Microsoft to push IE 8 public beta

Microsoft to push IE 8 public beta

Test release of IE8 will be open to all, not just developers

Microsoft has surprised watchers by saying that it will shortly make a first beta of Internet Explorer 8 generally available.

In a mail-out to previous testers, Microsoft said it would make the pre-release code available to the “general public” but pointed out that it is “focused on the developer community”.

Microsoft has stated in the past that the main advances in IE8 will focus on compliance with web standards, security and user interface options.

The company has long been the target of criticism for not following standards in its browser but, as numerous critics have noted, any effort to make IE standards compliant runs the risk of breaking existing sites written for earlier versions. Microsoft will attempt to compromise by offering developers the option to stay in or out of the web standards mode.

The move could also help Microsoft win over regulators. Late last year, Opera Software filed an antitrust complaint with the European Union, alleging that “Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted web standards”.

Microsoft recently said that it expects to release the complete version of IE 8 in the first half of this year. The company released IE 7 in October 2006, more than five years after IE 5, earning the criticism of experts who argued that Mozilla’s Firefox had been allowed to become the technology leader in browsers. Microsoft has said that it now plans more regular browser updates.

IE 8 is scheduled to be demonstrated in public at the Mix conference in Las Vegas that starts on 5 March.