Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2

A pleasant surprise

Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2
  • Expert Rating

    Not yet rated

Pros

  • New privacy features

Cons

  • Still only a beta so a final assessment can't be made

Bottom Line

Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 is much improved over the first developer's beta of IE8 and includes many new features, such as improved tab handling and better search. Keep in mind that IE8 is beta, and therefore may be buggy. In addition, if you install it, it will replace IE7 rather than run alongside it, so you won't be able to run IE7 and IE8, although IE8's compatibility mode does a good job of working with sites built for IE7.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    Free (AUD)

Accelerators and WebSlices

Two of the more intriguing new features in Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 are Accelerators (which were called Activities in the developer's beta) and WebSlices. An Accelerator is a kind of mini-mashup that delivers information from another website to your current browser page, or that interacts with another website or service. For example, if you're on a page with a street address, you can highlight the address and choose an Accelerator such as Live Maps or Google Maps. The Accelerator will then display the map in a pop-up or open another tab, depending on how the Accelerator has been written for that site.

Not surprisingly, many of the Accelerators that ship with Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 are for Microsoft services, such as Live Maps, Encarta and Windows Live Spaces. But there others as well, including from Amazon, Wikipedia, Google and Yahoo. Any site can write an Accelerator using basic XML, so many other sites may eventually write them as well.

Another intriguing feature is WebSlices, which are like RSS feeds pumped up on steroids. WebSlices deliver constantly changing information to Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 - and as the name implies, they don't deliver it via text, but instead via graphically rich, interactive content. In essence, a WebSlice delivers a fully functional slice of a Web page to you.

When you're on a page that has one or more WebSlices available, a WebSlice icon on the Favorites bar turns green. Click the down arrow to its right, and you can choose a WebSlice to subscribe to. A listing for the WebSlice then appears on the Favorites bar, and when its content changes, the title turns bold. Click the title, and it drops down and displays the content. You can then click through to go to the Web page that houses the slice, or simply view it in the drop-down.

For example, if you're following an auction on eBay, you can subscribe to a WebSlice of the auction page. When an event happens in the auction, such as someone posting a new bid, you'll be immediately alerted.

In theory, WebSlices are useful, but it's not clear how they will be in practice. At the moment, there are very few WebSlices available, and even those that are available aren't easy to find. Developers have to write code for them, and if they don't, WebSlices will become just be one more nifty-but-useless feature.

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