The Big Monopoly in Redmond is working on the next iteration of their Internet Explorer web browser and actually seems to be trying to make it follow web standards.

However, if tests using the beta version are any indication, IE 8 may just break the web. Or at least large numbers of sites.

Microsoft was initially concerned that defaulting to standards compliance mode would “break the web”–that is, make a significant proportion of web pages render so badly as to be unusable–and experiences with beta 1 have provided some justification for the company’s concerns. Microsoft is appealing to web developers to fix their web pages, but the unfortunate reality is that the owners of many websites will be unwilling to foot the bill for those fixes to be made.

The problem, of course, is that web developers have had to build into their code compensation for the quirks in the way that IE insists on rendering the pages.

That’s what happens when 90% of web users are viewing your pages using a defective piece of software.

Of course, that 90% has dropped to something like 70% and is likely to drop further since Firefox 3 will be released on Tuesday, giving web users one more great reason to abandon IE.

Now, if I could just convince the folks in our IT department to approve Firefox for use in our district. And certain people in other departments to dump Netscape!