Microsoft Drops VML and Filters in IE10
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 08 December 2011

Microsoft has announced that IE10 will no longer support VML or DirectX Filters and Transitions. What are the implications for developers?

Microsoft has announced via the IEBlog site that IE10 will no longer support VML or DirectX Filters and Transitions. Fair warning was given, in that both features were deprecated in MSDN documentation as of IE9, but you might have been hard pressed to notice this.

Not many web programmers used DX Filters because they really were Microsoft IE specific. The good news is that most of the features related to special effects and transitions are now available as part of CSS3. So this part of the news can be interpreted as some hardly used  IE facilities are being overtaken by more widely supported standards - not that CSS3 is without its problems by way of non-standard vendor prefixes.

The situation with the dropping of VML is more likely to be a real problem to some developers.  VML was Microsoft's alternative to SVG, which was a standard when they refused to support it and is a standard now when they finally give up the attempt to usurp it with VML.

 

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What is interesting here is the fact that to a great extent Microsoft did succeed in restricting the use of SVG. Around 10 years ago browsers were moving forward to something more sophisticated with 2D vector graphics, promising a new range of web apps. The standard for 2D vector graphics was SVG, but for commercial reasons Microsoft invented its own VML 2D system and the two were not compatible. So if you wanted to use 2D drawing within a browser you  could either use a standard which would not work on IE, or you could use Microsoft's VML which would not work on other browsers.

You could use various methods to make your app work with both, but most programmers just decided that 2D graphics were too much trouble and avoided using SVG. In short, Microsoft's behavior put web graphics into a state of limbo for ten year.

Now we have a bright new shiny 2D standard, in the form of Canvas and the original SVG both of which Microsoft is happy to support and even lecture us on not using such non-standard stuff as VML and DX Filters. However, at the same time Microsoft is refusing to support the new 3D standard in the form of WebGL - so history is repeating itself. Microsoft doesn't want to support WebGL because it is based on OpenGL rather than their own DirectX graphics.

If there is an IE another ten years down the line, then presumably some blog post will lecture us on not using whatever proprietary solution Microsoft makes us adopt in IE10 to do 3D. Of course, the alternative is that Microsoft might have lost the battle with the other browsers and WebGL will have been in common use for those years.

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To quote from the IEblog post:

"Users benefit when all browsers can work with the same standards-based content."

I hope the irony isn't lost on the average reader.

Microsoft didn't understand this idea ten years ago when it refused to support SVG, and it still doesn't get it when it refuses to support WebGL.

More Information

Moving to Standards Based Web Grapics in IE10

Related articles

SVG, JavaScript and the DOM

IE9 launch a threat to web development

Microsoft no WebGL support - it's insecure

Getting started with SVG for HTML5

A Programmer's Guide to Canvas

 

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