Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2: How does it stack up?

Mikey 8 comments
Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2: How does it stack up?

With Internet Explorer 8 on the horizon I thought I might take a look at Microsoft’s recently released Beta 2 version of their flagship browser.

To give you a quick primer, IE8 is MS’s most standards compliant web browser to date, but that comes at a cost. You see, designers like myself and others who adhere to strict web standards have had to take it upon themselves to allow for Internet Explorers’ dreadful web standards support, by utilising what we call ‘IE Hacks’, typically in the form of a conditional comment to specifically ‘fix’ issues in IE6 and IE7. It’s the bane of our existence, but even with the imminent launch of IE8 things might not get much better.

For our non-web developer audience, the conditional comment I mentioned is in lamens terms:

If the browser is IE6, then include the IE6 styelsheet
If the browser is IE7, then include the IE7 styelsheet

So for all other browsers, you know, the ones that actually have good support for web standards, the conditional comments are ignored and the site you are viewing (like this one) will use the primary style sheet.

And when IE8 is released, existing web sites will also use the main style sheet because there is no conditional comment to say otherwise, so you can see the potential problem. Basically it means if IE8 isn’t the web standards friendly browser Microsoft says it is, web developers are back to square one.

Microsoft combats this with a feature they have unimaginatively called ‘compatibility view’. The premise being that when you come across a site that doesn’t quite look right (or looks like a total mess) you can add it to your compatibility view list and IE will switch to an older rendering engine. It’s not a nice way to manage your sites but Microsoft had no choice, for without this ugly work-around they would cop too much flak over the myriad of sites that will break or look odd in IE8. At least now they can just say “Oh you have to manage that with the compatibility view” and put the onus on the users to make it work for themselves.

With this in mind I think it’s time to check out a few popular web sites (and this one!) in Internet Explorer 8 beta 2, as it’s as close to the final build of the engine as it’s going to get short of a release candidate.

To give it the best chance for testing I used a fresh install of Windows XP Pro (fully patched) and the latest build of Internet Explorer 8 beta 2.


are committed to totally ignoring web standards. That said, I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary except on one occasion where my profile page rendered everything normally white as blue and vice versa. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t get the problem to re-appear though, and I am willing to put that down to my Virtual Box.  There have been many reports of Facebook not working properly in IE8, but I did not experience anything apart from that graphics anomaly.


was looking fine until I noticed something peculiar. Hitting any link on the front page resulted in the story being opened in a new window. Adding the site to my compatibility view list did not remedy the problem as I had expected. This made for some extremely painful navigating on Digg, if you can just imagine having clicked on about 8 links means you have 9 instances of Internet Explorer open, something we haven’t had to do since before tabbed browsing was introduced years ago. You can bet this is something the Digg developers will have to address, assuming it’s just not an IE bug.

Another annoyance, one I think is major, is that I was logged out of Digg when switching to compatibility view, and again when leaving compatibility view. Why Microsoft chose to kill the session in that manner is anyone’s guess, but maybe it will be fixed on the final release.

Apart from those particular annoyances, Digg looked fine.

ABC (Australia)

Arguably one of the best presented and most user-friendly news sites I’ve seen (and the only web standards compliant news site I've seen), I was expecting a few problems with the ABC web site. Mainly because as a developer I know that sometimes a great deal of complexity happens behind the scenes to make something appear simple to users. But my guess was wrong, and the ABC web site functioned and looked exactly as expected.


No problems noticed on StumbleUpon, and the SU Toolbar even installed without a hitch. But stumbling a few random sites did cause IE8 to crash. That’s not SU’s fault though.


No problems encountered on , and installing the flash player plug-in was painless.

Rusty Lime

Everything’s cool in the gang on Rusty Lime, and I was pleasantly surprised to see my

tags render as they I intended, completely ignoring the ugly substitutes I had to make for IE6 and IE7. Our CMS did show a few anomalies but nothing critical to the functionality.

