Wow, the intertubes have been a buzz with the news of Microsoft’s browser version targeting system. I’m not going into the details, that would be superfluous. And it’s also clear that many are not happy about it. I for one feel very optimistic about Microsoft’s solution.
Building websites that won’t break in future browser releases is next to impossible, the idea alone is a bit absurd in my opinion. That not to say that it can’t be done, my own csszengarden submission still works very well due to sticking to the documented standards and not adding nonsensical things like the holly hack. With targeting future-proofing could be a thing of the past. But it doesn’t seem likely.
I actually think that defaulting to IE7 is a very good move, well they probably didn’t have much of choice when you think about it.
There are some things I feel may become a hindrance. Clients often don’t replace all of their front-end systems at once but do this in stages. The result is that the front-end of different systems often don’t match up. Legacy code is usually very difficult to get rid off. Targeting will make this even more difficult. However there is an upside to this. The code becomes locked down and is thus more manageable. No more going back in to the code to fix the bugs of newer (IE) browsers.
The new approach will also likely kill off the IE7 browser very quickly because targeting will allow Microsoft to update their browser without the need to offer an opt out to their users. IE7 rendering will be around for a long time because it, in effect, will become the new quirks mode. IE6 is dying a slow death and will slowly fade away over the next few years. So for the time being we’ll need to write for IE6 and one other IE browser, assuming IE7 will disappear quickly once IE8 is released, which I think it will. Those will with little control over their front-end (by design or by ignorance) will likely get stuck with IE7 rendering and IE6 while it’s still around, lucky them.
It’s very likely that none of the other major browser vendors (Mozilla, Opera and Apple) will implement the new meta tag. Apple has already come out saying as much and has clearly articulated why. These vendors have been delivering browsers for web standards for years now and have been very successful at it, no need to change a winning strategy. For web standards developers IE version targeting will in effect retire legacy rendering systems and Microsoft can now fully focus on delivering a true web standards browser, to which they genuinely seem committed. Without this technique that would not have been possible. With any luck writing CSS will become almost hack free, fingers crossed.
Update: Microsoft has changed their position how version targeting will default to full standards mode and that they will start supporting HTML5.