updated 07:50 am EDT, Thu March 19, 2009
MS Launching IE8 Today
Microsoft on Thursday said it would launch Internet Explorer 8 at 12PM Eastern. The app is the company's first significant web browser release since 2006 and is partly meant to address gaps in its feature set compared to other, newer browsers: a new rendering engine makes it more compatible with true W3C web standards while still having support for IE-specific pages. It also has shortcuts to perform context-sensitive tasks through specific websites (such as a Facebook search), visual search suggestions, and a WebClip-like feature known as Web Slices that lets users bookmark specific sections of websites and see them at a glance.
Greater security is also a focus with a private browsing mode and a smart filter for hostile sites. The software will be available for both Windows XP and Vista and will be a core feature of Windows 7.
The release comes just as the company faces increased competition as well as a potential blow to its control of the browser market. While significantly faster and more standards-ready, IE8 is already believed to be outperformed by Apple's Safari 4 as well as by Google's Chrome and the upcoming Mozilla Firefox 3.5. The software is poised to gain significant traction by virtue of its inclusion with Windows 7 but may be made optional in Europe as an ongoing EU antitrust case may force a choice between browsers that lets users install an alternative without ever installing Internet Explorer.