Internet Explorer 8: Faster but no Firefox

Since being forced back to Internet Explorer on my work computer a few weeks ago, I’ve been looking forward to the release of IE8 with the expectation that anything has to be better than versions 6 and 7.

The good news: It’s better. The bad news: It’s still Internet Explorer.

I downloaded and installed it last night, a process that took much longer on my Windows XP machine than it should’ve. And of course it required a reboot, typical for IE but unheard of for any other browser.

After booting back up and logging in, I fired it up and was pleasantly suprised. The speed difference between 7 and 8 was immediately noticeable, and sites that used to be wonky under 7 such as Google Reader now seemed to work properly (imagine that).

But despite all the other new features (see here for a full list) and some relatively good reviews (Wired called it “Microsoft’s First Truly Modern Browser”), the fact remains that it’s still Internet Explorer. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Many of the same UI changes introduced in version 7 still exist in 8: The Home Page button is still in the lower right-hand corner of the toolbar and the Refresh and Stop buttons are to the right of the Address Bar. And guess what, it’s still as awkward now as it was then. Seriously, Microsoft?

And while the benchmarks may show IE8 to be faster than Firefox 3.05 and Chrome, IE’s speed will always take a backseat to Firefox’s extensive library of add-ons.

That isn’t to say it’s a horrible product. As IE is concerned, it’s a really good browser, certainly far better than version 7. Those who are happy with Internet Explorer will like the upgrade. I just don’t think it’ll do much to win back the ones who’ve already moved on to other browsers.

Lifehacker has this to say about IE8 and Firefox:

Firefox is the grandchild of the venerable Mosaic browser and free-roaming son of Netscape. Although Firefox has a myriad of user-friendly, forward-thinking features, a decently secure framework, and an open-source ideology, its most prominent is extensibility. When convincing a Firefox user to abandon Firefox for anything else, even temporarily, you won’t have to fight them over giving up the AwesomeBar or about:config tweaks—you’ll hear a common, understandable refrain: “What about my extensions?” The repository of extensions maintained by Mozilla currently has over 6,000 entries, covering everything from blocking advertisements, to managing your clipboard, to allowing you to further customize your browsing experience with scripts a la Greasemonkey (here’s 10 of our must-have picks). Combine the passion people have for extensions and the ability to sync those extensions across multiple computers and portable installations, and you’ve got a force to be contended with. …

While many or most IE users stick with it for lack of wanting to try something else, Lifehacker readers definitely don’t fall into that crowd—the majority of readers who voted in favor of Internet Explorer are sporting Internet Explorer 8. By contrast, nearly 20 percent of those surfing the web right now are using Internet Explorer 6, which had its initial release in 2001. Version 8 could mark a resurgence for the brand, though. It’s the first version of Internet Explorer to have a strong focus on web standards compliance, as well as increasing rendering speed. And like Chrome, Internet Explorer 8 maintains a separate process for each tab to increase stability and security. Internet Explorer 8 has also beefed up its security measures from previous versions, including active filtering against malicious cross-site scripting and ActiveX isolation from the core of the browser.