Joel Spolsky: You’re about to see the mother of all flamewars on internet groups where web developers hang out. It’ll make the Battle of Stalingrad look like that time your sister-in-law stormed out of afternoon tea at your grandmother’s and wrapped the Mustang around a tree.
This upcoming battle will be presided over by Dean Hachamovitch, the Microsoft veteran currently running the team that’s going to bring you the next version of Internet Explorer, 8.0. The IE 8 team is in the process of making a decision that lies perfectly, exactly, precisely on the fault line smack in the middle of two different ways of looking at the world. It’s the difference between conservatives and liberals, it’s the difference between “idealists” and “realists,” it’s a huge global jihad dividing members of the same family, engineers against computer scientists, and Lexuses vs. olive trees.
And there’s no solution. But it will be really, really entertaining to watch, because 99% of the participants in the flame wars are not going to understand what they’re talking about. It’s not just entertainment: it’s required reading for every developer who needs to design interoperable systems.
The flame war will revolve around the issue of something called “web standards.” I’ll let Dean introduce the problem:
All browsers have a “Standards” mode, call it “Standards mode,” and use it to offer a browser’s best implementation of web standards. Each version of each browser has its own Standards mode, because each version of each browser improves on its web standards support. There’s Safari 3’s Standards mode, Firefox 2’s Standards mode, IE6’s Standards mode, and IE7’s Standards mode, and they’re all different. We want to make IE8’s Standards mode much, much better than IE7’s Standards mode.
Internet Explorer 8, IE8, History