Version Targeting & Web Standards : A Standardista's Story

Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of Happy Cog, frames version targeting with context and common sense. This is a standarista's tale of why version targeting is needed, how targeting should behave and what it means for the web of the future.

Mr.  Zeldman has been web standards authority from the very beginning. Starting early with a web design mailing list with Brian Platz, A List Apart soon grew into an influential magazine widely read by front-end development and design craftsmen. At the height of the browser wars, Zeldman and his colleagues parlayed their influence and created the Web Standards Project (WaSP). The WaSP and proved successful to help bring web standards to browser makers, tool designers and developers.

The new focus on web standards brought about the concept of doctype switching. Doctype switching allows HTML authors to ask the browser render pages in strict adherence to web standards or ask the browser to be a little more forgiving. The popularity of doctype switching grew and soon it seemed everyone one was using it (… and for some for no other reason but to keep up with the Jones’).

As the doctype was being abused, Internet Explorer 6 had incorrectly implemented some significant portions of the W3C CSS spec creating the need for ugly work-arounds like the box model hack just to get browsers to render the same pages the same way. To remedy the CSS standards support ills, Microsoft issued IE7 and standardistas rejoiced.

There was only one problem with all this celebrating though. Some say IE7 “broke the web”.

While IE7 implemented web standards correctly - the code that worked around IE6’s flaws remained - as did improperly applied doctype definitions. Unfortunately rendering work-around code in a properly built browser made some sites look like the layout was “broken”.

On the eve of the release of IE8 version targeting aims to to allow browser to continue to advance and old content to remain untouched.

The only question that remains is:

Does version targeting make sense for the web?

Listen to the show and hear what a front-runner of the web standards movement has to say.

Note: Coming soon is as a follow-up interview with IE Platform Architect Chris Wilson where he discusses the perspective from inside the IE team.

This post is titled with all apologies to Eric Meyer.