When you work with websites for a living, you tend to pick up on the different quirks of all the web browsers. You know which ones have trouble with spacing, or which ones work better with certain Flash objects, and so on. For most people who don’t live their lives inside a web browser, it can be confusing – and that’s why we’re here to help!
Internet Explorer 8 and 9: “Compatibility View”
At first glance, you may see Compatibility View and feel the need to turn it on, or else your web experience might be glitchy and broken. That may have possibly been the case when IE8 was first released, but these days it does the exact opposite. To understand what I mean, there’s a few things about Internet Explorer you need to know.
Regardless of your browser preference, or whether you prefer Mac or PC, Internet Explorer has a history of displaying websites differently than other browsers. This is especially the case with older versions, and for relevance, I’m specifically talking about IE6 and IE7. At the same time of these past versions, Internet Explorer was the most popular web browser, so rather than spending a lot of time cross-browser testing, web sites and applications would often be built to work specifically for the current version of Internet Explorer and nothing else. Then Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8, which displayed things based off of web standards a lot more than previous versions. Suddenly, websites that looked and worked okay in IE7 aren’t doing so well in IE8. But what about the companies that just spent time and money getting their web app built in IE7? Are they going to have to start completely over because Microsoft decided to change something?
That’s where Compatibility View comes in. With Compatibility View enabled, you’re forcing your brand new, more secure browser to display websites the same way IE7 would, essentially making your browser and website “compatible”. On that point alone, most people wouldn’t see a problem, but if you take into account that IE8 was built more around web standards – as in, rules being set about how a browser should display an element on a page – you’re basically telling your browser to be a rebel and display pages how it wants. While more and more websites make progress with the technologies they use, Compatibility View is actually forcing your browser to regress in its display capabilities.
This feature made its way into IE9 as well, just in case you come across websites that haven’t updated in 5 years. So if you’re using IE8 or IE9, you’ll want to disable Compatibility View (and only enable it when needed) so you get the full experience out of your web browsing. If you need help finding Compatibility View, Microsoft has a support guide to help.