One of the most interested observers of Internet Explorer 8 is Opera Software, the Norwegian-based browser maker, which filed an antitrust complaint over the Microsoft browser with the European Commission. Via e-mail today, I asked Hakon Wium Lie, Opera's chief technology officer, for his take on the preliminary version of the new Microsoft browser.
Let me start with the beta version of IE8, which I have just tried myself. I was happy to see that it passes the Acid2 test by default. Congratulations to the IE8 team which has created a browser that has significantly better support for standards than the previous version.
The joy that people are expressing about standards-related improvements in IE8 today also shows how starved we have been for good news from Microsoft in the past. As the dominant browser, Microsoft must act responsibly and this includes implementing commonly agreed-upon standards and fixing bugs. They have not always done so, but this week's announcement and the release of the IE8 beta is an important step in the right direction.
It was interesting to see that Microsoft gave a legal reason for their most recent turnaround. Certainly, I believe Opera's filing with the European Commission has influenced Microsoft's decision to do the right thing.
We have brought up several technical issues in IE in our discussions with the European Commission, and only two of them have been partly addressed. Here is our list:
1) Fully comply with Acid2 and Acid3, by default. Acid2 is a well-known test and the follow-up Acid3 has just been finalized. The tests must be passed by default.
2) Support the specifications underlying the Acid tests. The Acid tests are written to help browser vendors who act in good faith, and they do not guarantee compliance with the underlying specifications. Microsoft must commit to implementing the underlying specifications of the Acid2 and Acid3 tests.
Internet Explorer 8, IE8, Opera