Microsoft has backtracked on its previous claim that IE8 will render identical to IE7 by default. Now, the software giant has returned the default renderer to IE8’s ‘improved standards’ mode.

The Internet Explorer general manager, Dean Hachamovitch, confirmed the latest change in direction for the next version of the browser in a posting on the IEBlog.

With reference to Microsoft’s decision on the availability of certain APIs, Hachamovitch said: “Microsoft recently published a set of Interoperability Principles. Thinking about IE8’s behavior with these principles in mind, interpreting web content in the most standards compliant way possible is a better thing to do.”

Hachamovitch conceded that community criticism — one of the more vocal critics being Opera CTO Hakon Wium Lie — had moved Microsoft in its decision.

“In light of the Interoperability Principles, as well as feedback from the community, we’re choosing differently. Now, IE8 will show pages requesting ‘Standards’ mode in IE8’s Standards mode. Developers who want their pages shown using IE8’s ‘IE7 Standards mode’ will need to request that explicitly,” he wrote in the blog.

Despite some initial teething problems, which Hachamovitch said had been encountered on other IE releases, he expects the decision to benefit users in the long run.

“Long term, we believe this is the right thing for the web. Shorter term, leading up not just to IE8’s release but broader IE8 adoption, this choice creates a clear call to action to site developers to make sure their web content works well in IE,” he added.