Exploring Internet Explorer 8 Beta : The first cuts

Microsoft surprised a number of observers when it released Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 on Wednesday afternoon to an unsuspecting audience, a few weeks after Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, broke out news that IE8 Beta would be available 'soon'.

The browser is available for all recent Windows platforms; we installed our copy on Windows XP Professional SP2 32-bit, a single core P4 3GHz workstation with 1GB memory; installation is pretty much straightforward although it did download a GenuineCheck.exe application which verified whether our OS was genuine.

Microsoft's latest browser is compatible with CSS 2.1 and AJAX as well as protection from phishing websites.

Aesthetically, IE8 Beta 1 resembles IE7 and there are only a few differences at first sight; an icon near the tabs allow developers to swap IE8 for an IE7 emulation mode - which requires IE8 to be restarted.

Memory usage is abnormally high : With six tabs opened, Internet Explorer would, for some reason, spawn two separate entities with a combined footprint of more than 159MB.

In comparison, a Firefox 3 Beta 3 browser which is working simultaneously and has 23 tabs opened consumed nearly 187MB.

Bloggers around the world have experienced a few teething problems like the fact that Google and Yahoo Toolbars are incompatible with IE8.

But that was something to expect from a Beta 1 browser. It will be interesting to see how it fares on Vista and XP SP2 which are two different environments.

A word of warning for those who would like to go ahead and install IE8 Beta 1; this is a developer's beta which means that the browser could crash at any time and requires you to restart your computer.