Today’s delivery of schadenfreude was quite a large one, as Microsoft revealed that it has had to make changes to Internet Explorer’s Trident engine in order to remain compatible with the state of the internet on mobile devices, and to render sites targeted at Webkit-based browsers found in iOS and Android.

Five key issues were identified that needed to be addresses for IE to be compatible.

  • Faulty browser detection not recognising IE as a mobile browser and giving the desktop experience
  • Using only old webkit-prefixed features that have been replaced by standards
  • Using proprietary webkit-prefixed features for which there is no standard
  • Using features that IE does not support with no graceful fall-back
  • Running into interoperability bugs and implementation differences in IE

The current issues listed by Microsoft for IE11 read like a rap sheet from the late 1990s and early 2000s based on Redmond’s behaviour at the time.

As someone that sat through the IE6 trauma that Microsoft chose to inflict upon the web a decade and a half ago, it’s nice to see the former bully having to suffer the same torment that it handed out.

Beyond the initial humour, irony, and bucket of schadenfreude though, the Webkitisation of the internet is an issue that has been coming for a while now.

It was an issue I looked at in February 2012.

Remember the days when designers and developers only cared about how their site looked in IE6, and couldn’t or wouldn’t care about the rendering in the Mozilla or Opera browsers? Those days are returning quickly as mobile sites ‘enhance’ their experience for WebKit browsers.

You’d think that we would have learned from the last time around.

Unfortunately, we didn’t.

And now we are in a situation where webkit prefixes have become a de facto standard for the mobile web, and those that don’t use web standards are being rewarded for their ignorance and viable standardised alternatives being available.

Microsoft claims it is not its goal to support all Webkit prefixed APIs, but has its actions have now shown, an API only needs to hit a threshold of popularity before Redmond will fall into line.

It goes to show to extent of Microsoft’s recent fall from grace, especially in the mobile sphere.

Microsoft is no longer a company that can impose its will upon an entire industry, it’s now a company that is working with Mozilla to send standards-compatible patches to sites that are broken. It’s a very welcome change from the dark times of Embrace and extend and IE6.