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Internet Explorer 8


Internet Explorer 8 is by far and away the best browser Microsoft has ever released.

That being said, before I go on with why I think so, I’m going to go back into history a bit and lay out some background info.

I’ve been using IE since version 4, and on Windows 95,98,NT4,Me,2000,XP,2003 Server and Vista platforms. I have opened but not used IE3 on NT once, it was quite a shock to see what it looked like to be honest. I have seen the way it evolved and melded into the OS, and I’ve also seen how insecure it became with regards to malware using it as a entry point into the system.

IE6 was released just before Windows XP in 2001. Microsoft already had the lions share of the browser market, but with IE6 it drove the ultimate stake through the corpse of Netscape. With that, it pretty much sat unchallenged, king of the hill. As time went on and on and on, people were asking when Microsoft would release a new version. IE6 was getting long in the tooth, and apart from security updates, nothing was happening. It turned out that Microsoft was so confident about IE6 that they had actually disbanded the team that created it.

Somewhere around 2004/5, a little open source product called Firefox (freshly renamed from Phoenix) started to make its presence felt. I remember seeing and trying out the 0.9 edition that came on a magazine cover mounted cd-rom. I was impressed, but it didn’t hold my interest. On the same disk, there was a product called MyIE2 (later renamed Maxthon), which I used and fell in love with, and have been using it as my default browser ever since. For the Linux users, FF was a big boon, as it brought a world class browser to their desktops that was truly open source. The lovely Opera was available, but because it wasn’t open source, many people had ethical issues concerning using it.

Firefox started growing like a well watered weed and started chewing away at the market share of Microsoft. Other browser makers noted this and started their own comeback trails. Microsoft eventually woke up and started to develop IE7. They finally started pulling the browser towards correctly supporting the web standards, which web developers had been crying out for for years. IE7 was released just before Vista came out in November 2007, and it was a good release. I wrote about IE7 here, and it was a good releaser for Microsoft. It didn’t exactly steal numbers away from the Firefox fans, but at least people knew that Microsoft was back in the game.

IE8 was released on March 19, and I took the chance to download and install it right away. Everything I had read had said that it was the most standards compliant browser ever released by Microsoft, as well as a jump in speed when using Web 2.0 applications. They were right about all of that, IE8 now feels as snappy as any browser I’ve used. Although Maxthon is still my default, I now swap between it, IE8 and Opera when working with Joomla or in general surfing.

Of course, IE8 has excellent Group Policy support which is invaluable in a domain environment. Until the other browsers can be managed with the same level of control, they won’t get a big grip into the corporate world. Corporate IT is about control and reducing user problems, and what IE offers is something that many admins have enjoyed having.

Out of interest, here is IE8 running under Vista with my blog open in the browser

ie8-snip

It will be interesting to see what will come in IE9, whenever that may be released. IE8 will go a long way to making many web developers happy, and if Microsoft can keep the security issues down and increase the speed of the browser, average users will have very little reason to switch browsers.

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