In what can only be called an unexpected surprise, the W3C standards body this week released results of its first-ever HTML 5 compatibility tests and found that the pre-release version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 9 browser offers the best conformance. IE 9 beat out the very latest, in-beta versions of industry darlings Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, as well as Apple's Safari—all of which widely tout their HTML 5 capabilities.

"Interoperability is important to web designers," the W3C site notes. "Good test suites drive interoperability. They're a key part of making sure web standards are implemented correctly and consistently."

IE 9 scored a perfect 100 percent on five of the seven W3C tests, compared with four perfect scores for Chrome, three for Firefox, three for Opera, and two for Safari. IE 9's overall score—96 percent—was also well above that of the competition. Chrome scored 88 percent, for example, while Firefox scored 89.5 percent. Safari scored just 71 percent.

Despite being conducted by the standards body responsible for HTML 5, these results didn't go over well with the anti-Microsoft crowd. Wired's Webmonkey site, for example, tried to downplay IE 9's W3C successes by noting that the Microsoft browser didn't do so well on a "less formal" third-party HTML 5 test suite. But  it had to also admit that this other test includes HTML 5 components that aren't approved by the W3C, as well as "some experimental stuff and some components that aren't in the spec." This is how the other side of the fence operates, in case you were curious.

Of course, the anti-Microsoft crowd has been busy designing IE-antagonistic compliance tests—like the unforgivably useless ACID tests—for years, so this reaction isn't all that surprising. But what the W3C tests provide, of course, is a reliable measure of how Microsoft is complying with the actual W3C specifications. And according to the standards body responsible for those specs, the software giant is apparently doing a pretty good job.