Internet Explorer 8 is coming! Yay! And it will be standards compliant! Woo hoo! I can't wait to get my hands on it!
But just when will that be? Looks like there will be an initial beta sometime in the first half of 2008 (which probably means May or June).
Okay, so I guess I won't get to play around with it anytime soon. But did you see that IE 8 passed the Web Standards Project's Acid2, a key test for determining the standards compliance of a Web browser?
Well, an internal build of IE 8 passed the Acid2 test. I'm not sure if we can even call it an alpha. But this must mean that IE 8 will be standards compliant, right?
Hmm...I'm not too sure about that. Now that I think about it, I think I'll wait until I see a final shipping version of Internet Explorer 8 before I get too excited about its proposed features and standards compliance.
Because when it comes to Microsoft and the promises of early alphas and prototypes, cautious skepticism isn't a bad thing.
Remember those heady conferences and demonstrations in 2003 on Microsoft's new and exciting operating system, code-named Longhorn? Remember all the excitement about the revolutionary and groundbreaking features that were going to be delivered? Some were even demoed in early presentations. Many pundits of the time said that Longhorn would completely change the face of operating systems.
And then Longhorn became Vista, and promise after promise about its capabilities either fell by the wayside or the result was a hollow shell of the initial promise. Hey Vista user, how's that WinFS file system working for you?
Now this isn't to say that it's a guarantee that IE 8 will fail to deliver on these early promises. Microsoft has already shown that IE8 can pass the Acid2 test and it will be hard for it to step backwards.
But there will be plenty of pressure on the IE 8 team that may work against full standards compliance. A large number of developers (and especially Microsoft-centric developers) have become used to building non-standard sites and they won't like it if IE 8 breaks their sites.
It isn't totally impossible that Microsoft may decide that it has to step back from standards compliance just a little bit in order to make these people happy. It may even happen that a switchable mode occurs in IE where users will need to click a button in order to see standards and non-standards-compliant sites.
Of course this could all just be too much skepticism on my part and Microsoft will continue on the work of this early internal build and release an Internet Explorer 8 with fantastic standards support. I hope that is the case.
But I'm not sure if even this will make a huge difference in the browser wars because the biggest problem with IE 7 is that it only runs on Vista and Windows XP SP2. If IE 8 has similar—or even more restrictive—platform support, then its ability to stay on top in the browser wars will continue to fade.
That's a promise.