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Internet Explorer 8 Has Arrived

After more than a year of beta testing, Microsoft released version 8 of Internet Explorer today. IE8 is definitely a better browser than IE7, and features quite a few important new functions, including accelerators, and web slices. IE8 is also significantly faster than IE7 and features a large number of new functions that make browsing the web easier and more secure. IE8 is an important upgrade for those users who are still using IE7, but we don’t think that it offers enough compelling reasons for users of other browsers to switch back to Internet Explorer.

We described most of IE8’s new features in previousposts about the beta and release candidates, so here is just a short reminder of some of the most interesting new additions to IE8:

  • Accelerators (think addons that make things like mapping addresses or initiating a blog post easier)
  • Web Slices (make information from sites available directly in your bookmarks)
  • InPrivate browsing (similar to the ‘incognito’ mode in Chrome or the ‘private browsing’ feature in Safari 4)
  • Built-in clickjacking prevention
  • Built-in phishing prevention
  • Crash recovery (similar to Chrome; when a tab crashes, it won’t take down the whole browser and the content is automatically restored and reloaded)

Speed and Security

Of course, Microsoft has also stepped up its efforts to keep users secure (pdf), and IE8 also feels a lot faster than Microsoft’s earlier browsers. Microsoft famously argued that its browser has been optimized to render the most popular pages on the Internet faster than any other browser, and that JavaScript performance, which is what all the other browser developers are focused on right now, is only a small part of the puzzle. To us, however, IE8 still didn’t feel very fast, especially when compared to Google’s Chrome.

Best New Features: Accelerators and Web Slices

In our opinion, the two features that stand out in the new version of IE8 (besides the obvious, like speed and better security) are accelerators and web slices. One web slice we especially liked was the OneRiot slice, which gives you a quick overview of the most popular videos on the Internet right now.

In its press release, though, Microsoft argues that performing simple tasks like mapping an address takes 7 steps in Firefox, but only 3 in IE8. Of course, that is only true if you don’t install the Map This addon for Firefox. And that, of course, is a large part of Microsoft’s problem. Thanks to the large number of Firefox addons and other tools like Greasemonkey, you can easily replicate most of the new features from IE8 in Firefox.


Overall, IE8 is not a bad browser, and most mainstream users who are still using IE7 will feel right at home. The problem for Microsoft, however, is that a lot of users have already moved to other browsers like Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome, and IE8 doesn’t really offer these users anything new or innovative. Of course, IE7 is the world’s most often used browser, so this upgrade, as Om Malik rightly points out, will indeed be a welcome upgrade for millions of Windows users, and might just stop a lot of them from looking for alternatives in the near term. If you are already using another browser, however, IE8 will just look like more of the same and we can’t really see a compelling reason for why you would want to switch back to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

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