Internet Explorer 8 promises better standards compliance...and a whole lot more

Developer release lauded as "sweet!" but puts the focus on security, interoperability and better programming features rather than the user experience

That's not to say IE8 has no eye candy and just plain neat stuff. They've put a lot of work into improving the Zoom experience. The new Activities feature lets developers use an OpenService format (available under a creative commons license) to create contextual pop-ups to connect users to existing services. For example, Wilson demonstrated, everyone uses tons of Web services such as maps. But unless someone stuck a map on the page it's hard to get to the information. For example, a scuba shop's website might list an address. Normally you would have to create a new tab, navigate to a mapping service, copy and paste-several annoying steps.Activities are designed to connect users to their existing services. In IE8, a contextual popup gives a list of options, including "map with live maps" and get a popup or a new tab showing the shop's location.

WebSlices let users subscribe to the data as defined by the site's developer. For this feature, too, Microsoft is turning to open standards, beginning with the hAtom microformat, which describes a feed and items but is meant to represent static content. WebSlice builds on hAtom: "If you have your content as hAtoms, it's really easy to build on it and make WebSlices," said Wilson. Also, the Windows Feed Platform now supports both feeds and WebSlices (and, incidentally, also supports authentication), he added.

Towards the Reduction of Developer Teeth-Gnashing

The best way to get Web interoperability, said Wilson, is comprehensive, unbiased test suites: "a test suite that tries to test everything." So Microsoft today has contributed to the W3C more than 700 tests offered under the BSD open license. "Anyone can take them and use them for nearly any purpose today," he said.

Also, there's a CSS, HTML and JavaScript debugger "in the box." Explained Wilson, "All I installed on this [computer] is IE8-it has the debugger in the browser." You don't need to download a component to get it to work; you can trace styles and layout and anything else you need. "The point of the tool is not to be a replacement for any other tool you may use," he said. "It's part of the browser while we're debugging."

There's plenty more, but that's a brief overview.

The most important message for IT managers, says Holzschlag, is Microsoft that has scrapped the old IE engine and is building a new one for IE8. "This is where the fresh start begins-and that's exciting!" says Holzschlag.

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