It really is browser war time once again... and Microsoft is now determined to be part of the scrap.
Following a rash of browser updates with the likes of Safari 4, Firefox 3.1 (eventually 3.5 at release), Chrome 2.0 and even Fennec 1.0 Beta has come the long awaited Internet Explorer 8. Arriving a whole 18 months after the release of IE7, the overhauled browser introduces a rash of new features as it attempts to throw off its image as slow, bloated, Swiss cheese security software.
So what's in there? Well, in all honesty little has changed from the IE 8 Release Candidate revealed in December but now we can at least confirm what additional functionality is nailed down.
Taking many leaves from rival offerings we see a new smart address bar akin to the Firefox 'Awesome bar' which performs searches and predicts relevant web pages as you type. Next are 'Accelerators' which mimic Firefox's Context Search add-on by adding right quick search engine functionality, though the choice of sites isn't customisable. 'Web Slices' previews content from bookmarks and 'ACR' saves your tabs and restores them should IE crash.
Other noteworthy additions are 'InPrivate', the famed porn mode 'Incognito Window' first seen in Chrome and now Firefox 3.1 Beta for untracked browsing and 'Tab Grouping' which recognises websites with the same visual representation and groups them together.
As for performance, early reports are less encouraging with claims IE8 still remains significantly slower than the latest builds of Opera, Firefox, Chrome and Safari while its Acid3 scores are nothing to write home about. In terms of availability Windows 7 users are also left out in the cold with no support coming until the Release Candidate of the OS is released later in the year so it remains XP and Vista only for now.
Furthermore, while Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer states "With Internet Explorer 8... provides protection that no other browser can match" that hasn't been shown to be the case.
At the 'Pwn2Own' hacking competition this week IE8 along with Firefox fell within 'hours' according to the hosts. They weren't the worst however as Safari was compromised in 'a couple of seconds' and only Chrome survived the day unscathed (Opera wasn't part of the contest).
Despite all this, if Internet Explorer 8 still holds your interest (darned free will) then you can grab it now from the official site link below...