Internet Explorer 8
I'm not usually one to praise Microsoft for their web browser efforts. Having worked with the monstrosities of Internet Explorer 6 and below, and even Explorer 7 which cause more sleepless nights and bad language than a motorist who runs red lights, Internet Explorer 8 is a breath of fresh air.
There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the latest browser from Microsoft, but after an initial look, as a web developer, I really hope there is a rapid adoption of this new browser.
Web standards compliance is something Microsoft has long been criticised for ignoring. Web standards are important, as they enable efficient use of developer time, as a web site doesn't have to be tweaked for different browsers if they all obey the rules of web standards.
Microsoft has tended to play by its own rules, however the web is much bigger than Microsoft, so what might work in the confined environment of an operating system or an office suite is just plain stupid when it comes to the web.
While the security of Internet Explorer 8 is yet to be put to the test, it's page display is a vast improvement over earlier versions of the browser.
Anyone running Windows XP or Vista should upgrade now, and if some sites that have been optimised for the abominations of IE 6 and 7 break as a result so be it, as it will be an incentive for developers to adopt web standards.
Those developers and designers who have been pushing for standards all along needn't fear, as their web sites should already work just fine.
Unfortunately, as always with Microsoft, there is a catch. Corporate users and others who are still using Windows 2000 are stuck in a time warp, with Internet Explorer 6 as the latest version that will run on the operating system. Windows 2000 is actually a pretty good system other than the obnoxious IE 6, but Microsoft have been trying to kill it off for years. It's a pity Microsoft couldn't offer IE 8 for a fee for those luddites who want to stick with Windows 2000, and thus kill off IE 6 and 7 for good, and yet still collect some compensation from those who won't or can't change their operating systems.
Of course, both Firefox and Opera run just fine on Windows 2000, and they're both free, so with a bit of luck, one way or the other the era of the non-standards compliant web browser is drawing to a close.
While this is a great step forward for Microsoft, it's still only just the beginning. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft's new found interest in web standards will filter through to the abominable Outlook email client in the upcoming release of Office.