Just when you think the battle of the Web browser has been won, the other side comes out with a new version that draws us into the war of words all over again. This time the culprit is Microsoft and Internet Explorer 8.
The latest version of Microsoft's venerable Web browser has several new features to its credit; features that give it some chops against the main competitor for our attention, Mozilla Firefox. One of the newest features is the increased compatibility with mobile devices, which is an area of strategic emphasis for Microsoft.
To get a good look at the IE8 interface and new features, check out the Internet Explorer 8 TechRepublic Photo Gallery.
Compatibility and privacy
Perhaps in an effort to make the jump to Internet Explorer 8 more palatable to the masses, this version of the Web browser has a Compatibility View button between the Address Bar and the Refresh icon. The general idea is that you can view Web sites that may not render correctly under IE8 in a simulation of an earlier, presumably compatible, browser. While this may indeed be a handy feature, I'm not sure it is really a good selling point for Microsoft. I'd prefer a browser that displays every Web site correctly, no matter how or when it was encoded.
Another expanded feature found in IE8 is the InPrivate Browsing settings. Turning this feature on will block the passing of your session information to other third-parties for maps, advertisements, etc. Through this feature you can decide if, when, and where Web browsing session information will be passed. I am not all that concerned about my session information, but many people are, and this feature will give them some measure of control.
So the real question is, is Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 a better Web browser? The jury is still out on that question, I think, but I can find no glaring reason to throw it out of my default browser position. IE8 seems to be a capable browser, but it is so similar to IE7 that there is really no catalyst to drive a massive migration.
Whether you prefer Firefox, Internet Explorer, or some other Web browser, chances are you are going to stick with it for the time being. However, there is no specific reason I know of not to update IE7 to IE8. The general experience, at first glance, is more of the same. As time goes on, we may find features, problems, or other factors that will drive decision making one way or another, but the actual update is generally painless.
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Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.