Earlier this afternoon MS launched their Internet Explorer 8 beta page, and made available for download the next generation of the IE browser. The browser is available immediately for download on Vista, XP SP2, Server 2008, and 2003 Server. Probably the question most websites (and yours truly) is wondering relate to the Standards Compliance and CSS support of the browser. I felt that IE7 was a very nice step forward for IE and unlike many other users I thoroughly enjoy that release, but it still left a few things to be desired. With IE8 MS introduces the following new features:
- "Activities", which allow users to easily look up information from within a webpage or send information to another application. The jury is out on this one until I see some interesting implementions.
- "Webslices", a very interesting feature which allows users to subscribe to a specific portion of a webpage and place it on their favourites toolbar.
- Renaming the Links bar to the Favourites bar.
- Crash Recovery - Firefox users will remember this as "Session Recovery", where the tabs that you had open can be restored after a crash. Actually on Firefox I use this feature so I can cheat and end the Firefox process when it starts gobbling up 200+MB of RAM (closing Firefox takes forever in this scenario).
- Improved Phishing filter.
- Apparently a significant improvement in performance (rendering and js). This is something that MS has downplayed by not highlighting in their major features but it sounds like something any end-user might find appealing.
I'm not one for beta software normally, but if you want to check it out get to the Beta 1 download site.
I suggest you read the Release Notes before proceeding however, since I already noted that they have a release note about anchors not behaving well in IE8 (wouldn't this be considered a show stopper? nearly every site in the world makes SOME use of anchors, including Microsoft's own release notes page).
Meanwhile, from a website developers perspective, IE8 has what appears to be a rich number of improvements. IE8 supposedly has compliance for CSS2.1 and includes a developer toolbar. That toolbar sounds appropriately powerful, and I am eager to see how it compares to the Firefox developer add-on. Check this out:
Internet Explorer 8 includes tools that Web developers need to efficiently debug their sites directly in Internet Explorer. Developers can immediately debug a site's HTML, CSS, and JScript from within Internet Explorer 8, rather than switch between Internet Explorer and a separate development environment. In addition, Internet Explorer 8 Developer Tools help developers identify why their site does not render or behave as expected. They do this by providing visibility into Internet Explorer's internal representation of the site rather than just a source view.
Finally, by making it simple to edit any site, Internet Explorer 8 Developer Tools makes experimentation and iterative development easy. This enables rapid prototyping and helps developers improve their skills.
In addition to this IE8 will be introducing CSS3 elements, HTML and ACID2 improvements. There is also a VERY interesting ability to swap rendering modes between 3 different modes:
- Quirks – backwards compatibility with IE5 rendering behavior.
- IE8 Standards – latest features, including the CSS 2.1 compliant layout engine and DOM/HTML breaking changes.
Overall an interesting release that I feel keeps IE in the running.