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