This is not a review of Internet Explorer 5.5 - HTML with Style | 4 | WebReference

This is not a review of Internet Explorer 5.5 - HTML with Style | 4


This is not a review of Internet Explorer 5.5

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Back when I was writing my review of Internet Explorer 5.0, I lamented the perpetuated lack of support for some basic HTML 4.0 features. Before I go on to hot new tech like CSS (it's funny, laugh), I'd like to go over that list with the new version.

Let's start with the good news: IE5.5/Win supports the LABEL element flawlessly, leading the way for a Web with radio buttons that don't require you to use your mouse with the accuracy of a sharpshooter. This is nice.

Some other things are not so nice. Tiny little things like the ABBR and Q elements not being handled are a nuisance, but not critical. Slightly more annoying is IE's lack of support for character-aligned table cells (but who cares, tables are for layout anyway, right?).

Skipping these ticklish niggles and entering the realm of royal pains in the backside, I noticed that the LINK element is still unsupported for anything except style sheets and those proprietary "shortcut icons". I've said it before and I'll say it again: LINK is nice. LINK is good. We want LINK. It would save everyone in the world a whole lot of trouble if I could provide links to related documents in a simple, consistent way. What really cracks me up is how much effort browser makers have put into "Related Sites" functions, which offer the reader the ability to ask a server somewhere to tell him if it thinks there are any other documents that are related to the one he's viewing, while they ignore this wonderfully elegant way of letting the author of the document have a say in the matter.

But the grand prize for Most Annoying Bug in HTML 4.0 Implementation still goes to last year's winner, the hideously broken OBJECT element. People, this isn't funny anymore.

Maybe I'm being too anal, but I think OBJECT is one of the most important elements in HTML. Everyone is going on and on about how the Web is increasingly becoming an information space that cannot be described by HTML alone, and yet we still lack a standard way of embedding data in HTML documents. We've got the proprietary EMBED, the IMG and deprecated APPLET, all of which are not nearly as flexible as OBJECT when it comes to embedding diverse types of data or providing alternate content in a platform-independant way.

The most important point is that IE5.5/Win's OBJECT implementation is not simply missing - that would be fine, as OBJECT can be used in a way that allows non-compliant browsers to fall back to alternate content. The implementation is downright broken, as it was in versions 5.0, 4.0 and 3.0 (where most spec-compliant uses of OBJECT caused the browser, and often Windows, to crash without warning or explanation).

So Internet Explorer is still not compliant with HTML 4.0. Forget about writing to the spec alone, and forget about sticking to HTML 4.0 Strict (will we ever be able to do that, I wonder?). This is not a big surprise, but it's worth whining about. Then, of course, there's CSS...


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Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: August 03, 2000
Revised: August 8, 2000