Hot on the heels of Opera’s complaint to the European Union about Internet Explorer’s dodgy standards support, Microsoft has announced that an internal, preliminary build of Internet Explorer 8 has passed the Acid 2 browser test, meaning it supports certain accepted web standards.

Microsoft plans to release the first beta of the next version of Internet Explorer in the first half of 2008, which is somewhat surprising considering IE7 was released just over a year ago and IE6 – much criticized for its lack of standards compliance – was the de facto browser for more than five years before that. But then again, with the rising popularity of Mozilla’s Firefox, Microsoft really needs to stay up to date.

The company says it has learned its lesson from making improvements to CSS in IE7, which made the browser more compliant with some standards but less compatible with some sites on the web as they were coded. With Internet Explorer 8, however, the company hopes “to support the right set of standards with excellent implementations and do so without breaking the existing web.”