With Neelie Kroes looking over their shoulders and the entreaties of Web developers ringing in their ears, Microsoft is promising that the default mode for Internet Explorer 8 will follow the latest Web standards:
Consistent with its efforts to promote further interoperability across the Web, Microsoft Corp. is now configuring the settings in Internet Explorer 8, the upcoming version of its browser, to render content — by default — using methods that give top priority to Web standards interoperability.
The progressive evolution of the Web has necessitated that browsers such as Internet Explorer include multiple content-rendering modes – both supporting strict interpretation of certain Web standards and also supporting behaviors designed to maintain compatibility with existing Web sites. Web site designers generally have the ability to specify which mode they are designing for; in the absence of specific instructions from a Web site, browsers are pre-set to use one of the modes by default.
Internet Explorer 8 has been designed to include three rendering modes: one that reflects Microsoft’s implementation of current Web standards, a second reflecting Microsoft’s implementation of Web standards at the time of the release of Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, and a third based on rendering methods dating back to the early Web. The newest rendering mode is forward-looking and preferred by Web designers, while the others are present to enable compatibility with the myriad sites across the Web that are currently optimized for previous versions of Internet Explorer.
Originally, the plan had been to make the IE7 compatible mode the default. The first beta of IE8 is expected in 1H2008. I also hope that the second thing on Microsoft’s IE8 list is to spiff up the incredibly sluggish performance of IE7.