This article could really be titled how IE8 measure against W3C and other Web Standards. So this is really a report on progress on picking up the pieces on W3C and Web standards since Microsoft’s browser embargo on all feature improvements to IE from 2001 to 2006. The Five Year Freeze imposed by Microsft went well beyond W3C and Web standards when no new features were added to the IE browser. This functional freeze was effectively imposed on all browsers because Redmond had 90%++ Browser market share and had not only stopped all development plus stalled a substantial amount of work in many W3C and other standards committees from 2000 through 2006 (see for example the history of progress on W3C CSS standards).
After this 5 year drought and dismantling of what had been a huge IE development team except for security fixes, one can imagine the problems that IE would have in coming back up to speed in browser development. Here is a table of how all the major the browsers perform on key Web standards. Note ratios like 88/154 means that IE8 passed 88 of 154 W3C tests for browsers:
|Standards Support in the Major Browsers
|CSS Colors Test
|SVG (see here for browser tests)
Note red marks worst performing browser, green the best performing browser – ratio scores are (passed tests/total tests). TBD – Tests to Be Determined – results should be appearing in the next 2-3 weeks.
Browsers used in these tests (except in SVG test results) are the latest available as of March 18th, 2009
IE8 – final release 8.0.60001, Chrome 1.0.154, Firefox 3.07, Opera 9.6, Safari 4 beta 528.01
Clearly IE has suffered dramatically from its own long freeze – it is way at the tail end of almost all of the standards. It is also still performance and feature short versus Firefox and all the other browsers. Even Opera, which has seen a decline in its usual standards leading conformance, continues to perform well in speed tests. Yet in the past Microsoft saw fit to throw lots of people and resources at IE development while the current IE team constantly cites resource constrained delays in improving IE vis a vis Web standards and competitive features. But it is in the area of browser speed and performance where IE8 particularly lags behind all the other major browsers and by significant margins. See tests here and here.
In sum, we strongly advise against using IE for web browsing – there are lots of much better alternatives while sites that insist on using IE exclusively are declining as rapidly as IE’s market share:
Updated for SMIL availability: April 5, 2009
For a more recent [mid August 2009] review of all the browsers, check out Information Week.
Updated for IW browser comparison: September 1, 2009