Internet Explorer 8 Does Well, but Not Well Enough

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Aiming to outdo beta releases of Google Chrome and Firefox, Microsoft shoots for Web browser dominance by releasing Internet Explorer 8. The IE 8 browser is a vast improvement over IE 7, but Microsoft is still playing catch-up with competing browsers.

With Microsoft's commanding share of the Web browser market shrinking, the company had to do something, and that something turned out to be releasing Internet Explorer 8.

IE 8 may prove to be a just-in-time product—just in time to reduce interest in the beta update of rival browser Google Chrome; just in time to make people forget about the upcoming Mozilla Firefox release; and just in time to woo those considering abandoning Windows Vista.

Click here to read more about the Internet Explorer 8 release.

Microsoft's IE 8 is playing catch-up, as many of the new features have been available in competing browsers for some time. Those new features are still welcome additions and mark major improvements over IE 7.

First and foremost among IE 8's improvements is performance. IE 8 loads pages much more quickly than IE 7 and outperforms Firefox 3.07. On the other hand, Google Chrome (Beta) seems snappier than IE 8, at least on a Vista system.

Most of the other enhancements come in the form of security, usability and stability.

On the security front, IE 8 claims to protect systems better against malicious ActiveX code and other forms of malware. In practice, IE 8 seems to rely on UAC (User Account Control) warnings to inform users of possibly malicious activity, adding to the nuisance factor associated with Vista.

IE 8 adds much-needed privacy controls, such as the ability to easily delete browsing history, cookies and temporary files. In that respect, again, Microsoft is just playing catch-up with the rest of the browser market. IE 8's "InPrivate" browsing and filtering features add another layer of security to the product and further enhance privacy. InPrivate is a welcome addition, but not so different from some of the safety features found in Apple Safari or other browsers. While the mechanisms may be different, the goal is the same: to provide privacy and safety for those surfing the Web.

From a usability standpoint, users will find color-coded tabs, enhanced search and improved menus. Unfortunately, IE 8 suffers from a cluttered user interface that may dull some of the gloss of those usability-orientated features.

Users will find installing the product straightforward, although it can be time-consuming—the install process seeks out and installs other updates beyond what comes with the IE 8 browser. On one hand, Microsoft is ensuring that the subject PC is as up-to-date as possible. On the other hand, the company is demonstrating how reliant IE 8 is on other Windows technologies to provide safety and reliability.

When it comes down to it, IE 8 is Microsoft's best browser to date, yet it is still learning in some areas that competitors have mastered. Will people use IE 8? Of course. Will IE 8 stop people from using alternative browsers? Not likely. In the browser wars, Microsoft still only has one real advantage, and that is the support for ActiveX, VBScript and other proprietary technologies that Microsoft products rely on to create a "rich" browsing experience.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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