Yesterday Microsoft released the final build of Internet Explorer 8 for public download. Since part of my job is to ensure that our websites are compatible against all I decided to be the company guinea. Let’s see how IE8 stacks up against the other top browsers today.
After installing the new browser IE8 complied in true Microsoft fashion and crashed immediately. An auspicious start but I reopened the program and started the setup process. The first thing you will notice is that IE8 offers a number of new services.
Suggested Sites: This feature monitors your browsing history to recommend websites you might like. I would prefer to find websites on my own so I turned this off.
Accelerators: The Accelerators feature lets keywords in website connect to other services such as automated maps, translation tools, or even blog services.
SmartScreen Filter: SmartScreen Filter does just what you might expect. It blocks certain websites and online phishing scams to protect your system. This should be left on.
Compatibility Views: This one has had me interested for awhile. This feature is intended to make websites for older browsers look better in the new platform.
Once finished setting up I browsed to our website and was happy to see everything in its place. Moving onto the contact us page I decided to see if the Accelerators work as intended and selected our address. The result? Pretty impressive.
A new feature that many people will appreciate is Tab Groups. All modern web browsers use tabs but this feature makes searches more intuitive. If you open Google, or any Search Engine, you probably open more than one result. Internet Explorer places all these results into a single color coded tab. You can flip through them normally but when you finish you can close the entire tab at once.
The address bar sees an improvement directly from Firefox. The new address bar remembers previous results to assist you when you wish to return to a site. IE8 offers additional usability improvements and allows you to remove old addresses that you no longer want.
Finally let’s look at performance. Speed has always been an issue for Microsoft Browsers and IE8 doesn’t seem to break the mold. In test with popular individual websites and websites that contain multiple news articles IE8 came in dead last in load speed against all other browsers. In most cases this was a difference on only a few seconds but after the claims by Microsoft of a major improvement this is a definite letdown. During the early testing phases some high profile websites such as facebook.com, bbc.co.uk, and cnn.com were having difficulties with the new browser. In the final build these websites are displaying fine but some other high profile sites such as the NY Times and Dell Support have been less successful. Microsoft promises to improve performance as time goes on but until then you may experience some oddities with your favorite websites.
Overall and despite a few compatibility hitches IE8 is still a step in the right direction from ie7. For security reasons I would suggest waiting a couple weeks for any patches but if you still use Internet Explorer as your primary browser than I would say it’s a worthwhile upgrade. Just don’t expect it to surpass Firefox in performance.
– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department