Funny, isn’t it? Web browser betas are like buses: you wait for ages, then two come along at once. Not only is Firefox building up to a new version, but quite remarkably, Microsoft are working on a new version of Internet Explorer. The first beta of IE8 is available now. This version is intended for the use of web developers to play with, and make sure their sites work with the new browser.
I installed it on my little Toshiba laptop, and so far, I have to say that it’s working nicely. This site appears exactly as intended, which presumably means I’ve done something right. Sites that have adopted assorted tweaks, cheats, hacks and other such things to make things display as intended on earlier versions of IE are quite likely to crash and burn quite horribly unless some changes are made.
By default, IE8 will behave as a standards-compliant browser, in much the same way as Firefox, Safari and Opera. Users can click a button to make it act like older versions when browsing sites that are broken. This is a major change for Microsoft, and a change from what they said they would do initially – the original idea was to make the default behaviour like IE7, and would require site developers to code their sites specially to make IE8 act like a modern browser. For what it’s worth, my opinion is that this change is a good one, and makes IE8 a much more useful piece of software.
For a first beta, this is good stuff – even things like Outlook Web Access (the webmail interface to Microsoft Exchange Server) work perfectly without any apparent oddness. It’s good to see that IE7 really was just a first step towards making a better browser.