Microsoft is set to release IE 8, which features an improvement in XHTML/HTML/CSS standards support, but introduces a slew of contradictory compatibility modes and features (version targeting, user toggles for standards and compatibility mode, different treatment of Intranet and Internet site, etc.)
Meanwhile, over at Apple and the (multi-million dollar) Mozilla Foundation, software engineers are blazing forward with new browser features based on both standards, pre-standardized standards, and proprietary technology that software engineers are chomping at the bit to use with varying degrees of “F–k IE” being expressed. Microsoft encourages this behavior by being alternately hostile or silent as to promises of future support for these features (Native JSON parsers, the “thought by some successor to XHTML” HTML 5, Canvas element, etc.)
Since the resumption of development on Internet Explorer and the subsequent release of IE 7, there’s been a sort-of cold war in the browser space. It wasn’t the all out battle of the Netscape 3/4 years, but there was a simmering hostility between browser vendors, framework engineers, day-to-day web developers and IT Hacks.
The release of IE 8 could see the resumption of a full out war. A fifth (or sixth, if you count Opera) rendering engine in the test cycle means there’s even more friction for companies to offer across the board browser support. With IE 8 out and vague promises about features supported in IE 9, software engineers and framework developers will start to use the new features of Safari and Firefox, offering the majority of the Web (Internet Explorer users) a sub-par, or in extreme cases, non-existent experience.
Another nail in the coffin for a world wide, universally accessible and consistent electronic medium.