The browser industry's next generation war has been waging for a couple years now. Apple released Safari 3 in 2007. Mozilla released Firefox 3 on June 17, 2008. Opera released its 9.6 browser on October 8, 2008 and Google launched its Chrome browser on December 11, 2008. Noticeably absent from these competitors was market leader Microsoft. It had not released a browser since the introduction of Internet Explorer 7 in 2006 -- a browser whose major feature was the introduction of tabs (along with security improvements).
Last year, Microsoft began to perk attention in the computer community releasing a beta of Internet Explorer 8, which featured innovative browsing modes like InPrivate, which were quickly copied by its competitors. The beta was followed by the release candidate, which hit the internet in January. And today those efforts it teased at last year will finally come to fruition when it releases the finalized version of its Internet Explorer 8 around the world at noon.
Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft says that security is a major focus of the new browser. Rather than forcing users to rely on antivirus, antimalware, and firewall programs, Microsoft, like its competitors, has been working to build a lot of protection into the browser itself. States Mr. Ballmer, "Customers have made clear what they want in a Web browser -- safety, speed and greater ease of use. With Internet Explorer 8, we are delivering a browser that gets people to the information they need, fast, and provides protection that no other browser can match."
Microsoft claims that its browser blocks two to four times the malware of rival next generation browsers. While such claims are certainly suspect, especially given the added security layer that some browsers like Mozilla get from non-stock add-ons, Internet Explorer 8 is definitely a big step up from the security of Internet Explorer 7.
Accelerators and web slices are two key features of the new browser. Both of these features provide faster access to popular or “favorites” content. Another big feature is Microsoft's improved Live Search, which includes Visual Search Suggestions -- this rich search provides visuals of the pages being searched and other information. While some will find it too much information, others will enjoy it, and the feature just may win a bit of search engine market share for Microsoft.
Internet Explorer 8 is available in 25 languages -- Arabic, Chinese (Traditional, Simplified and Hong Kong), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
The final version will be available for download at noon, here.