Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 now scheduled for Q3

The next builds for Microsoft's forthcoming Web browser generation may already be ready, but the company wants to give publishers some time to prepare, in case their Web sites end up looking somehow storm-damaged.

The next public preview of Microsoft's upcoming Web browser will be available in the third quarter of this year, according to a public blog post from a senior account manager in New Zealand named Nick Mackechnie yesterday morning.

The advance warning is apparently for a good reason: As promised, the next beta of Internet Explorer 8 -- and very likely the final release -- will render pages in "standards-compliant" mode by default. So Web sites whose rendering capabilities were geared more toward accuracy and compatibility with IE7, may not render as intended in IE8. So the company wants to give sites time to implement changes on their end that will reduce the shock for users once Beta 2 is released.

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"Browsing with this default setting may cause content written for previous versions of Internet Explorer to display differently than intended," Mackechnie wrote. "This creates a call to action for site owners to ensure their content will continue to display seamlessly in Internet Explorer 8. As such, we have provided a meta-tag usable on a per-page or per-site level to maintain backwards compatibility with Internet Explorer 7. Adding this tag instructs Internet Explorer 8 to render content like it did in Internet Explorer 7, without requiring any additional changes."

The tag to which Mackechnie refers can be set either within a custom header in Internet Information Server 7, or within the <HEAD> element in individual Web pages. Specifically, it sets the X-UA-Compatible property to IE=EmulateIE7. It's a fairly simple tag to implement, and is explained in this page. (The latest test version of Apache's Web server, currently called Axis2, is working to add similar XML-based flexibility to its custom header processing.)

Recent builds of IE8 feature a prominent -- and some might say, ugly -- button that reads "Emulate IE7." Users noticing awkward-looking Web pages may use this button to see if the rendering problem is corrected, though the tag implementation Mackechnie suggests will allow sites to spare their users the trouble, and buy themselves a few months of extra time to follow Microsoft's lead towards standards compliance.

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