[whatwg] Using the HTML5 DOCTYPE as a new quirksmode switch

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Jun 18 21:43:05 PDT 2007

On Wed, 7 Mar 2007, Asbjørn Ulsberg wrote:
> (I sent this to the list already, but I think it didn't appear because I 
> sent it with the wrong e-mail address.)
> I'm not sure if it has been discussed earlier, but after seeing Chris 
> Wilson's talk on «Browser Wars Episode II: Attack of the DOMs»[1] I 
> think it's pretty obvious that Internet Explorer needs a new switch of 
> some sort, to be allowed to implement and fix the DOM, JavaScript, 
> CSS1-3 etc. without breaking backward compatibility. At least that's 
> what Chris Wilson says.

As I explained on public-html, though, such a switch to introduce yet 
another rendering mode would, on the long term (with this practice 
repeated with each browser version, as Microsoft have indicated is their 
intention), prevent competition in the browser space. That's the worst 
possible outcome from a standards perspective.


(The word processor document space is an example of how bad things can get 
if we go down this road. It is basically impossible to compete with Word 
today because of the myriad of undocumented formats it supports.)

> And I agree. Internet Explorer needs a new switch. So I thought, what 
> about using:
>   <!DOCTYPE html>
> as the new switch?

That would be, IMHO, disastrous. But, there's nothing we can do to stop 
Microsoft from inventing yet more rendering modes, nor anything we can do 
to stop them using "<!DOCTYPE html>".

We can, however, make it a violation of the specs, and indeed that has now 
been done (quirks mode and DOCTYPE sniffing is part of the spec).

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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