CSS Browser support

CSS Browser support – Because not all browsers correctly parse CSS code, developed coding techniques known as CSS hacks can either filter specific browsers or target specific browsers (generally both are known as CSS filters). The former can be defined as CSS filtering hacks and the latter can be defined as CSS targeting hacks. Both can be used to hide or show parts of the CSS to different browsers. This is achieved either by exploiting CSS-handling quirks or bugs in the browser, or by taking advantage of lack of support for parts of the CSS specifications. Using CSS filters, some designers have gone as far as delivering different CSS to certain browsers to ensure designs render as expected. Because very early web browsers were either completely incapable of handling CSS, or rendered CSS very poorly, designers today often routinely use CSS filters that completely prevent these browsers from accessing any of the CSS. Internet Explorer support for CSS began with IE 3.0 and increased progressively with each version. By 2008, the first Beta of Internet Explorer 8 offered support for CSS 2.1 in its best web standards mode.

An example of a well-known CSS browser bug is the Internet Explorer box model bug, where box widths are interpreted incorrectly in several versions of the browser, resulting in blocks that are too narrow when viewed in Internet Explorer, but correct in standards-compliant browsers. The bug can be avoided in Internet Explorer 6 by using the correct doctype in (X)HTML documents. CSS hacks and CSS filters are used to compensate for bugs such as this, just one of hundreds of CSS bugs that have been documented in various versions of Netscape, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer (including Internet Explorer 7).

Even when the availability of CSS-capable browsers made CSS a viable technology, the adoption of CSS was still held back by designers’ struggles with browsers’ incorrect CSS implementation and patchy CSS support. Even today, these problems continue to make the business of CSS design more complex and costly than it was intended to be, and cross-browser testing remains a necessity. Other reasons for the continuing non-adoption of CSS are: its perceived complexity, authors’ lack of familiarity with CSS syntax and required techniques, poor support from authoring tools, the risks posed by inconsistency between browsers and the increased costs of testing.

Currently there is strong competition between the WebKit layout engine used in Apple Safari and Google Chrome, the similar KHTML engine used in KDE’s Konqueror browser and Mozilla’s Gecko layout engine used in Firefox — each of them is leading in different aspects of CSS. As of August 2009, Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 2 and 3 have reasonably complete levels of implementation of CSS 2.1.