In mid-March, 2009 Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8, the newest version of the most popular web browser in the world. In recent years, IE has continued to be the software most frequently used to surf the Internet, but its dominance has slipped from near-monopoly status to serving approximately 70% of all web users.
Other browsers, such as Firefox, have gained market share. In general, the competitors have had more features and have displayed web content more quickly.
From a technical perspective, Internet Explorer versions have been quirky. They have not followed coding standards developed by the brand-neutral World Wide Web Consortium.
Yet, because Microsoft's IE browser has been so dominant among users, web developers have had to re-code their sites after each new IE release. Basically, thousands of web designers have had to write code to handle the bad behavior of the new Explorer editions.
Companies large and small have spent a lot of money re-doing web pages to have them work with Microsoft's non-compliant IE browser. IE7 in particular made many, many properly-written websites look funny or unworkable, even though the sites operated without a problem in earlier versions of IE.
Companies' internal systems would not work with the IE7 "upgrade" and corporate Information Technology departments initially told the business' employees not to install the IE7 software.
Over time, IE7 was installed on more and more computers -- it was delivered with the Windows operating system that was loaded on new PCs. Eventually more and more companies rewrote their software and web pages to work with Microsoft IE7's quirks. By 2009 it was very unusual to run across a web page that did not display properly in IE7.
Now IE8 has arrived. Web designers and Information Technology departments have been nervous. For good reason.
IE8 is Better
The good news in my trial of IE8 is that it is a lot better than IE7.
Most importantly, I haven't found any sites that just don't work. In addition, IE8 includes a "Compatibility View" setting which is supposed to let you see a page using the IE7 display logic. This alternative setting is meant to handle times when the new browser severely messes up an existing web page.
After testing IE8, I see no reason to recommend Microsoft's product.
Firefox has a wider choice of accelerators -- which Firefox calls "extensions". The most important add-ons to Firefox for me are Adblock Plus and Flashblock. These enhancements keep spammy, flashing ads from annoying me while surfing. I could find no IE8 accelerator or add on which protects my sanity like the Firefox tools.
Firefox encourages third-party developers to create add-ons and there are tons of them! Some are fun, some are even useful. And, Microsoft's stiff, proprietary handling of IE8 means that IE will never have the range of add-on options that Firefox offers.
In addition, IE8 introduces or continues some bugs in the way it handles web pages.(I just don't understand why Microsoft won't follow the standards of the rest of the software world!)
A personal blog entry of mine had excess white space before the photograph. The page looks fine in Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Putting IE8 into compatibility mode only moved the space to after the photograph instead of before the picture. Weird.
I also saw flickers when I was working in Gmail, placeholders for graphics (instead of the actual graphic) on Ozdachs.biz's menus, and other off behavior. These oddities will likely decrease in number as web developers "fix" the already working web pages to handle IE8's non-standard behavior.
The Bottom Line
But, IE8 lacks many useful add-ins and remains buggy.