Internet Explorer 8 is the latest version of Microsoft’s web browser, released in final form a few weeks ago. Starting soon, it will be offered to you by the Automatic Update system. The rollout will begin in the third week of April but it will not hit everyone at the same time – you may not see it for several weeks after that. It will be presented as a “High Priority” update for Windows XP users, and an “Important” update for Vista users.

IE 8 will not be installed automatically. You have to click an “Install” button before it will go forward.

You should install IE 8. I don’t see any reason to delay or avoid it.

Your first impression will be a yawn because it is very similar to Internet Explorer 7 – and that’s good! Most of us are fed up with change for change’s sake. This won’t disturb you much.

You should take the time to become familiar with the new browser and its new features! Your web browser is the program that defines your computer experience these days. Much of your time on the computer is spent in this one program. You need your web browser to be fast, stable, and secure, and the current versions of all the browsers more or less deliver that. But there are differences between IE 7, IE 8, Firefox, Google Chrome, and the others, and it’s worth some attention to learn what those differences are and whether they matter to you.

IE 8’s performance is similar to IE 7 and other browsers: despite what you may read in the reviews, there are no important real world differences between them in starting up and opening pages. (I will enthusiastically support whatever different conclusion you draw about whatever browser you decide just blows your hair back. Religious convictions are wonderful things if they make you happy.) IE 7 and IE 8 are both susceptible to being slowed down by badly written add-ons, as is Firefox. A bit of attention to Tools / Manage Add-Ons can fix a lot of problems.

IE 8’s security is improved over IE 7, which was already quite good, and it’s a step ahead of other browsers in some ways. There’s another layer to the phishing filter that adds even more malware protection.


IE 8’s compatibility is interesting. For years Microsoft has successfully pushed proprietary standards for web pages on the world, much to the disgust of web developers and competitors. Now Microsoft is making an effort with IE 8 to support open standards, like a good citizen – and the odd result is that many web sites don’t display correctly because they are based on the old proprietary standards. Microsoft has done some clever work to minimize that problem with a “compatibility view” that displays those pages correctly. It will be handled automatically by the browser for most web sites – Microsoft is keeping a list of web sites that need the compatibility view and handing it out behind the scenes so the feature gets turned on and off automatically. If a page isn’t displaying correctly, a click on the “compatibility view” button will frequently fix the problem and IE 8 will remember the setting for future visits.


And finally, I expect each of you will give me different feedback about IE 8’s functionality and new features. Personally, I’ve turned off all the toolbars, the enhanced “Favorites” bar, and other features at the top, making it as streamlined as Firefox or Google Chrome.


By default, you’ll see more than that at the top of the screen, including new buttons that go along with new features – “web slices” and “accelerators” – that might become valuable to you. There are new privacy features, including “InPrivate” browsing that prevents the computer from retaining any record of web sites visited – no cookies, no record of searches, no history, no temporary files. (It is theoretically possible that this could be used for some other purpose than visiting porn sites but researchers do not expect to find any evidence of that in the real world.) Tabs are color-coded to keep them organized for those of you that open lots of pages together, and crashes on a page on one tab are much less likely to bring down the entire program. There are more changes, big and small, that you’ll notice as you keep using IE 8.

I haven’t found anything that makes me nervous about having you install IE 8. You might not use all of the new features but I don’t think you’ll resent anything. It’s nowhere near as much of an adjustment as the shift to IE 7 when all the buttons moved around.

Paul Thurrott has done his usual thorough job describing the new features. Take a minute and read his article! Among other things, he goes through the screens that you’ll see during installation, which might be helpful when the time comes.

If you want to get a head start, you can install Internet Explorer 8 any time from this page. Good luck!

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