Spell “UTF-8” correctly or IE and jQuery will cry

Today’s lesson: When setting character encoding to UTF-8 for your web site, be sure to specify character encoding for ajax calls, and make sure the character set is spelled “UTF-8”. If you don’t, jQuery’s various AJAX features may fail on Internet Explorer (IE).

Working on a health-monitoring web site, we ran into a problem with a jQuery autocomplete widget. It worked fine on Firefox, but failed on IE (8 and 7). We checked the network traffic using Fiddler … the server was returning the data correctly. But the jQuery callback didn’t seem to be running.

We noticed on another page that a box of data wasn’t prepopulating – again, it was failing only on IE. That page uses the jQuery.post() method to prepopulate a list of exercise activities. Again, Fiddler confirmed that the server was returning the data, but the jQuery callback wasn’t running.

We grabbed this line of code from the jQuery ajaxError comments section to see what the actual error was…

$(document).ajaxError(function(e, xhr, settings, exception) {
   alert('error in: ' + settings.url + ' \\n'+'error:\\n' + exception);

It wasn’t very helpful, but we did get an error code to search on — “c0056e”. That pointed us to this thread on the tizag web site. It indicated we had found a very nit-picky problem on IE having to do with character encoding. We had recently started enforcing UTF-8 encoding on the entire web site, so this seemed a likely culprit.

Sure enough, we looked in our php.ini file and discovered that our default_charset setting was “UTF8” while the commenter on tizag said it had to be “UTF-8” (with a dash). We added the dash and immediately the jQuery preload and the autocomplete began working again in IE8.

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