FAQ: Meet Microsoft's new Internet Explorer

Can it beat back the competition, including Chrome, with IE8?

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At some point, Microsoft will post localized versions for Windows XP and Windows Vista -- 32-bit only for both -- in Arabic, traditional Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. The company hasn't set a timetable for those editions, however.

What's in it for me? Computerworld reviewer Preston Gralla came to praise, not bury, IE8 when he said, "The beta is still rough in some places, but for anyone interested in seeing the next big browser release, it's stable, useful and well worth the download."

Among the features Gralla called out in last weeks' review are the following:

  • Enhanced tabs functionality.
  • Improved navigation, especially to previously visited sites, via a revamped address bar.
  • Advanced privacy controls that includes a private-browsing mode (often dubbed "porn mode" by the puckish).
  • "Accelerator" mashup tools and "WebSlices" data feeds.
  • Crash recovery.
  • Suggested searches.

Naturally, Microsoft touts a longer list in the fact sheet released as part of the Beta 2 PR effort and in the marketing materials on the IE8 site.

How fast is IE8 Beta 2? According to some quick JavaScript benchmark tests, not fast at all.

Here are the numbers from SunSpider, which is the benchmark built by WebKit, the open-source project responsible for the browsing engine used by both Apple Inc.'s Safari and Google's Chrome. (Note: IE8 Beta 2 won't run either Google's V8 benchmarks or Mozilla's Dromaeo suite without interrupting the tests with one or more error messages noting that "A script on this page is causing Internet Explorer to run slowly.")

In SunSpider, smaller numbers are better.

Browser Chart

The bottom line: Chrome is more than three times faster than IE8 Beta 2, and Firefox is over twice as fast. I've heard IE8 wants more memory than other browsers. What's the story? That talk is true, according to Craig Barth, chief technology officer at Devil Mountain Software Inc., a Florida developer that markets a Windows performance test utility to enterprises.

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