Tentative Conclusion

After 8 versions of Internet Explorer, it looks like Microsoft are finally on the way to getting the rendering right. It’s not perfect but it’s easily their most significant step in the right direction, and that can't be a bad thing.

As far as using it as an everyday browser goes, it’s certainly OK for some people but I need more, and would never in a billion years seriously consider using Internet Explorer as my full time browser. As I and other Firefox users already know, IE is still a giant step light years behind in terms of features and customisation.

But for web developers, there may be light at the end of the tunnel - Maybe. I will reserve judgement for that once IE8 has been out in the wild for a significant time.

I will try these sites again on RC1 when it's released. Stay tuned.



Tuesday 23rd December 2008 | 04:01 PM
27 total kudos | 1 for this comment

I wonder what MS will do once IE8 ships. Let out a big *sigh* and realise that while they've been spending years getting their page rendering up to scratch, competitors have been streaming ahead with feature building and addon management?

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Tuesday 23rd December 2008 | 05:47 PM
235 total kudos | 1 for this comment response to this comment by Mark. True. Many IE users don't even realise there is a better online world out there and Internet Explorer can't deliver it.

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Wednesday 24th December 2008 | 06:49 AM
103 total kudos | 1 for this comment response to this comment by Mikey. The problem is most people don't realize there's almost always more than one way to do anything on a computer. They learn one way, and stay with it. Unfortunately it's not always the most efficient way to do things. I'll recommend for some open source goodness. They're not the only site out there, but it's a good start for the uninitiated... (BTW, "the king" will not work for the Elvis Captcha...)

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Wednesday 24th December 2008 | 06:55 AM
235 total kudos | 1 for this comment response to this comment by Jim. Thanks Jim. "the king" works now :-) Can't believe I left that option out.

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Wednesday 24th December 2008 | 03:40 PM
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MS should just stop making IE

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Not a Member!


Friday 31st July 2009 | 03:31 AM

I'd have to say this is a glaringly bad review. Instead of reviewing an application on its merits, you resort to the same childish fanboyism that a lot of elitest aholes in the open source community often resort to.

I was looking for an unbiased review (as a user of chrome) to see if IE8 is finally coming around. This site, after reading about it from about a half dozen sites, by far had the most glaringly biased review. When the browser passed any given test, you make it seem like it's accidental that IE8 did it right, or scoff that it "finally" does it right.

According to PCMag however, IE8 trumps Firefox in speed nearly across the board, and implements some features that the other browsers are now adopting. Trying to take each review with a grain of salt, since they might be pro-MS biased, but jeez, your hate for all things MS is thick behind every word.

Perhaps you're catering to your elitest opensource buddies. I suppose we all need our "tricks" to get readers to come to our sites.



Friday 31st July 2009 | 05:19 AM
235 total kudos | 3 for this comment response to this comment by Gigaflop. "I was looking for an unbiased review (as a user of chrome) to see if IE8 is finally coming around."
So obviously a review of IE8 beta 2 fulfilled that need.

"your hate for all things MS is thick behind every word"
Shows how uninformed you are, perhaps reading between lines that aren't even there. I use a stack of MS products every day that I simply could not live without, and have a healthy respect for the company and have occasionally been on their official beta tester team for past products. IE8 was not one of them though.

"I suppose we all need our "tricks" to get readers to come to our sites"
I can find you more than 10 articles that aren't as kind as I was in this review if you like.

Probably something you seem to have ignored is that I'm a web developer, and I'm sorry to say but you're going to have a hard time finding any web developer who has much enthusiasm for any version of IE. And now since the full version has been released it's much better, but still a vanilla browser.

Good luck with that whole scathing comment thing you have happening. Hope it's working out for you.

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Friday 31st July 2009 | 09:19 AM
20 total kudos | 1 for this comment

Gigaflop is a Microsoft fanboy. lol

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