Internet Explorer 8 Beta version now available
Microsoft had previously made only a few details known about Internet Explorer 8, but the beta version of this web browser was presented yesterday evening at the Mix 08 conference. The downloads of the IE8 Beta 1 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, the x64 versions, for Windows XP (SP2) and Server 2003 (SP2) as well as XP x64 and Server 2003 x64 are ready. Some innovations to the browser can be seen in the "Readiness Toolkit" – and some of them look quite interesting.
A second innovation takes the middle ground between news feeds, widgets and Firefox's live bookmarks. If the user adds "WebSlices" to his favourites bar, he can click it to have a quick look at the weather forecast and stock exchange prices. The 'favourites' bar was previously known as the links bar: it offers space for news feeds and references to local documents, as well as bookmarks and WebSlices. Web designers can identify an area on their sites as a WebSlice by giving it certain class attributes - very much in the spirit of microformats.
Perhaps IE8 will give a strong push to the development of Ajax applications. New functions tackle the problem of navigation and connectivity; IE8 implements DOM storage, a storage mechanism specified in HTML5 that Firefox already knows about. That could offer a range of functions for storing offline data, similar to those of Google Gears. IE8 will also allow Ajax links to other domains; how the browser will solve the possible problem of security is not revealed in the documents published so far.
IE8 has borrowed the 'restoration following a crash' feature from its competitors, to enable work to be seamlessly continued, for example, with a previously open tab. Microsoft claims as its major innovation the improvements made to the phishing filter introduced by the previous version. Bugs with HTML compatibility and with the DOM functions are said to have been eliminated, a known memory leak is said to have been closed, and it's claimed there is an overall increase in speed.
The Readiness Toolkit also contains links to the Beta 1 of IE8 - but at present these still lead into the void, as do the documentation details.