Mix 09 Internet Explorer chief Dean Hachamovitch has committed Microsoft to standards and working with standards bodies, after years of going its own way on the browser.
Microsoft's IE general manager used the launch of IE 8 to tell Mix 09 that Microsoft would continue to engage with the web and developers on compatibility and promised that Microsoft is "listening."
IE 8 is the first version of Microsoft's browser to be compliant with some key industry standards: HTML and CSS. Hachamovitch made great play at Mix of the fact Microsoft's put IE 8 through more than 7,000 tests on CSS while IE 8 "starts HTML 5 support" - HTML 5 is, as yet, an unfinished spec.
Hachamovitch's words didn't convince everyone at what's supposedly a partisan show packed with Microsoft fans. On hearing Hachamovitch, one Twittered: "'Microsoft guy: "We are *committed* to standards!' ROFLMAO'" - rolling on the floor laughing my ass off. Others questioned the volume of tests, and whether Microsoft had picked the "right" tests.
Microsoft might be listening, but what's next in IE's standards magical journey is a mystery to anybody outside Microsoft - and probably a good number of people inside the company too.
Asked by The Reg whether Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is on the roadmap given the level of popularity of SVG, which is supported in Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, coupled with Microsoft's recent enthusiasm for the W3C's work, Hachamovitch was not exactly equivocal.
"SVG is a fair one," Hachamovitch told us. "I think it's important to not just do SVG but have complete tests so SVG works the way developers want it to".
Ah, the test suite. There's the rub.
According to Hachamovitch, the reason SVG didn't make it in IE 8 along with other W3C standards is Microsoft wanted to do a "good job" on implementation. Some suspect Microsoft is holding off SVG because it's potentially competitive to the work in smooth 2D graphics presentation both in the browser and using the Silverlight browser plug-in.
"We used our time doing CSS 2.1 deeply and as completely as we could. It's more important to developers to do things in a complete and interoperable way than a little bit here and there," he said.
Just when it seemed like Microsoft could at least be considering SVG, though, Hachamovitch declined to go for the kill and say whether this will make the next cut of IE.
"You can go down W3C site and count different standards out there," he said. "A lot of folks are asking about SVG. There are a lot of folks asking about Canvas and Smile [graphics code beloved of social networks]. There are about 80 plus standards out there. Even inside of SVG there's SVG 1.2, SVG Tiny - there are a lot of sub factions."
Hachamovitch added, though: "We understand that graphics is important."