2 doesn’t support inline-block and Firefox 3, which does, is still in beta.

I’ve reported the Caio Hack issue to Microsoft using their “Report a Webpage Problem” tool. The form emphasizes that you shouldn’t send anything that could identify you, so instead of reporting the problem on one of my own sites, I sent the page describing the hack. This probably means I reported it in the wrong way. 😕

It looks like Activities isn’t actually context-sensitive yet, since it’s offering to show me a map even when I’ve selected random prose instead of an address.

Having messed with it more than I probably should over the last 24 hours, I’ve come to a decision: During beta 1, any rendering problem I encounter in IE8b1 that works the way I want it to in Gecko, Opera, Safari and IE7, I’m going to assume is a bug in beta 1. I’ll try to narrow them down & report them when I have a chance, but I won’t actually change my sites’ code (except for retargeting IE-specific workarounds) until at least beta 2.

Internet Explorer.My feed reader is filling up with commentary on Microsoft’s proposal to lock web pages to specific rendering engines (funny how it doesn’t sound quite so forward thinking when you put it like that). Rather than link to a lot of them, I’ll just link to Opera Watch’s post which collects quotes from various standards & browser people.

The IE7/IE6 ratio on this site is still holding above 1 for the month (yay!) at 33.6% to 28.3%.

Also interesting: last week we got our first visit from Internet Explorer 8. Just one visit to Katie’s analysis of Wolfram & Hart’s work comp liability, but it loaded the relevant images, styles, etc., so it looks like an actual browser visit (and not some bot using a fake UA, like the spambot that keeps trying to post comments as Firefox 9). More importantly, it actually came from an IP address that’s assigned to Microsoft and resolves to a hostname, so I think it’s the real deal.

Internet Explorer.Okay, this will mean nothing to most people out there, but to web developers, particularly those who use standards-based design to maximize compatibility with different browsers, this is monumental.

An internal build of Internet Explorer 8 has passed Acid2.

The Acid2 test was released in April 2005 to test a number of pieces of the HTML and CSS standards that, at the time, no modern browser handled according to spec. The purpose of the test was to prod browser developers into improving their products, and to do so consistently, so that developers would have more tools available for cross-browser sites.

At the time, Microsoft dismissed its its importance entirely. Even though they were working on rendering improvements for IE7, they stated that Acid2 was not one of their goals. Meanwhile Opera and Firefox were both in the wrong phase of their development cycles to make sweeping changes, so Safari jumped on it and became the first browser to pass. (Every once in a while I see someone say Opera was the first, and I have to wonder where they were.) Opera followed with version 9, and the Firefox 3 betas pass it as well.

With Gecko (Firefox), WebKit (Safari), Opera and IE accounting for the four biggest web browsers and the most popular minor browsers (Flock, Camino, Shiira, etc., plus IE shells like Maxthon), this shows unprecedented convergence among clients. It will be much easier to develop a cross-browser website that runs on IE8, Firefox 3, Opera 9+ and Safari 3+.

There are, of course, many aspects of the specs that aren’t covered by Acid2. And there are emerging standards like HTML5 and CSS3. And there are plenty of other bugs, quirks, and extensions among various browsers (IE’s bizarre concept of having layout, for instance, trips up all kinds of weird issues). And then there’s waiting for IE8 to be released, and moving people up from IE7, not to mention all the people we still have to move up from IE6. Full benefit is probably at least 3 or 4 years away. *sigh*

(via WaSP Buzz)