Opera still not happy over IE8

Browser company Opera has said rival Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) still doesn't address all its concerns about Explorer's interoperability – concerns which led it to file an anti-trust complaint with European regulators in December.

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Browser company Opera has said rival Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) still doesn't address all its concerns about Explorer's interoperability – concerns which led it to file an anti-trust complaint with European regulators in December.

Unveiling IE8 last week, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the IE group, announced that IE8 would support a new "super standards" mode by default, rather than as an option as it had been originally planning.

Norwegian-based Opera was among the many happy with this particular decision, but it said it only partially addressed its causes for complaint. "I was relieved to see that IE8 passes Acid2 test [a popular Internet standards test] by default," said Opera's chief technology officer Hakon Wium Lie. "This is an indication that IE8 is more standards-compliant than its predecessor."

But Lie wouldn't let the software giant off the hook entirely. "It was interesting to see that Microsoft gave a legal reason for their most recent turnaround," he said. "Certainly, I believe Opera's filing with the European Commission has influenced Microsoft's decision to do the right thing."

Opera has charged that Microsoft hindered interoperability by not following accepted web standards and abused its dominant position in the OS market by tying IE to Windows. After it filed its complaint with the EC in December, the commission opened a formal investigation in January (including into another filing related to Microsoft Office).

"We have brought up several technical issues in IE in our discussions with the commission, and only two of them have been partly addressed," Lie said. The five issues he listed include:

  • Fully complying with Acid2 and Acid3 standards tests
  • Supporting the specifications underlying the Acid tests
  • Providing documentation on how IE implements standards
  • Dropping version targeting
  • Committing to interoperability by promising to add support for standards that two or more major browsers implement.

"IE8, by supporting Acid2 and triggering standards mode like other browsers, partly addresses 1 and 4," said Lie, "but the other points remain."

His comments might come as a disappointment to Microsoft's Hachamovitch, who pitched IE8's change of its super standards mode as the answer to the browser's legal problems.

"IE8's default is a demonstration of [Microsoft's new] interoperability principles in action," he said in a post to the IE team's blog. "While we do not believe any current legal requirements would dictate which rendering mode a browser must use, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue."

Generally, Microsoft's competitors and partners were happy with the decision to support a new "super standards" mode by default, including Mike Shaver, of Firefox make Mozilla, who called the change "very promising".

It was a 180-degree turn on the company's original decision to make support for super standards optional, which had raised a ruckus among web developers. "Bravo and thanks to Microsoft for listening genuinely and making a change that I think will have a very positive effect on standards-based content on the Web," Shaver said.

Although perhaps not convinced by Microsoft's current moves, Opera's Lie did seem prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt in the long-term. "I hope that Microsoft will continue to have a constructive attitude, that they will work with other browser vendors to support Acid3 and that they commit to interoperability," he said.

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