Microsoft: IE8 release candidate 'just around the corner'

Urges developers to get ready to test sites, mum on speed gains

Microsoft Tuesday said that the release candidate for Internet Explorer 8 is "just around the corner" and urged developers to get ready to test their sites with the new browser.

Elsewhere, the TG Daily technology news site leaked screenshots of what it said was the IE8 Release Candidate (RC), and said the build had been passed to Microsoft's closest partners last week.

"Developers, start your engines," said Dean Hachamovitch, IE's general manager. "There's now a sense of urgency. That's what 'the release candidate is around the corner' means."

But Hachamovitch declined to get more specific than that about when Microsoft would unveil IE8 RC, which is expected to be the final build shown to users and developers before the browser wraps up sometime in 2009. Last month, Microsoft committed only to a delivering the release candidate during the first three months of next year.

Because the release candidate is near, Web developers should be prepping for the changes they'll need to make to accommodate the new browser as more users download and install it, Hachamovitch said.

Although Microsoft originally said it would stress backward compatibility with its older browser -- especially IE7 and the sites designed and tweaked to properly display in it -- the company changed its mind last March after complaints mounted. Site designers and developers, tired of spending time writing code around IE's foibles, pushed Microsoft to adopt a Web standards mode in IE by default.

That would let them, they said, design a site just once, and have that site correctly display in IE as well as in Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and other browsers.

Hachamovitch was sympathetic to the work developers would have to do to get their sites and applications ready for IE8, but stressed that it would be to their benefit in the long run. "I have a lot of respect for those people who build the Internet," said Hachamovitch. "There are so many worthy activities that call on their time. [But while] in the short term there's work they need to do to bridge sites that work with IE8, it will pay off in the long run with the next billion Web pages."

Unlike TG Daily, which spelled out several new features in IE8 RC, Hachamovitch was hesitant to share details of what Microsoft had changed since it offered up Beta 2 in August.

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