IE8 Beta 1

It has come as quite a surprise to learn that Microsoft has released a first beta version of IE8.

First impressions are that this really is a beta in all sense of the word, quite a few sites are broken (Google Maps has imploded) but I don't think this is a major concern as there's still some way to go so and Microsoft are encouraging reports to be submitted on website problems. I can only imagine there must be quite a few arriving at the moment.

IE8 includes a new feature called WebSlices, which allow users to subscribe to a particular section of a web page they visit. For example this might be the weather forecast or an eBay auction. It's not a bad idea and it may well be adopted more widely than RSS due to its visual richness as it displays the section of the web page rather than the bland text output often provided by RSS. WebSlices are implemented within HTML web pages just by adding a few class names and the WebSlice format "hSlice" is based on the hAtom microformat.

Another new feature is Activities, which makes it easier for users to utilise other services. For example you can select some text on a web page and blog about it with a single click. In [this demo of activities in IE8] (link no longer exists) it does look like a very useful feature as most users workflow on the internet often involves visits to mapping applications, getting directions, blogging so linking all these into the browser and being able to access them without opening up additional tabs is extremely appealing. Of course out-of-the-box the Activities consists predominantly of Microsoft Live services but it is possible to replace these depending on your preferences. Its easy for service providers to allow users to add their service by simply creating a small XML file.

An interesting feature in IE8 is the "Emulate IE7" button which once clicks requires a restart of the browser and then uses an IE7 rendering mode. The IE team have also added some developer tools which are akin to Firebug and the Web Developer toolbar extensions we know and love for Firefox, but not quite as good.

Update - The "this demo of activities in IE8" link is no longer active. The old link was:

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Michael Walsh by Michael Walsh