Microsoft has announced that Internet Explorer 8 has been released and can be downloaded now for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008.
After years of losing market share to Firefox and other rivals, Microsoft is hoping to convince people, many of whom use old versions of Internet Explorer, to give the company a new look.
Google Inc.’s Chrome led all browsers in the SunSpider tests, making it more than four times faster than IE8. Coming in second was Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox 3.0.7, followed by Apple Inc.’s Safari 3.2.2 for Windows and Opera Software’s Opera 9.63.
Firefox proved to be 59% faster than IE8, while Safari was 47% faster. Opera, the slowest non-Microsoft production browser, was still 38% faster than IE8.
The new browser also contains each webapp in its own tab, so if one site crashes, it just crashes the tab instead of bringing the entire browser down with it.
Microsoft has improved its support for web standards to a point, choosing to support CSS up to version 2.1. Support for CSS 3 is minimal, with only vertical text making the cut. Support for SVG, rounded corners, audio and video tags and other proposed standards are penciled in for future versions.
Search is central to the experience, as it should be. IE8 has a smart address bar — start typing a URL and a drop-down offers suggested destinations from your recent history, favorites and feeds. The search box also returns preliminary results as you type. Any website can build a plug-in search engine that gives richer results, complete with thumbnail images, snippets of text and page descriptions. IE8 arrives with options to install such smart engines for Amazon, The New York Times and Wikipedia with a few clicks.
There’s a private browsing mode and new protections against scripting attacks. A feature called “Accelerators” extends the semantic web by providing context-sensitive commands in when you right-click on different page elements. Highlight some text and right-click, for example, and you’re given options to “Blog this” or “Search for this” or “Translate this.”
Users upgrading from previous versions of IE are going to be pleased. There are bunches of little things, like new bookmark manager and the ability to isolate and print a specific part of any page, that are just added niceties. But it’s the “five S’s” — speed, stability, security, standards and search — that are the most important enhancements.
Click here to download IE8 now.