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The reference rendering for how the Acid3 test should look.  (Source: Web Standards Project/DailyTech)

Current versions of both Internet Explorer 7 (top) and Firefox 2 (bottom) fail the Acid3 test catastrophically.  (Source: Tom Corelis/DailyTech)
Putting browser makers on notice, again

Just a few months after the announcement that Internet Explorer 8 successfully passed the Acid2 standards compliance test, the Web Standards Project (WaSP) announced last Monday that it unleashed Acid2’s successor, Acid3.

Created to identify flaws in the way a browser renders its web pages, WaSP’s Acid tests throw down the gauntlet with difficult-to-display graphics written to accentuate browsers’ quirks. When the original Acid test was released in 1998, it helped reign in browser inconsistencies and insured that Internet Explorer, Netscape, and others handled HTML code according to specification – making web designers’ lives easier and ensuring the web rendered consistently in the future.

Acid2, with its focus on Cascading Style Sheets, seems quaint in comparison to Acid3’s objectives, which target major web standards expected to see use today and in the future. Tests are derived from many of the last few years’ development in the web’s control languages, including rendering graphics embedded in HTML code, CSS3 compliance, DOM compliance, CSS2 downloadable fonts, as well as handling new graphics formats and Unicode support.

Currently, no known browser is able to correctly render the Acid3 test, which displays an animated, incrementing score counter and a series of colored boxes with some description text. Bloggers have already assembled galleries of browsers’ failing test results, with most of today’s browsers scoring between 40 and 60 on the test’s 100-point scale. The results shouldn’t be too alarming as the Acid tests have always been forward-looking in nature, and are designed to measure standards to aspire to, as opposed to what’s current. Also note that more than six months lapsed between Acid2’s release and Safari 2.02’s announcement that it was the first to pass Acid2.

Anecdotal reports around the web seem to indicate that nightly builds of the next versions of Firefox and Safari are reportedly achieving Acid3 scores in the 80-90 range.

Given the state of the web today – where web designers will often write two versions of a web site: one for Internet Explorer and one for everyone else – Microsoft’s announcement that Internet Explorer 8 passed Acid2 is all the more important. Currently, each new version of Internet Explorer keeps older versions’ flaws for compatibility, resulting in a confusing state of affairs for web developers.

The release of IE7 complicated matters further, as it shipped with both an IE6-compatibility mode and a somewhat-standards-compliant IE7 rendering mode, with an easily overlooked method for switching between the two.  As a result, Internet Explorer earned a nasty reputation among web design circles, with developers writing safe, proven websites that worked universally instead of rich websites that exercised their languages’ full features.

In time, it is hoped that Internet Explorer 8 will see the end of this rift, as it will ship with the new Acid2-passing standards-compliant mode switched on and used by default. For those that want to test Internet Explorer 8 out on your own, Microsoft already released the Beta 1 version of the browser.

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By robinthakur on 3/7/2008 5:07:28 AM , Rating: 4
Actually most web developers I know, myself included, do make two 'versions' of a site as part of their workflow. One version is for Firefox, IE7, Safari etc. which you might need to tweak and the other is for IE6. Its not quite as simple as writing two seperate style sheets either, its (sometimes) creating two different set of graphical layouts to account for the fact that you never know whether IE6 will even render the transparency properly, even with all the hacks out there (i.e. content on top of transparent CSS background etc.) plus all the issues with the box model which can be worked around with some effort. Its a complete pain and completely unecessary and those days need to end as soon as possible. In the ccontext of an individual project, you wouldn't believe how much time this takes.

While I don't hate Microsoft at all, I in fact develop in, in this situation, if you pack in a browser which 90% of the world uses with the OS, make sure that it doesn't hold back the progress and development of the internet due to not supporting the major standards properly. Considering that an internet browser is possibly the most used computer application this is inexcusable.

I would far rather people adhere to the Acid tests as gospel for CSS implementation than anything else, although they really shouldn't need to. They are built using real world standards compliant code so I don't really see why you wouldnc't want to...

Despite there being differing 'interpretations' of the rules at the end of the day they are pretty clear cut and the functionality which browsers should provide in css2 and css3 is hardly a recent thing. When you consider that virtually no serious refresh was done on the most used web browser out there (I.E.6 was released in 2001) for about 6-7 years, Microsoft opened the way for Firefox themselves and are now having to play catch up. Instead of focussing on bolt-ons like the phishing filter, just render the pages correctly, that is the whole point of a web browser.

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