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Could IE8 incompatibilities be a boon for Firefox?

Microsoft's shift to a more standards compliant browser for IE8 could prove beneficial to rival browsers like Firefox, if they're geared up to attack.

Mary Jo Foley notes that the more standards-compliant Internet Explorer 8 may cause some problems for website owners. Why? Well, many have tailored their websites to non-standards compliant IE7 (as well as prior versions), and may find that opening the doors to IE8 may not be painless.

As Microsoft noted on its IE blog:

What does "getting ready for IE8" mean for web sites? IE8 displays content in IE8 Standards mode - its most standards-compliant layout mode - by default. In previous blog posts, we've discussed how this aligns with our commitment to Web standards interoperability. However, browsing with this default setting may cause content written for previous versions of IE to display differently than intended. This creates a "get ready" call to action for site owners to ensure their content will continue to display seamlessly in IE8.

It also creates a "get ready" call to rival browsers, and particularly Mozilla's Firefox, to capitalize on Microsoft's incompatibility with itself to remind website creators that web standards are just that: Standards that should lead to greater cross-platform/browser compatibility. As more websites code for IE8, it should lead to those same sites working better with Firefox, Safari, and other browsers.

In the past, Microsoft competitors have failed to capitalize on these moments when Microsoft gets out of sync on compatibility with its own products. For example, Office 2007 file formats are different from earlier versions of Microsoft Office. Microsoft makes a lot of noise around the importance of sticking with the standard - its own Office product - to ensure file compatibility, but compatibility between different versions of Office on different platforms and across different versions has been spotty, at best.

Yet no one really capitalized on this.

Perhaps it's because there have been no sizable, credible competitors to Microsoft Office. The same is not true in browsers, however, whereFirefox commands at least 20 percent of the global browser market. There's a real opportunity for Firefox to take market share from Microsoft as IE7 shifts to IE8.

Watch this space.