Introducing an improved version of the currently available Internet Explorer 8 prototype, Microsoft has updated its Web browser, promising an assortment of new features designed to help make browsing safer, easier, and more compatible with Internet standards. Many of the changes offered are similar to the features offered by its increasingly popular rival, Mozilla Firefox 3.
For example, if you accidentally close a browser window in IE 8, you can opt to restore it when you reopen the programme (as in Firefox). IE 8 will use colour coding to group related tabs together, and you can move tabs from one group to another. But if you have three unrelated pages open, you cannot create a group out of them.
Perhaps the most useful addition in IE 8 is what Microsoft calls tab isolation. The feature is designed to prevent a buggy Web site from causing the entire Web browsing programme to crash. Instead, only the tab displaying the problematic page will close, so you can continue browsing.
Further, IE 8 can use multiple search engines besides Windows Live Search, and you can add other search engines to the mix. Also, IE 8 will give you search suggestions as you type. In short, it has features popularised by rival browsers as well as search engines like Google.
The IE 8 is touted as Microsoft's most secure browser to date, and the company has added a good number of security features to the mix, ranging from phishing detection to private browsing, plus a new feature to prevent clickjacking, an emerging data theft threat.
If you enable IE 8's InPrivate Browsing feature, the browser will not save any sensitive data - passwords, log-in info, history, and the like. Afterward it will be as if your browsing session had never happened. This feature is very similar to Private Browsing in Apple's Safari browser, except that an icon in IE's address bar makes InPrivate Browsing's active status more obvious.
InPrivate Filtering - called InPrivate Blocking in earlier IE 8 builds - prevents sites from being able to collect information about other Web sites you visit. This feature existed in IE 8 Beta 2, but you could use it only while using InPrivate Browsing. In RC1, you can use InPrivate Browsing at any time.
The browser's phishing filter improves on its predecessors' filter with such features as more thorough scrutiny of a Web page's address and a full-window warning when you stumble upon a suspect phishing site. However, SmartScreen relies largely on a database of known phishing sites, so new ones may not be detected.
Users continue to express their doubts. One blogger said that the IE8 version now available is full of glitches; another said he had ditched IE years ago and saw no reason to change his loyalty to Firefox 3. However, IE8 may prove a good option for those who haven't fixed their browser loyalties, say several experts.
MS blasted again: The European Commission has accused Microsoft of harming competition by bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows operating system. The commission said it had reached the preliminary view that the US software giant had undermined consumer choice and infringed EU rules.
Microsoft and the European Union have engaged in legal battles over competition issues for years. Last year, the EU fined Microsoft 899 million euros ($1.4 billion).