Microsoft plans to release the first beta of the next version of Internet Explorer in the first half of 2008, and said that IE 8 has passed a key web standards test that ensures the browser won't "break" the web.
IE8 has passed the "Acid2 Browser Test" from the Web Standards Project, which shows whether a browser renders a website in a certain way. If the browser renders the site correctly, it means the browser supports certain accepted web standards.
Microsoft developed IE before some web standards such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) were developed, and so older versions don't support some current standards. Developers would write applications to work with IE rather than to support web standards, since the browser was the de facto standard for surfing the Internet for so many years. Microsoft also was lax in updating IE to meet the demands of web standards, since there was little competition in the browser market for years.
With the release and subsequent popularity of open-source browser Mozilla Firefox three years ago, a browser's need to stay current with web standards once again moved to the forefront. When Microsoft developed IE7, released in October 2006, the company had good intentions and decided to improved support of Web standards with the new release.
However, websites that were created for older versions of IE didn't work properly on IE7. Microsoft hopes to remedy this problem so the situation is not repeated with IE8, according to an IE blog posting attributed to Dean Hachamovitch, a Microsoft general manager on the IE team.
"With respect to standards and interoperability, our goal in developing Internet Explorer 8 is to support the right set of standards with excellent implementations and do so without breaking the existing Web," according to the blog posting.
Hachamovitch said Microsoft is taking a cue in lessons learned from making improvements to CSS in IE7 that "made IE more compliant with some standards and less compatible with some sites on the Web as they were coded." The key design goal for IE8, he said, is compatibility with existing websites and Web standards supported in other browsers to provide a premium user experience.
"As a developer, I’d prefer to not have to write the same site multiple times for different browsers," according to Hachamovitch's post. "Standards are a (critical!) means to this end, and we focus on the standards that will help actual, real-world interoperability the most. As a consumer and a developer, I expect stuff to just work, and I also expect backwards compatibility. When I get a new version of my current browser, I expect all the sites that worked before will still work."
Microsoft said the final release of IE8 depends upon feedback received from the beta process.