Microsoft has updated its modern.IE website with some new tools for testing sites in IE 10 and earlier versions of Internet Explorer.
Launched earlier this year, modern.IE aims to simplify the sometimes arduous process of getting websites to work in older versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. The site also serves to promote web standards and help developers avoid mistakes like only supporting WebKit browsers — roughly the modern equivalent of the regrettable “works best in IE6″ websites of 2001.
Today’s updates for modern.IE address the most common user suggestions and include some new virtual machines for testing IE10 on Windows 7 and IE8 on Windows XP, better results from the site scanner (which now handles URLs behind a firewall) and some more translations.
The big news for Mac developers though is that Microsoft is offering a limited number of “Windows QuickStart kits” for Mac — which consist of Parallels Desktop 8 and Windows 8 on a USB stick — in exchange for a $25 donation to charity (plus $8 shipping). That’s a pretty awesome deal and as of this writing the site has slowed to a crawl, presumably under the heavy load of interested developers.
Microsoft has also announced a new partnership with the Webby Awards to create the new Webby Award Winners Gallery and Archive. The site showcases Webby nominees and winners all the way back to 1997. The design is responsive and takes advantage of some IE 10-only features, like touch events, but it works in all modern browsers as well.
Microsoft has launched a new site, Modern.IE, aimed at simplifying the sometimes arduous process of getting websites to work in older versions of the company’s Internet Explorer web browser. The new site also serves to promote web standards and help developers avoid mistakes like only supporting WebKit browsers, roughly the modern equivalent of the regrettable “works best in IE6″ websites of 2001.
Modern.IE consists of three main tools — a site scanner that will look at your code and detect potential problems for older versions of IE, a cross-browser testing tool (part of a partnership with BrowserStack) and a set of guidelines for building sites with web standards.
Or at least usually it does. In some cases it will apparently tell you to get in touch with Microsoft engineers instead for what Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin calls “security and privacy reasons.” It’s also worth noting that Modern.IE still suggests running your site through Compat Inspector, and of course, while Modern.IE is handy for catching larger issues it’s no substitute for actual cross-browser testing.
Microsoft has also included two suggestions that may irritate some developers — adding two snippets of Microsoft-specific code. The first is pretty innocuous, it’s just a bit of code to set an image so users can add your site to the new Windows 8 home screen with a “tile.” Yes, it’s Microsoft-specific code, but the Win 8 home screen images are no different than the Apple-specific apple-touch-icon code that’s probably on your site right now. The second suggestion is to add a bit of CSS to support Microsoft’s proposed MSPointers API. The MSPointers API actually looks quite useful, but suggesting developers use it now smacks of hypocrisy given that elsewhere on the site Microsoft suggests that developers stick to “stable standards.” The MSPointers API isn’t a standard at all, let alone stable.
The second major part of Modern.IE is Microsoft’s partnership with BrowserStack, a service that offers live, web-based browser testing through virtual machines. As part of the partnership you can use BrowserStack free for three months. After that BrowserStack’s regular pricing starts at $20/month for individuals.
Microsoft has also put together “back level versions of Windows and Internet Explorer” as virtual machine images so you can do your more thorough testing locally if you prefer. That means Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems with their companion browser versions IE6, 7, 8 and 9. At the moment there are only images available for Windows Server, but a Microsoft representative tells Webmonkey that VMs for Mac And Linux will be available later today.
The last part of Modern.IE is the “code with standards” section which offers an article on “20 tips for building modern sites while supporting old versions of IE.” Most of the advice is sound, though it does advocate for a conservative approach to web standards that’s not necessarily in keeping with the pace of the web.
That last aspect may put some developers off, though it’s worth noting that the Modern.IE site does not adhere to its own conservative approach. Instead the site does exactly what most savvy developers are already doing — using HTML5 and CSS 3, but including Modernizer to help make the site work in older versions of IE.
While the site is obviously geared specifically to toward developers that need to get their sites working in older versions of IE, most of the advice — particularly the emphasis on progressive enhancement — is sound advice for anyone building websites today.
Nothing gets a web developer’s hackles up quite like older versions of Internet Explorer. The web browser we all love to hate still manages to hang around after all these years — in the case of IE 6, the persistence is strong enough that even Microsoft has a website dedicated to getting rid of it.
While almost no one likes older versions of IE, most of us still need to support it to varying degrees. Mobile web expert Peter-Paul Koch recently ended an informal survey of web developers asking them which versions of IE they supported, tested in and whether or not they charged extra to support older versions of IE.
The results — from nearly 18,000 replies (1,150 for the least answered question) — are surprising in several ways, like the fact that 2 percent of web developers surveyed still support IE 5.5. That might not sound like many, but consider that IE 5.5 is nearly 13 years old (it was released with Windows ME in July 2000) and predates most of CSS 2, let alone CSS 3.
The overwhelmingly popular way to detect for older versions of IE is to use conditional comments, with 79 percent of developers reporting they use them.
Roughly two-thirds of developers surveyed are now charging extra for clients that require IE 6 support and 42 percent say they do the same for IE 7 support. Supporting IE 8 (which is admittedly not nearly as difficult as previous versions) remains just another part of being a web developer.
As Koch writes, “it’s clear that the market for IE6 information is collapsing, even though IE7 is still a going concern.” Be sure to check out Koch’s QuirksMode site for the full rundown on the survey.
Internet Explorer just can’t get no respect. The browser that every web developer loves to hate really doesn’t deserve that hate anymore. IE 10 bests the competition in quite a few benchmark tests and offers support for HTML5 and other web standards.
Still, hating on IE is well ingrained in web developer culture, ingrained enough that even Microsoft has developed a sense of humor about it. The company has released another video for its ongoing The Browser You Loved to Hate promotional campaign, this time showcasing something Webmonkey is very familiar with — the IE troll. In fact, Webmonkey is so familiar with the IE troll that the site is featured in the video.
There’s also an Easter Egg in the video; Microsoft really did create a mock “Karaoke Standard” site, which has another short video featuring the IE troll.
If you’ve been testing the built-in version of Internet Explorer in Microsoft’s coming Windows 8, you may be vulnerable to security flaws in Adobe’s Flash plugin.
Like Google Chrome, IE 10 on Windows 8 bundles the Flash Player directly into the browser. Unlike Google Chrome, IE 10 isn’t yet getting Flash updates on time. Because the plugin is bundled Adobe’s auto-update tools don’t work, nor can users manually download and install updates.
The only way to update Flash in Windows 8 is through Windows Update. That means the job of making sure those updates get to users falls to Microsoft, which so far has not delivered.
A Microsoft spokesperson tells Webmonkey that the company is “working closely with Adobe to release an update for Adobe Flash in IE 10 to protect our mutual customers.” However, Adobe’s latest round of patches was released August 21 and there’s still been no update for IE 10 users. Microsoft says that the update will be available “shortly.”
The company also assures Webmonkey that this issue will be worked out before Windows 8 actually ships.
Part of the problem appears to simply be scheduling. Microsoft’s updates are generally released on the second Tuesday of each month, while Adobe typically patches Flash a week or two later. That window between updates is what currently leaves those testing Windows 8 vulnerable.
Microsoft tells Webmonkey that a plan is in the works to address the scheduling conflict and ensure that Windows 8 users don’t have a vulnerable version of Flash for two weeks every patch cycle. Microsoft didn’t offered any details beyond saying the company plans to “align our release schedule as closely to Adobe’s as possible.”