The Huge Problem with Internet Explorer 9

Microsoft finally released a browser that supports some CSS3 properties. As usual they’re in catch-up mode, but IE9 still isn’t exactly on par with the rest of them. If you check the compatibility chart on you’ll see there are still some red Xs compared to the other major browsers. What’s the deal with text shadows? Anyways, it might be good enough for now but there’s one gigantic problem that, at least to me, resembles the lovely situation created by the devil’s browser IE6. Microsoft is restricting IE9 to Windows Vista and Windows 7. For front-end developers, this shifts the problem from supporting IE6 (which we can hopefully all agree to stop supporting unless a client pays extra for it) to finding some way to implement CSS3 in IE7 and IE8.

To be fair, yes, it has been 10 years since XP was released but, to give the big M some credit, it’s pretty stable and it’s definitely still the most widely used personal OS out there. I actually haven’t even upgraded my PC yet, but that’s mostly because I want to throw 7 on a solid-state drive and really beef up my RAM. That won’t be an overly expensive upgrade but I’m trying to save more than spend in this economic climate. I believe that XP is going to stick around for quite a while in corporate, educational, and government environments – just like IE6 stuck around.

I’m hoping there will be some kind of easy javascript solution that alleviates the old IEs but I haven’t found anything yet. CSS3 PIE comes close but I found it to be buggy after trying it a couple of times over the course of several months. I’m not sure how often the project is updated but it seems like it’s been in beta (or some test mode) for a while now. There are also several individual hacks and plugins that are available for many CSS3 properties but that seems like a pain and a big waste of time; the more CSS3 you want to use the more plugins you’ll need to find.

Over the past month or so I’ve started using CSS3 very minimally (rounded corners, text shadows… not much more) and have resorted to using javascript for fixes in IE, even though they don’t always work well. I’m thinking of even just degrading for old IE versions where it’s not overly obvious but don’t know if that will fly; I see rounded corners in designs that are so slight or not obvious because of colors, that not many people would even notice if they were square or rounded. It’s difficult to have to resort to fixing bad browsers. Web developers should only need to be concerned with web programming. In the client’s eyes though, you’re the problem, not Microsoft.

At this point I’m going to conclude that Microsoft’s decision to not allow IE9 on XP will hold back most developers, including myself, from using CSS3, which is really sad. I’ve considered Internet Explorer to be a failure for quite a long time and it seems as if Microsoft will always find a way to mess it up over and over. I still don’t get why it took them five years to release IE7. They also never seem to want to jump ahead of the curve and be innovative when it comes to browsers, only copy the best. Microsoft has improved IE and it’s a much better situation than it used to be, but at this point I kind of wish they’d just buy Opera and stop making browsers internally. After all, is a browser really a selling point for an entire OS?