Comment from: Kyler IE Outreach Team Visitor
Great post, and great news! For more of the latest IE9 news, check our twitter @IE
IE Outreach Team
I don't remember reading anybody seriously suggesting MS replace Trident with Gecko or WebKit (though, it would have a much better chance than a GPL'ed browsing component). I remember the Web Standards Project jokingly saying that Microsoft should replace Trident with Tasman, because it was so much more standards-compliant, but I don't think anyone thought they would. Microsoft's not going to have Internet Explorer without unsandboxed ActiveX support (especially after ripping out support for the Netscape plugin API in IE 5.5 and requiring plugin authors that only published plugins that used the NSAPI to write an ActiveX version). That's also the reason that other browsers aren't going to replace their rendering engine with Trident. That's especially true with Opera, where they need a browser without any real GUI in some devices and Windows is just too heavy for that (the maximum number of platforms is a big factor for many browsers, especially Opera; they have no reason for a vendor lock-in like Microsoft does).
Now, I'm glad that Microsoft is finally trying to catch up again, if your numbers are really indicative of the final product. The last superior browser Microsoft produced was Internet Explorer 4 in 1997; it's laughable by today's standards, but it was so ahead of everybody else back then. In particular, I'm looking forward to DOM events support, support for application/xhtml+xml, support for mixing namespaces, etc. I'm hoping it also allows access to DOM constants and prototyping of DOM interfaces, as that's currently lacking in IE 8. Oh yeah, AJAX is a PITA in IE currently because of its lack of support for the *NS methods of DOM 2.
I make it no secret (I've written about it on my blog) that I was a proponent of XHTML 2.0 and think that HTML5 is too conservative, but eh, I'm glad the industry is moving toward something common. My feeling is that CSS3 won't ever be done, because they'll always be adding and updating modules.
Just about everything added to HTML 3.2, HTML 4, and HTML5 were proprietary before being added. HTML 2.0, (the never finished) HTML 3.0, and XHTML 2.0 at least tried to add their own thought-out features. Most proprietary features (frames being the primary example) never were thought out well.
E 9 will still need to do some work to pass Acid 3. According to Wikipedia, even the IE 9 preview is only at 55% (the other browsers you mention are 90%+), a big improvement over IE 8's 20%. User-level features will also be a big factor, much bigger than standards compliance for the vast majority of users.