Standards, standards, standards.
That's the general theme of a video about the next version of Internet Explorer, which will unsurprisingly be called IE 8. Details thus far have been scarce, but in a half-hour video with IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch and Architect Chris Wilson produced by Microsoft's Channel 9, the two discuss the importance of standards, compatibility, and interoperability with the upcoming browser.
We also get a (faraway) sneak peak at a development build of the new hush-hush browser. The key takeaway? IE will finally be able to render the Acid 2 test correctly, which has historically been one of the toughest Web standards and compliance tests around.
Microsoft originally intended to add additional compliance support into IE 7 (including the Acid 2 test), but it didn't make it into the shipping build. It was then put in a lower priority on the bottom of a large "wish list" of improvements for future updates, but to no avail, as Microsoft focused its resources on building IE 8.
No version of IE has been able to pass the test, while mainstream competing browsers like Opera and Apple's Safari have managed to be compliant for the last few years. Mozilla's upcoming Version 3 of Firefox is also set to pass the Acid 2 test, though the current shipping version of Firefox (version 2) won't cut the mustard.
The real importance of standards compliance is a two-party problem: one for developers who have to laboriously make their sites work with as many browsers as possible, and another for the users who simply may not be able to use a site because it's been designed only for a limited number of compatible browsers. The Acid 2 test isn't the final solution, but it manages to put any browser through its paces with a seven-part test.
Still no word on other IE 8 user features--or a release date.
Update: According to Paul Thurrott, we can expect the browser to make its way to users in the first half of 2008. Thurrott also has some details on potential interface changes, including a mention of it sharing some characteristics with Office 2007--sans the "ribbon."