Microsoft has sent out invitations to a select number of testers allowing them to participate in a "limited technical beta program" for the upcoming Internet Explorer 8. The announcement also says that there will be a public beta as well, once the invitation version is complete.
ActiveWin has the full text of the e-mail Microsoft sent out, but aside from the program announcement there are few details available.
So far we know that Microsoft claims that IE 8 will pass the ACID 2 compatibility test and include support for a controversial “version tag,” which will allow web developers to force the browser into “super-standards” mode — enabling the browser to correctly render webpages that adhere to the W3C’s standards.
We’ve written before about the contentious debate surrounding the so-called version tag, but the basic idea is that website developers will be able to add a meta tag to their pages telling IE how it should render the page — in traditional mode (non-standard IE 6-style rendering), standards mode (IE 7’s half-baked concept of standards) and super standards mode (where IE will render similar to the way Firefox, Opera and Safari have been doing for the last five years).
A number of developers have decried the meta-tag flagging as a way of versioning the web, which they feel is a bad idea. But regardless of how the meta-tag might play out, we find it interesting that, if the rumors are to be believed, IE 8 will automatically render in traditional mode.
If that’s the case, IE 8 better have some killer features. Otherwise Microsoft may be hard pressed to convince anyone to upgrade. Although IE 7 usage has climbed since its release, much of it may well be driven by the release of Windows Vista (which bundles IE 7). Since IE 8 won't have an OS upgrade to piggyback on, without compelling new features many users may not bother upgrading.
Microsoft reportedly plans to demo IE 8 at the MIX conference, which kicks off the first week of March. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as details about IE 8 begin to emerge.