Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 - Playing Catch up


Explore your Internet

Explore your Internet

It's no secret that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has long been the reigning champion of the browser market since the defeat of its other rival, Netscape Navigator, way back in time. Even today, IE's market share stretches to around 70%, give or take 10%, compared to its current rivals like Mozilla's Firefox (the most dominant of its competitors), Apple's Safari or the Opera browser. We won't know the impact of Google's Chrome browser till much later, but it's probably safe to assume that there will be barely a dent in Microsoft's hold over the browser market for now.

While we can't actually speculate on why IE is so popular or on why people aren't switching to the others, we can probably heave a sigh of relief that the latest version of its ever popular browser will definitely catch up to what's already available on its competitors and also introduces a few new tricks to the book like Accelerators, which is like copy and paste on crack (more on that later).

The new version also features much beefed-up security, which has traditionally been a flaw of the browser due to the amount of users using it (and thus the ease of spreading / exploiting such security holes). (The new IE8 will allow users more direct control over the execution of JavaScripts compared to the big hammer that was used for the current IE7).

Speed too is another option that has been buffed, though a quick test using the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark using Firefox, Opera, Chrome, IE7 and IE8 Beta 2 showed that although IE8 lagged far behind compared to the others it still showed an improvement over the previous version. We also did another test on Acid 2 and 3, which showed that IE8 was definitely an improved version compared to its predecessor, being able to render the Acid 2 test page unlike IE7. It still pretty much crashed out on the Acid 3 test though.

*Note that this is not a proper test per se, just a quick test on a notebook to see how each browser performs in an almost real life environment and should not be interpreted as a standard benchmarking process that we normally do.

As you can see, Acid 3 compatibility isn't something that Microsoft is focused on at the moment, as their focus is more towards getting their older IE7 browser working with the newer web standards and delivering a smoother experience to their users . While this does mean that Acid 3 compatibility is probably a long time coming, they do have Acid 2 compatibility down pat. We'll have to wait out this beta period until we can get our hands on the final build to see if IE8 can get reasonable result for the Acid 3 test, so we'll see how the final build turns out in November 2008.

Lastly, there's also no word on the Java engine for the browser. Attempts to ask Microsoft about whether they may consider using the open source V8 engine that's used in Chrome didn't lead anywhere. Our own tests showed that their engine was the slowest of the four browsers tested, so again, we'll have to wait for the final build before we can reasonably conclude the browser's performance and responsiveness.