November 23rd, 2010

IE9 & Web Designers: What’s new, and what’s lacking in standards?

With its new browser (still in beta), Microsoft is making an aggressive, albeit incomplete, push toward supporting advanced web standards and web design.

Historically, Internet Explorer’s has lacked support for web standards, which has caused no lack of headaches for web designers wanting to create more powerful, dynamic and interactive websites. With IE8, Microsoft cracked open the door to web standards by supporting some, like CSS 2.1. That represented a major step forward for web designers to create more exciting and appealing websites. Now, IE9 is greeting tomorrow’s web by embracing today’s web standards.

But what does that mean? What can you do now that you couldn’t before? Read more to find out.

According to the Microsoft development team responsible for IE9:

“The Internet Explorer team focuses on providing rich, interoperable capabilities to Web developers. Developers have said they don’t want to have to rewrite and retest their Web sites again and again, and standards adoption in browsers helps to achieve this objective.” (1)

In other words, they’ve finally gotten on board with the fact that web standards make it easier for developers and designers to create better and more consistent web experiences. As a result, IE9 supports HTML5, which is backed by the World Wide Web (W3) Consortium (of which Microsoft is a member). HTML5 actually represents a broad swath of standards at varying stages of development. Support includes:

  • SVG Vector Graphics
  • HTML5 video and audio elements
  • CSS3
  • WOFF Web fonts

By supporting these advanced standards, web designers can start conceiving and implementing richer, more complex and more attractive sites.

Matching ambition with conservatism

Still, Microsoft won’t please everyone. The company has taken a conservative approach by only supporting those standards that are at a relatively advanced stage of development. So other desirable standards, like Web Workers (2), that may be early in development, or still in development flux, are not supported. IE9 takes some giant strides in a web standards direction, but it does not surpass or even catch up with other browsers in supporting cutting-edge standards.

Plus, IE9 does not support 100% of HTML5 and CSS3 functionality. For example, IE9 does not appear to support HTML5’s form elements (though this is subject to change, of course, pending the final release).

IE9 is opening the door to tomorrow’s web

Despite dramatic successes in the releases of Firefox, Chrome, Opera and other web browsers, Internet Explorer – in its various versions – still dominates.

In turn, Internet Explorer’s leading market share means that support in IE for a particular standard impacts how many web developers and designers start using that standard. For example, if a web developer doesn’t use CSS3 or HTML5, it’s likely because they know that a majority of web surfers use IE, and previously IE didn’t support them well. With IE9, web designers and developers alike will be able to implement much more exciting design elements into modern websites.

Not everyone will upgrade to IE9 – there are still IE6 users! – but with IE9 opening the doors to significant parts of HTML5 and CSS3 as well as other standards, the web can lurch forward. It will take time to feel the full effects, but that’s the keyword: it’s just a matter of time now.

(1)   Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview Fact Sheet,
(2)   Web Workers,
(3)   Web Browser Usage Share September 2010,
November 16th, 2010

HTML5: What’s the catch, and are you ready for it?

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the power and enhanced functionality of the new HTML5 web standard, but are you aware of the serious privacy concerns with which web designers, developers and users will have to contend?

HTML5 offers unparalleled sophistication for web technology, and with Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 9 supporting the HTML5 and CSS3 web standards, it is likely more websites will use it. Unfortunately, while HTML5 can be used to implement some truly eye-popping designs and functions, serious risks may be lurking behind-the-scenes.

What security problems could HTML5 create? Read more to find out.


The web has evolved from static to increasingly active and interactive. Early websites were unchanging, collections of pages simply to be viewed. Then they became entities that could grow and change, as with blogs. Now, the web is a destination for people to interact (with sites like Facebook) and accomplish (as in online office suites and financial management sites).

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language; it is the central web programming language used to create and implement websites of any stripe. The ability of HTML4 – the current predominant version – to support the increasing demand is limited, whereas HTML5 can enrich sites in a number of ways:

  • Significantly boosted functionality. As one example among many, with HTML5 Google Docs can enable simple drag-and-drop tools. (1)
  • Powerful visual and design features. To illustrate, Brad Neuberg demoed beautiful, browser-based, 3-D slides at the Future of Web Apps conference in London earlier this month. (2)
  • As an alternative to buggy, insecure and proprietary web technologies. HTML5 can replace most of the functionality currently enabled by Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight.

The new web standard opens the door to power and polish previously reserved solely for desktop applications. Web designers and developers alike will have a plethora of exciting new tools to use.

Unfortunately, power – as always – is a double-edged sword. In the words of Pam Dixon, Executive Director of the World Privacy Forum, “HTML5 opens Pandora’s box of tracking in the Internet.” (3)

As if to prove this point, California hacker Samy Kamkar used HTML5 to create what he calls an “Evercookie,” which The New York Times dubbed a “Supercookie.” (4) Like current cookies, which store basic information for websites like user name and preferences, these supercookies comprehensively track a user’s web habits. Additionally, supercookies are:

  • Potent surveillance tools that can be employed by marketers and third-parties
  • Highly functional instruments that can gather an array of personal data about web usage
  • Extremely difficult to remove, as the data is stored in multiple locations on a person’s computer

Concerns Overblown?

It remains to be seen how HTML5 will affect the security landscape of the web. According to developers and representatives of the World Wide Web Consortium, they take privacy and security fears seriously and make a proactive effort to balance them with the speed and power afforded by HTML5. (5)

It should also be noted, privacy concerns are nothing new. Facebook is plagued by them daily. Most browsers come with inadvertent built-in vulnerabilities that must be patched continually. Plus, the current generation of web technology – like Flash – suffer from their share of security worries.

So, is the concern over HTML5 overblown? Share your thoughts in the comments.

(1) Simon Mackie, “Why HTML5 Web Apps Are Going To Rock Your World,”
(2) Brad Neuberg, “Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview Fact Sheet,”
(3) Tanzina Vega, “New Web Code Draws Concern Over Privacy Risks,”
(4)   Ibid.
(5)   Ibid.