ie8 overview
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We’ve been receiving quite a few requests from our readers wanting to know what we think about Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1, and whether it is worth the upgrade. I downloaded and installed it shortly after it was released yesterday, and the total installation time on my Vista machine took around 4 or 5 minutes. There were absolutely no problems for me upgrading to IE 8 from IE 7.

–Performance–

Everything in Internet Explorer 8 seems a lot more responsive than in Internet Explorer 7: tabs open faster, pages render more quickly, and the “Quick Tabs” works almost instantaneously. Really, I’m not exaggerating the difference at all. Ashley and I have the exact same laptops, and we wanted to do a side-by-side comparison of how long it took to load our site. The difference was like night and day… Internet Explorer 8 loaded our site at least twice as fast.

I’ve gotten a handful of emails already that have been wanting me to run the SunSpider JavaScript test on Internet Explorer 8. Previously it failed miserably coming in a very distant last place. Here’s how it stacked up against the latest Firefox 3 nightly build (the lower amount of time is better):

  1. Firefox 3 Nightly (03/05/2008 build): 6624.2ms
  2. Internet Explorer 8 (Beta 1): 14302.0ms

That’s more than five times better than Internet Explorer 7 in our previous tests! So it looks as though there has been substantial changes under-the-hood in Internet Explorer 8 to make it perform better. The best thing is that the speediness doesn’t show just in the numbers. I can almost guarantee that as soon as you start using Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 you’ll see a noticeable difference.

–Features–

I’m not going to just list out the features here because I did that yesterday. Instead there are two things that I really wanted to comment on. The first is the new Activities that was introduced into Internet Explorer 8. I didn’t think that these were really anything special, but I’ve actually come to love them after just a few minutes of using the browser.

When you highlight some text a little green arrow will appear above your selection. If you click on that arrow you’ll see a list of all your installed Activities that you can choose from. This is a quick way for you to translate text, map an address, define a word, and much more:

ie8 activities button

Microsoft has a site setup where users can add more Activities, but given that the browser is so new there are only a handful of them available.

The one other thing that I really like is something Firefox 3 was (or maybe still is) supposed to have when it is released. It’s a domain highlighting feature that makes users more aware of the domain that they are viewing by graying out portions of the URL. Here’s what it looks like for one of our articles:

ie8 domain highlight

This will help users avoid phishing scams that are located at obscure domains disguised to look like a legitimate one, such as paypal.com.example.com.

–The Price of Standards–

Many of us applauded Microsoft for making the browser more standards compliant out-of-the-box, but I’m already starting to see the effects of the change. At first glance I have found that nearly every site I visit has some sort of rendering glitch in Internet Explorer 8. Our site, for example, had problems properly positioning the footer. We had to insert this code into the head section of the HTML on our site:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=7" />

This forces Internet Explorer 8 to render the site the same way that Internet Explorer 7 does, and is a great temporary fix until you get the time to make the necessary changes. Our site is far from the only one that has problems. Here are some of the others that we’ve noticed:

  • CNN.com has some video thumbnails that float off to the right side.
  • Yahoo.com has a toolbar underneath the search box that is not aligned properly.
  • News.com has a few issues in the upper part of their site around their search box.
  • Yahoo Mail just pops up with error messages and is non responsive when you try to do just about anything.

You can quickly correct these issues by forcing IE 8 to emulate IE 7 using the “Emulate IE7″ button on the toolbar. You’ll need to restart the browser for the changes to become active, but it should solve most of the problems.

–Overview–

Overall I would have to say that this is a great update for Internet Explorer, but I don’t think Microsoft has done enough to pull users away from Firefox and Opera. There’s nothing that really leaves me in awe, but I do have to say that the performance improvements definitely deserve to be applauded.

There Are 15 Comments

  1. @Ryan:

    “When you highlight some text a little green arrow will appear above your selection. If you click on that arrow you’ll see a list of all your installed Activities that you can choose from. This is a quick way for you to translate text, map an address, define a word, and much more:”

    I can see that almost all “Activities” are Microsoft-related, which means that Steve Ballmer wants you to stay within MS proprietary premises. Examples:

    1. Blog with Windows Live Spaces
    2. Define with Encarta
    3. Map with Live Maps
    4. Search With Google (only exception and a big one)
    5. Send with Windows Live HotMail
    6. Translate with Windows Live

    I don’t know, but I have a gut feeling that Firefox 3 (finished product) will leapfrog Internet Explorer 8. Biased? Perhaps. 8O

    Regards,

    Omar.-

  2. What about memory usage? Did you look at how much RAM use IE7 vs IE8?

  3. I upgraded on my work computer and for some reason it doesn’t work well. IE7 was better, and in IE8 Live/Hotmail doesn’t work at all, the site just freezes on me. :|

    I guess I didn’t get the good working one. :(

  4. Definitely not the best upgrade and the features aren’t great or even worth the upgrade unless you use Microsoft’s Live Products extensively.

