Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 Non-Beta browser has been out for a few hours now and we have had the opportunity to test the beast and we have to say, we were impressed.
(1) Internet Explorer 8 requires a PC restart
That was something we were not expecting. Installing Internet Explorer 8 requires the uninstallation of IE7 first. None of Internet Explorer's main competitors (Chrome, Opera, Safari or Firefox) requires the user to restart their computers. It may not sound like a big thing until, like us, we needed to urgently restart our test machine in the middle of our installation.
(2) Like Firefox, you can install Add-ons
You can install add-ons on Internet Explorer 8. There are 484 add-ons and accelerators currently for Internet Explorer 8. They will allow you to add more features to Microsoft's latest browser for free and within seconds. In comparison though, Firefox has 2866 plugins and many of them fundamentally change the way the alternative browser works or looks.
(3) Unlike its Release Candidate, Internet Explorer manages memory better
One major difference between the final version of Internet Explorer and previous editions is that IE8 runs as multiple processes rather than a single one.
Furthermore, while the Release Candidate of IE8 seems to be suffering from memory leakage, the final version appears to be immune to it. We previously experienced cases of IE8 RC1 taking 1GB memory under Windows XP with one tab opened. The final version is humming away with 200MB and three tabs opened.
(4) You can crash IE8
We managed to crash IE8 on a ZDNet webpage and on Browsershots (see screenshots below). We also encountered an error when we tried to "unclose" a HTTPS window. This means that issues do exist and you can expect security experts to delve into the browsers code in more details over the next few months to find out vulnerabilities. Crashing a tab no longer blows away the whole browser though.
(5) You may be able to open 100 Windows Tabs
We didn't actually opened that many but managed to bring up a few dozens without getting our system to slow down significantly. The browser was all the way and navigating between the opened tabs was fluid.
(6) You can't navigate between tabs using your keyboard
All of IE8's rival offer a keyboard-only mode of navigation for tabs using CTRL and page up/down. This means that you can only rely on your mouse to find your way between tabs. Not ideal. If you hold the Control (CRTL) key and press the Tab button in IE 8 it will switch you between multiple tabs. It goes in one direction only and unlike say, Alt-Tab, even SHIFT key doesn't help (thanks to Mark for the tip).
(7) IE8 has been downloaded more than 12 million times
Using records from Fileforum, Dowload.com and Softpedia, we found out that IE8 has been downloaded more than 12 million times in less than 8 hours. In comparison, Firefox 3 was downloaded 8 million times in 24 hours in June 2008. Internet Explorer 8 has already surpassed Opera in our web statistics but is still lagging behind IE6.
(8) IE8 might force developers to check whether IE-only websites are still compatible
Microsoft's latest browser is not compatible with more than 2400 websites including some big names. ZDNet has a full list here dating back from February 2009 but it is likely that more websites will be added to it as IE8 becomes more popular.
(9) IE8 is compatible with Maxthon and the popular IE7Pro
We've tested IE8 with Maxthon and IE7Pro. They are two of the more popular Internet Explorer "Super Applications" with the first downloaded more than 196 million times. Maxthon and IE7Pro will extend Internet Explorer's feature set.
We will be using IE8 more regularly from now on and it may in the short term even replace Google Chrome. It is faster, safer, less resource hungry and more compatible than ever before. You can download Internet Explorer 8 here.