Perhaps the biggest news in the web world last week was the release of the new Internet Explorer 8 web browser.
IE8, produced by Microsoft and available for computers running Windows XP and newer versions (2003, Vista, and 2008), was officially released on March 18, 2009. This followed around two years of development after IE7 was released, two betas, and a release candidate.
IE8 can be downloaded from the Microsoft site, and it will eventually appear in Windows Update.
IE6 is much reviled by the web development community due to its poor support for modern CSS. IE7 made some progress on this front, but was still well behind the other modern web browsers. IE8 is declared to support all of CSS2.1, and some parts of CSS3. Again, an improvement, but still behind the other browsers.
Updated in IE8:
- Full CSS2.1
- Separate tabs in isolated processes
- Developer tools built in
New in IE8:
- Web slices
- Compatibility mode
- Private browsing
The main issue on my mind – and many others’ – is how long it will take for IE8 to gain a sizable foothold in the browser market. IE6 is still very prevalent, and generally remains the common denominator. As systems running Windows pre-XP cannot upgrade IE past version 6, and XP itself ships with IE6, that means the old browser will likely be around for years yet. Web developers are hoping the IE6 portion of the market will shrink quickly, especially as there are now three recent IE versions to support.
On the up side, IE8 helps to form a common ground – CSS2.1 – that can be expected in all modern browsers.
I think it is time to update my Windows XP virtual machine to use IE8 for web testing for the near future, before I install it on my actual computers. This is because of the usual annoyance that multiple versions of IE can’t – officially – be run on the same Windows installation.