Internet Explorer 8 RC1: almost ready to roll

Release Candidate 1 of Microsoft's IE8 offers faster performance, better searches, more security and enough stability to be truly useful.

Tweaks to the Address Bar

IE8 sports an address bar, similar to those in Firefox and Chrome, that does more than just let you type in a URL. In Beta 2, as you typed text, it displayed results from your history, favorites and RSS feeds, and organized them all by category.

Microsoft says that in RC1, it made changes to how the address bar behaves, based on telemetry information it received by examining anonymous user behavior data from Beta 2. People tended to click through to sites primarily from their history list, secondarily from their favorites and very rarely from their RSS feeds.

As a result, the top of the Address Bar list now displays matching sites from your history and then from your favorites. By default, no matching sites from RSS feeds display, and even when you do choose to display them, the number of matching sites from RSS feeds is fewer than those displayed for history and favorites.

To tell IE8 to display RSS feeds as you type, you select Tools-->Internet Options-->Content, then click the Settings button next to AutoComplete.

You then get the AutoComplete Settings window. To tell IE8 to display results from RSS feeds as you type, you're supposed to click the box next to Feeds, then click OK. But that selection was grayed out in my version of RC1, and I was unable to tell the browser to display the RSS feeds.

Security and privacy

Microsoft has also tweaked the security and privacy features of IE in RC1 -- notably, its phishing filter and the feature previously called InPrivate Blocking, which has been renamed InPrivate Filtering.

InPrivate Filtering is designed to prevent Web sites from sharing information about your browsing history without your knowledge. Often, a site will share content with one or more other, third-party sites -- for example, it could include an interactive map or an ad from a partner's site. If the site gathers information about you, such as your IP address and operating system (sites can gather this information even if you have cookies turned off), it could share that information with its partners.

This has privacy implications, because if a party provides content or ads on many sites across the Web, that provider will be able to track where you've gone and build a detailed profile about your Web travels and interests. InPrivate Filtering stops that by not allowing the site you're visiting to send information to third-party sites.

In Beta 2, InPrivate Blocking was available only when you used IE8's so-called porn filter, InPrivate Browsing. Not so with RC1. You can now turn on InPrivate Filtering whenever you want by either pressing Ctrl-Shift-F, or choosing Safety-->InPrivate Filtering. Your can turn it off by using the same method.

Why not keep InPrivate Filtering on all the time? Because when you use it, you might block important content from third-party sites, such as maps and stock quotes. You do, however, have some control over which sites can share information. Select Safety-->InPrivate Filtering Settings, select Choose content to block or allow , and you'll be able to customize which content you want allowed, and which blocked.

In addition, the SmartScreen filter, which warns users when they visit a known phishing site, has been strengthened -- it now also warns you when you visit a site known to contain malware.

The phishing warning page has also been changed. In Beta 2, you could click through from the warning screen to the phishing site, even though you were warned not to. In RC1, there appears to be no way to click through. However, there is a way, although it's hidden -- click More Information , and at the bottom of that page will be a link labeled Disregard and continue (not recommended) . Click it, and you'll be taken to the site.

Microsoft also says that IE8 now protects against so-called clickjacking -- where a hacker can place an invisible button underneath or on top of a legitimate button -- with its cross-site scripting filter.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld (US)
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