  5. Omar Upegui wrote:
    I can see that almost all “Activities” are Microsoft-related, which means that Steve Ballmer wants you to stay within MS proprietary premises.

    That only makes sense though. Of course Microsoft is going to try and promote their own services, but at the same time anyone can develop their own Activities to be used. I even linked to a page above that Microsoft has setup where they will host the Activities that have been created so far.

    Radu Capan wrote:
    What about memory usage? Did you look at how much RAM use IE7 vs IE8?

    A little better than IE7, and still quite a bit better than the other browsers. After some casual browsing with about 15 tabs open it was only eating up about 80MB of memory. My Firefox climbs to over 100MB quite rapidly.

    motang wrote:
    I upgraded on my work computer and for some reason it doesn’t work well. IE7 was better, and in IE8 Live/Hotmail doesn’t work at all, the site just freezes on me. :|
    I guess I didn’t get the good working one. :(

    If the website freezes then it is probably a site compatibility issue. You would want to switch to the IE7 rendering mode which I’ve found to fix all site rendering issues.

    Corvida wrote:
    Definitely not the best upgrade and the features aren’t great or even worth the upgrade unless you use Microsoft’s Live Products extensively.

    The thing with the features they’ve added is that they aren’t that great until developers start to take advantage of them. When sites start making WebSlices and what not I think it will be a lot better.

  6. Brilliant. I genuinely applaud Microsoft for this. Not because I’m going to switch away from Firefox (I like my extensions and open sourceness) but because so many people use the default brower (ie IE) out of the box and if that can’t render pages properly and is dog slow, we have a problem.

    If people have a fast browser that renders correctly they’ll be a lot more keen to find out what’s on offer on the internet, outside of their usual boxes. This means more money from advertising on more websites, which means better developments and improved services for all of us. Let’s just hope they don’t drag their feet about opening up Activities to any service provider.

  7. well after upgraded to IE8 and restarted. I started IE8 and it immediately crashed. Why…? :(

  8. I have no idea why the IE8 upgrade took so long for me. I like thee new version better than the older ones, but will stick with Opera, as it has all of the functionality that I need and I’m used to it.

    Chris, I’ve used it on and off since yesterday and have had no problems at all.

  9. @Chris
    You must have either to Google Toolbar or Yahoo Toolbar installed. They both do horrible horrible things to the browser so its no wonder that a beta 1 would crash. Try running IE8 in No Addons Mode, then let us know if it still crashes.

  10. Many sites do not work on IE8 – nytimes crashed repeatedly. None of the sites containing embedded video work, crashing repeatedly. Even its own site – officelive.com advices to use IE6 and above or firefox 2 and above —>
    To use Microsoft Office Live, your computer must meet one of the following requirements:

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later, running on Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows Server 2003. You can download the latest version of Internet Explorer from the Windows Internet Explorer page.

    Firefox 2.0, running on Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, or Mac OS X 10.2.x and later. You can download Firefox 2.0 from the Firefox Download page.

    looks like the beta version hasn’t even gone through its own internal testing..

  11. @Ryan,
    Does the alignment issues mean that we have to fix our blogs or websites for IE8? Doing this will change the alignment in other browsers?
    I too have few issues on my blog.

  12. @Nirmal, if IE8 is as standards compliant as they say, instead of doing “code to standards, hack for IE” we’ll have to “code to standards, hack for IE<8″. Meaning, the alignment issues are probably where IE8 Standards Mode is seeing code meant to fix IE7′s Standards Mode. So no, done properly, the required changes shouldn’t cause problems with other browsers.

  13. Nirmal wrote:
    @Ryan,
    Does the alignment issues mean that we have to fix our blogs or websites for IE8? Doing this will change the alignment in other browsers?
    I too have few issues on my blog.

    You can tweak the code on the site, but it is possible that it will have adverse affects in other browsers. I’m not going to take the time to do that quite yet because there could just be some bugs in IE8 right now, and I’m going to wait for further versions to be released. For the time being I’ve just added the line of code mentioned above so that the site renders as it would in IE7.

    Inferno_str1ke wrote:
    Let’s just hope they don’t drag their feet about opening up Activities to any service provider.

    They’ve already posted the information necessary for people to create their own Activities:
    [microsoft.com]

  14. Mitchel Tyrell wrote:
    @Chris
    You must have either to Google Toolbar or Yahoo Toolbar installed. They both do horrible horrible things to the browser so its no wonder that a beta 1 would crash. Try running IE8 in No Addons Mode, then let us know if it still crashes.

    I ran in No addons mode and worked perfectly! :) But I uninstalled the Yahoo Toolbar preinstalled on my PC and the normal mode still doesn’t work.
    EDIT: I disabled all the addons in no-addons mode and the normal mode works now! :D

  15. The new internet explorer SUCKS!! anti-phishing stops everything!Locks up everything.IT SUCKS!! I should never have downloaded it! DON’T DO IT!!

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