It's rare that I'm amazed at Microsoft* in a good way. It's more or less unheard of when web standards are involved.

Yet the news is in, MS has announced it drank the interoperability kool-aid and reversed its previous decision to have IE8 default to rendering like IE7:

IEBlog : Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8: We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we’ve posted previously.

This is great news. It changes X-UA-Compatible from being spam to being a safety net for big, bad web applications.

The idea of maintaining and including multiple rendering engines still isn't ideal, but really it's not a bad compromise. My biggest objection was the default behaviour, so I'm really happy to see this turn of events.

Do I think it shows MS to be a good member of the standards community from here on out? Oh hell no. I really wouldn't be surprised if this is a random act rather than a new habit. Microsoft, as a corporate entity, has no real interest in standards - otherwise it'd get MS Office to support ODF, rather than trying to get open source projects to adopt .doc (just as a for instance). Much of its profit relies on (or benefits from) leveraging its monopolies to turn their proprietary solutions into "standards".

Of course I'd love to be proved wrong here. It'd be great if MS did embrace standards, open formats and so on. But on that, only time and actions will tell.

In the meantime, we can certainly give MS credit for taking the pain away from people who do the right thing. Only people who have a site that actually breaks in IE8 need implement the X-UA-Compatible fix. For them, the investment of time is entirely reasonable; since they have a real reason to do it.

IE8 can now be a step forward for standards, instead of the huge step backwards it was going to be. Bravo!

* Note that I mean "Microsoft-the-company" and not any individual within that bohemoth.