Internet Explorer 8 (beta)

Windows Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 on Windows XP
Developed by Microsoft
Preview release Beta 1, 8.0.6001.17184 / March 5, 2008 (2008-03-05); 102 days ago
OS Windows Vista, XP SP2 and 3, Server 2003 SP2, Server 2008
Platform x86 (32-/64-bit)
Available in English
Development status Beta
Genre Web browser and feed reader
License Proprietary (MS-EULA)
Website Internet Explorer 8 Beta

Windows Internet Explorer 8 (commonly abbreviated IE8) is the next version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser, succeeding Internet Explorer 7. A Beta 1 targeted for web designers and developers was released to the general public on March 5, 2008. A Beta 2 targeted for all consumers is scheduled to be released in August, 2008.

According to Microsoft, security, ease of use, and improvements in RSS, CSS, and Ajax support are its priorities for IE8, along with significantly better support of web standards than its predecessor. As a result of better standards compliance, IE8 will break compatibility with web pages that were designed around the bugs and quirks of previous versions. To soften the impact of these compatibility issues, IE8 will enable web designers to turn off all breaking changes in IE8. There are three modes that IE8 can render, named, “Quirks,” “Strict,” and “Standard.” When there is an old DOCTYPE or when there is no DOCTYPE, IE renders it like IE5 would (quirks mode). When a special meta element or its corresponding HTTP header is included in a web page, IE8 will render that page like IE7 would (strict mode). Users can switch between the three modes with a few clicks and then restarting Internet Explorer.

The first beta release of IE8, which was demonstrated at the MIX08 conference, contains many new features, including WebSlices and Activities.

Activities

Example of a map Activity using the IE8 Activities Smart tag.

Example of a map Activity using the IE8 Activities Smart tag.

Activities are contextual commands that allow a user to invoke an online service from any other page. Actions such as selecting the text or other objects will give users access to the usable Activity services (such as blogging with the selected text, or viewing a map of a selected geographical location), which can then be invoked with the selected object. According to Microsoft, Activities make copying and pasting between web pages easier. IE8 specifies an XML-based encoding which allows a web application or web service to be invoked as an Activity service. How the service will be invoked and for what categories of content it will show up is specified in the XML file. Similarities have been drawn between Activities and the controversial Smart tags, feature experimented with in the IE 6 Beta but withdrawn after criticism (though later included in MS Office).

WebSlices

IE8 Favorites menu displaying a WebSlice in a flyout Window

IE8 Favorites menu displaying a WebSlice in a flyout Window

WebSlices are snippets of the entire page that a user can subscribe to. WebSlices will be automatically kept updated by the browser, and can be viewed directly from the Favorites bar, complete with graphics and visuals. Developers can mark parts of the pages as WebSlices, using the hAtom and hSlice microformat. WebSlices have been compared to Active Desktop, introduced in Internet Explorer 4 in 1997.

Address bar improvements

The address bar features domain highlighting for added security so that the top-level domain is shown in black whereas the other parts of the URL are grayed out. Domain highlighting however cannot be optionally turned off by users or websites. Other features of the address bar include support for pasting multi-line URLs and an improved model for inserting the selection caret, and selecting words, or entire URLs in the Address bar. The inline autocomplete feature has been dropped from Internet Explorer 8.

Other features and improvements

IE8 Developer Tools

IE8 Developer Tools

Other new features in IE8 includes a redesigned Favorites Bar, which can now host content such as WebSlices, web feeds as well as documents, in addition to website links. The phishing filter has been augmented with Safety Filter that prevents sites known to spread malware from loading. Users need to make an explicit choice to load a blocked site; however this feature can be disabled using Group Policy. A crash recovery mechanism has been incorporated; if the browser crashes, web pages being viewed are recovered when the browser is restarted. Full-page zoom now reflows the text to remove the appearance of horizontal scrollbars on zooming. For developers, IE8 includes tools that allow HTML, CSS and JavaScript debugging directly from the browser.

Internet Explorer 8 includes performance improvements across the HTML parser, CSS engine, mark-up tree manipulation as well as the JScript runtime and the associated garbage collector. Circular Memory leaks, which resulted earlier due to inconsistent handling of JScript objects and DOM objects, have been alleviated. For better security and stability, IE8 uses the Loosely Coupled Internet Explorer (LCIE) architecture and runs the browser frame and tabs in separate processes. Glitches and hangs don’t bring down the entire browser. It also leads to higher performance and scalability. Permissions for ActiveX controls have been made more granular – instead of enabling or disabling them globally, they can now be allowed on a per-site basis.

Internet Explorer 8 Release History
Version Release Date Windows XP Server 2003 Windows Vista Server 2008
32-bit 64-bit 32-bit 64-bit 32-bit 64-bit 32-bit 64-bit
Beta 1 March 5, 2008 SP2 and above SP2 Only Yes Yes
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