Basically it comes down to IE rendering pages in three modes, the “old mode”, the IE7 half standards mode and IE8 full standards mode. It makes sense to be nice to the web developers who refuse to keep up with their profession, their pages will work forever in future version’s of IE, and be nice to the leading edge developers who painfully hack their way into IE.
As a web developer myself at first I did not have an opinion on the topic but the more I read the more scared I get. This is going to introduce yet ANOTHER variable into the development world. Making developers working on new projects forced to keep up with these three modes and possibly in three years still be working in the “old mode” when they could have been in full standards mode two years ago and help out the end user. Instead it is advocating laziness (ignorance) and old code on the web.
The web is an always transforming place, the landscape has changed from a page-to-page static world to a fully asynchronized ajax environment. These three modes will just slow down the advancements on the web and ultimately make the end user suffer. The graph included is wayne.edu’s IE usage IE7 has taken over IE6’s lead and 7’s growth continues to climb, browsers come and go and developers know this. Soon IE7 will be gone and IE8 will have the largest percent of Microsofts browser share.
Not to mention if no other browsers pick up the idea (I really hope they don’t), IE will yet again become the corporate browser of its predecessors and the “lock in” continues. IE’s goal should be to unify the web and if some sites get broken in the mean time so be it, if enough people like the features (forced update via windows update) and end up using IE8 the non-compliant companies will get on board the standards wagon and won’t look back, their business will depend on it.
My stance is firm, the meta rendering mode is a negative not only for the web development community but the web users as a whole. Breaking the already broken end of the web may not be a bad thing in the overall scheme, just imagine in two years or so when they eventually deprecate the “old mode” rendering engine, it’ll be a much tougher fight than if they never implemented it in the first place.
Update: 01/24/2008 6:30 am EST:
After reading an article by John Resig and the HTML 5 DOCTYPE my fears of this meta switch have eased. It turns out IE will only use the meta tag for doctypes which are already established and widely used. HTML5 and beyond will not need the switch to render in fully standard mode. And IE8 will support DOCTYPE switching for all new DOCTYPES.
This changes the whole situation, it awards the developers who code to standards with an actual useful browser and lets the lazy developers keep their routine.