That HTML Thingy - Internet Explorer 5.0: With Style, Finally? - Style Watch | WebReference

That HTML Thingy - Internet Explorer 5.0: With Style, Finally? - Style Watch

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Internet Explorer 5.0: With Style, Finally?

That HTML Thingy

Remember HTML? It's this weird thing called a markup language, it's been around for almost a decade now, it's well documented, probably one of the most popular languages in the world, it's well specified by an open organization of which Microsoft is a paying member and so on. Ring any bells?

Dan Shafer, member of the Steering Committee of the Web Standards Project, claimed in his otherwise damning developer's review of Internet Explorer 5.0 that the browser supported most of HTML 4.0. For someone who is so concerned with browser adoption of W3C standards, Mr. Shafer was being grossly innacurate.

To test Internet Explorer 5.0's HTML support I used my previous article, HTML 4.0 in Netscape and Explorer. I assumed that IE 5.0 didn't break the standard any further than its previous incarnation, and checked to see which of the bugs have been fixed. The good news:

Multiple consecutive paragraph elements are now ignored, so authors can't use multiple paragraphs for spacing. You can specify multiple media descriptors for style sheets, and Internet Explorer will only pick those containing screen. And the FRAMES and RULES attributes can be used to control the borders on tables.

That's it. These are the three bugs that have been fixed in version 5.0. Granted, I'm only human, and maybe I've missed a couple, but compared to the glaring inconsistencies that were just ignored, these changes are inexcusable. One of the two most popular programs in the world, it's operation is based around one language from which everything else stems from, a language that has been a W3C recommendation since November 1997, by a company whose employees were some of the key people involved in writing this specification, and their new, supposedly revolutionary browser has fixed only three of a huge list of bugs in its implementation. I'm sorry, but this does not deserve commendation, I think it is despicable and irresponsible. Microsoft promised full HTML 4.0 support for 5.0 and it hasn't even gotten close.

Most people might be concentrating on XML, DOM and CSS in their reviews, and yes, this should also be done because IE 5.0's support of these technologies is also terrible (as we'll see later on), but all of that is pointless unless you get HTML straight, and IE's HTML engine compares to the specification as a straight line compares to a lower intestine. Microsoft had a year and a half to work on this, even more if you consider it's had information on the specification before it was even released to the public, and I do not believe that a company with the size and resources of Microsoft did not have the ability to implement something as relatively simple as HTML 4.0 in two years' time. Make no mistake, this is a policy decision and not an engineering problem. They don't care, and they probably never will. And I think they should get all the bad press they deserve for this.

Here's a brief reminder of the more important parts of HTML 4.0 that are still unimplemented.

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Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou and

Created: April 7, 1999
Revised: Apr 30, 1999