We’ll spend a few moments reflecting on Microsoft’s new IE8 browser. Release Candidate 1 of the browser was launched this weekend but we won’t blame if you don’t know or don’t care. The launch had nothing remotely like the buzz surrounding Google’s Chrome launch. And really Microsoft can’t help but launch it in the most boring, staid way possible.
So what do we think?
Now I’ve been using it for a day or so and I actually think it’s not so bad. In this day and age a browser must do many more things than just browse and display webpages. Firefox, Opera and Google have all made the browser something of a jack of all trades with browsing forming just the core of a very diverse portfolio of products.
My desktop install of Firefox, for instance, browses the web, updates twitter, helps me seamlessly bookmark pages on my delicious account, streams music, transfer files using an in-built FTP client add-on and so on.
And with IE8 Microsoft tries to make a few steps in this direction. The two key things that help it do this are accelerators and Web slices. After fiddling around with both for a while I think, think, that I know how these functions work.
Accelerators are basically selection-based shortcuts that help speed your online experience. Let me explain with the example of Microsoft Live maps. Highlight a postal address on a webpage, right-click and then choose the Live Maps accelerator and this automatically opens a little window with the address highlighted on a map.
Firefox afficianados will see some similarity with this and the Ubiquity application that does pretty much the same thing. Both Ubiquity and IE8’s accelerators use selection-based searches to basically simplify life on the web.
The other interesting thingie in IE8 is the web slices function. It is a fantastic idea. The concept is to help you to bookmark pieces of a webpage and the browser then periodically updates only that portion of the page. So if you have your eyes on a particular product on Ebay and want to see how the bidding is going… then you can pull out a web slice of the product alone and IE* will keep refreshing the slice for you to tell how the bids are going.
The downside to this concept is that, as far as I know, publishers must incorporate web-slices into their pages. You can’t create web slices as you go.
Alas, for MS, not only has someone managed to grab IE8 thunder with the WebChunks extension for Firefox but also enabled you to make your own Web Slices on the fly! Links can be found online along with this podcast.
Overall we want to like IE8 more. Unfortunately Firefox keeps upping the ante at every twist and turn. As usual for all your IE8 and other tech queries drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org