Back in March, Microsoft finally caved under the pressure of web designers and developers and announced Internet Explorer 8 will render content in the most current standards-based mode by default (currently, it must be forced out of "quirks" mode by specifying DOCTYPE). In addition, there will be two other rendering modes that are enabled through meta tag declarations—one comparable to IE 7 and another dating back further. Being the behemoth, corporate entity that they are this is understandable, as they can't ignore businesses locked into previous versions of Internet Explorer. Despite my distaste for most of Microsoft's actions, this is a great decision.
With the release of IE 8 Beta 1, the development team at Microsoft is beginning to release details regarding improvements. The most exciting news I've heard on the IEBlog is the HTML and DOM Standards Compliance in the new beta. It appears as if the team is working with the new HTML 5 specification. As we mentioned around this time last year, there a lot of improvements on the way in the new version of HTML. With IE 8 already in its first beta, the WebKit project churning along and the speed at which Mozilla can kick out new versions of Firefox, it's realistic to think we may be able to utilize many of the proposed HTML features in in the next few years. While that still sounds like a long time, the HTML 4.01 specification was recommended as of December 1999 (XHTML in the following year). The HTML 5 specification was just adopted at the end of 2007 and the first working draft published in January. So, the pace is quickening, even though HTML 5 reportedly won't be "recommended" by the W3C until around 2012.