Microsoft has launched the latest version of its web browser, Internet Explorer 8 (IE8). The software giant says that IE8 is more secure, allows users to cut down on common tasks and will be an integral part of its forthcoming Windows 7 system.
Although IE is still the most popular browser, it faces stiff competition from Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and others. The release is Microsoft's first major browser update since 2006, when the company released Internet Explorer 7.(See: Google launches own Internet browser 'Google Chrome' / Internet Explorer rival Firefox 3.0 creates download record, but reveals flaws)
"Customers have made clear what they want in a Web browser - safety, speed and greater ease of use," said Microsoft boss, Steve Ballmer. "With Internet Explorer 8, we are delivering a browser that gets people to the information they need, fast, and provides protection that no other browser can match."
IE8 brings to the table a number of new user-friendly features, increased standards support, and much improved security. The browser has been downloaded tens of millions of times since it entered public testing mode a little more than a year ago, constituting one of Microsoft's largest beta tests ever. (See: Microsoft introduces 'new, improved' IE8)
Improved security is one of IE8's most significant features. NSS Labs released an independent study early Thursday showing IE8 significantly besting Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera in catching and blocking malware. With its SmartScreen filtering, IE8 Release Candidate 1 caught 69 per cent of malware, while Firefox 3.07 caught only 30 per cent.
Microsoft has also introduced a feature that it is calling "accelerators" which, say the company, let users perform actions like translation, mapping, and search from the right-click context menu, which brings up a window inside the current page to show translated text, a map, or search results.
Microsoft has also taken a leaf out of Mozilla's book when it comes to searching. While Firefox allows users to switch between sites like Amazon and Wikipedia, IE takes this a step further, displaying a preview of suggested searches and results appearing in a drop-down list. Searching topics can be done with a mouse click within an existing page.
The new browser can also follow news headlines and track eBay auctions, weather forecasts and blog posts with a feature the company is calling Web Slice, which is, essentially, a news ticker on the favourites bar.
Microsoft's share in the web-browser market has been steadily declining and it remains to be seen whether IE8 can reverse that trend.