Microsoft's next browser is set to launch soon, but in the meantime, it is being widely tested and praised by developers of Web content. One of the reasons is the discipline to stick to standards and support for the HTML5 specifications. According to Microsoft, only features that are 'site ready' will be implemented in IE 9. This means the browser will only support standards that have been widely tested and approved to maximize the experience for the user. At the same time, it is looking to push HTML5 growth and acceptance, and a great way to do that is to give developers access to emerging features and functions that they can use to develop and test the next versions of their Web applications. According to the website, Microsoft will support standards from bodies such as WC3 and will include sample code and guidance.
Microsoft has long been seen as embodying the antithesis of Web standards-building browsers that support the specifications it developed rather than what the Web community agreed on. IE 9 is a serious break from this, and it would appear this new site is a way of Microsoft trying to give back to the community.
Now the cynic might look at this and think Microsoft is acting in its own best interests here. First, the rise of HTML5 will likely decrease the reliance on Flash throughout the Web. Of course, Microsoft wouldn't mind seeing Adobe lose some market share. Second, by being the portal to push out these experimental specifications and evaluate test results, Microsoft becomes the de-facto judge of what's ready for inclusion in its own browser, essentially helping set standards on the specifications going forward.
I don't consider either of these motivations particularly bad or evil. Again, Microsoft is trying to help drive forward adoption of a more open standard. The fact of the matter is this helps them, but it truly helps others also. I think it's refreshing that Microsoft is willing to take this leadership role in the community that nobody else really has. Would any company with a product in the space really do something like this if it didn't benefit itself even a little in some way? No, probably not. So despite what some critics will say, we need to look past this. I don't think this is another example of big, bad Microsoft coming in to try and crush competition and stamp out the little guy.
The release of IE 9 and the wide acceptance of HTML5 are very exciting for the industry as a whole. I think everyone realizes the future of computing and applications is in the browser. There will probably be a version 8 of Windows in a couple of years, and the operating system isn't quite dead yet, but it's getting close. We all live in the browser and the new HTML5 Labs are the type of things that will help everybody in the long run.