I should probably clarify the title: surprisingly enough, it’s nothing to do with pirates (me hearties). Apparently IE8 is going to be released this week (well, soon).
They claim that it has much better (standards-compliant) rendering – that you won’t have to basically break your page in order to make your page work with IE. (Although… well, I’ll get to that). It passes the Acid2 test. In short, it’s supposed to fix a lot of the problems that were caused by IE6 and only partially fixed in IE7.
This can only be a good thing, right? Well, not necessarily. I think Microsoft are caught a bit between a rock and a hard place: if they make IE8 standards compliant, they’re going to break older pages. Particularly internal web applications which can’t be updated. But, if they don’t make IE8 standards compliant, they’re not making any progress and the web is going to continue with its current bizarre system of designing for standards compliance and Internet Explorer.
What Microsoft have opted to do in this situation is implement two or three rendering engines – the IE8 engine, and the IE6/7 engine which will be used to render old and non standards compliant web pages. Whether this was a good idea, I don’t know. I personally think it’s going to add to the confusion – but then, I don’t know what else Microsoft could have done in the circumstance. If they could invent a time machine, go back in time and remove the abomination that is IE6 that would probably be the best option! But unfortunately it isn’t.
But if IE8 does render pages ‘properly’ if they are standards compliant, as a web development community we are moving to a place where the web should have been a decade ago: where your markup / CSS is what’s important and you don’t have to try and hack things for different browsers. IE has held back the web dev community long enough, let’s hope IE8 starts bringing in the changes.