Thursday, January 24, 2008 8:30:30 PM
The beauty of the original quirks switch is simple to appreciate: it depended on authors doing something they would probably want to do anyway: identify the schema of their document for validation purposes. This proposed switch, however, depends on authors doing something they would not otherwise need or want to do, for absolutely no other reasons than making Internet Explorer behave as it should in the first place. This, conceivably, until the end of time.
Never mind the additional difficulties this introduces for future interoperability; never mind how it could perhaps stifle competition; never mind that it either relies on a proprietary HTTP header-field or an attribute that no longer exists in HTML5 as currently drafted: worse, it raises the barrier to entry for all authors, everywhere, regardless of which user-agent they use, until the end of time, simply because Microsoft can't fix its problems with one CSS-based layout engine out of about a dozen I'm aware of. This is unacceptable.
For authors, the HTML4 and XHTML doctypes were difficult enough to deal with; certainly, I could never manage to memorize even the URI of one of the schemas, never mind all the dashes and slashes and other garbage that goes before the schema URI, and I'd feel very sorry for anyone who has felt compelled to memorize all the relevant doctypes.
Besides doctypes, there is also the error-prone metadatum syntax for character encoding detection and the attribute-filled link element for stylesheets. This is already an unreasonably high amount of arcane, seemingly cargo-cultish cruft one most have at the top of a hypertext document for it to work properly.
HTML5 gives us a light at the end of the tunnel by greatly simplifying the form of doctypes and character encoding specification, but now we have Microsoft shambling along and foisting upon us more cruft instead of less. And for what? All because they are either unwilling to bite the bullet and fix their engine, or too lazy to take a few minutes to come up with a non-intrusive way of getting themselves off the hook.
Writing HTML is hard enough already, guys; either help, or fuck off. Thanks.
[Post Scriptum: My colleague Dustin Wilson has also written on the matter in his endearing style. More importantly, he actually took the time to reference a number of other opinions on the matter as well as the original anouncement itself.]