Internet Explorer 8

Going beyond page loads is what Microsoft’s brand new browser, Internet Explorer 8, does

(Originally posted at my previous blog address on 26 March 2009)

It’s about getting things done in an faster, easier and safer manner. The idea is very novel but if one comes to think of it, that is what actually matters when you browse the web. It hardly matters whether you can open a webpage in 1 second or 1.2 seconds, what matters is whether you can complete the task for which you opened the web page within a shorter duration of time or not. For example, you are browsing the web for some info which you need to send to your boss and as always your boss needs it URGENTLY. On a regular browser you would open your favorite search engine and type away the key words, look at the various links displayed, dive into a couple of them and then copy the relevant info from some page, open your email on another page or tab, click on compose mail and then paste the info to send it to your boss. Can you cut down on these steps?? with IE 8 you can and you can with a lot of ease. Where IE 8 helps is from the moment you highlight the relevant text for copying, instead of right clicking the selected text to click on copy you can straight away click on a link which says something like send with yahoo mail and before you blink you have a tab opened with yahoo mail on which the compose mail link is already open and the selected text already in the email body. Just type in your boss’s email id and click on send. These things are rightly called “accelerators” in IE 8. This saves a lot more time than faster page loads…………. doesn’t it?? Actually it is not only faster, it’s also easier.

 That doesn’t mean that Internet Explorer 8 doesn’t load pages fast. It does and it does it at some speed. Microsoft had done some benchmarking tests before releasing IE8. It was based on loading the world’s 25 most visited websites and IE 8 beat it’s competition (firefox and chrome) by miles. The funny thing in those tests was firefox loaded microsoft.com faster than IE 8 and IE 8 loaded Google faster than anybody else, including google’s very own chrome. So, IE 8 is faster in both the conventional and non conventional ways. It can also save you money in a way by cutting down on your online time if you pay per minute for accessing the internet.

To elaborate further on ease of use let’s take my own example; “what’s hot” is a section on msn India’s home page. It has the right blend of top news stories from politics, sports, movies, fashion etc. most news bits here are of interest to me. So, I wanted to have a look in every time the news bits were updated and the only way to do it was to add it as a home page. I already had my live spaces page as the home page but then one can have more than one home page with internet explorer 7 and it will open them in different tabs but I personally found it a bit annoying. IE 8 has come to my rescue, now I continue to have my live spaces page as the ONLY home page and I have added the “what’s hot” section as a “webslice” on my browser’s toolbar. The webslice gets highlighted whenever the section is updated on msn and I can have a look in whenever I want no matter which website I’m browsing. One can add other useful stuff too like eBay bids etc.

Most web navigation is about taking you somewhere you have already been, the developers of IE 8 knew this well, when you start typing on the address bar you get recommendations based on your history, favorites and feeds you have subscribed to and mind you this feature is much more useful practically than what it sounds to be.

It’s not that other browsers have never done anything innovative. Google’s chrome came out with a feature called incognito mode, which allowed you to surf the web without any of your personal info including what websites you visited being recorded. This was pretty cool and now we have it in IE 8 too known more intuitively as “in private browsing”. The simplest of things like naming new features can also affect it’s widespread adoption. I never knew what the word incognito meant before I got to hear about this nifty feature from chrome. This can lead to limited usage of the feature by users who may have not heard about it and the name given to it doesn’t make it so intuitive. The developers might come up with a great new feature and call it something which sounds like straight out of a sci fi movie but that very name can make it less widely used. Hence, it’s one thing to be innovative and quite another to convert it into a successful product feature. All features need to be intuitively named to make them easily discoverable.  An average user is more likely to explore something named “in private browsing” than something called incognito mode. Moving on, one of the coolest things to have happened to browsers is tabbed browsing, which was first introduced by netcaptor in 1998 and more popularly by opera and firefox later on. Internet Explorer was the last to adopt it in 2006 but IE added something to it which added tremendously to it’s usefulness. It was being able to open an new tab in just one click something which firefox still lacks, in firefox you need to open a new tab by first going to the File menu and then clicking on ‘new tab’. This is again something very obvious that users should be able to complete most tasks through a minimum number of clicks but browsers like firefox still lack it. According to me, this is because products from smaller organizations lack the background research which is required to develop a truly world class product. Making a product user friendly and more so to make it beat it’s well placed competitors requires a lot of solid research done across it’s user base which is most of the time across the globe. Smaller organizations cannot match up to much larger ones in this and hence the difference can be seen in their products.

Now let’s dive into the hot realm of online security. Most people carry out their financial transactions online. I have myself NEVER been to my bank branch plus I have not signed a bank cheque since ages. All my banking and other financial transactions are done online. This means I need a very secure browser to be able to do so and I have never trusted anything other than Internet Explorer. Now, IE 8 takes online security to a whole new level, several features have been either added or tweaked. “Domain highlighting” makes it easier to detect phishing websites by highlighting the domain part of the URL in the address bar. The good old phishing filter has been rechristened as “smart screen filter” with better capabilities and additional features like warning about dangerous downloads whenever you are about to download something which is suspicious.

All in all it’s is a whole new paradigm for judging browser performance as I perceive there would be a limit to the conventional page loading benchmark, being able to complete your work faster, more easily and safely makes much more sense. With IE 8 Microsoft has shown it’s class and has risen well above it’s competitors who are still busy with the fastest page load rat race. Microsoft thought not just one step but miles ahead. It addressed the actual crux and didn’t go after the superficial gloss.

So, as the line goes in Microsoft videos about IE 8, start putting the web at your service, today!!

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