Back in January, there was a big furor over Microsoft’s announcement that Internet Explorer 8 would have three rendering modes. There were a lot of details, but all you really need to know is that Microsoft expected web developers to add a special non-standard meta tag to their sites that would instruct IE8 to render in true standards mode. Sites without that tag would continue rendering in IE7 “standards mode”, which doesn’t actually conform to standards completely. Free software advocates were up in arms, because they’ve been coding standards-compliant web pages for a long time and couldn’t believe Microsoft had the gall to request the addition of an extra non-standard tag just to get their web pages rendering properly. The general consensus was that since Microsoft’s proposed meta tag wasn’t in the standard, they wouldn’t use it, and if IE8 failed to render pages properly, that just meant that IE8 was broken.
Thankfully, Microsoft has made an about-face in their plans and will no longer require a non-standard meta tag to render standards-compliant web pages properly. Instead, if you want to render something in IE7′s “standards” mode, you need to specifically add a meta tag saying so. This has the disadvantage of breaking some websites that relied on the peculiarities of IE7 (if they don’t add the new tag, anyway), but it will be good for the web as a whole and especially for other browsers. Microsoft has long made a mess of the web with their refusal to follow standards (just ask any web designer who’s spent an equal amount of time designing an entire site as just getting the damn thing to render properly in IE), so it’s good for everyone that they are finally on the right track to true standards compliance.
Microsoft may be the evil empire, but they do occasionally do some good.