Sunday, March 22, 2009

Microsoft throws IE8 as a life-saver in the tightening web browsers war

Did you notice Microsoft finally launched IE8 just few days ago? Not much of a buzz was generated from the official release of Internet Explorer (IE) web browser, in fact I even noticed more news about the RC (Release Candidate) or Beta version of IE before this rather than the final version.

There are two simple reasons for that; one is because the final version of IE8 is not that different from the previous beta versions, second is because IE8 shows no great improvements compared to the other web browsers in the market today.

For the software giant, it doesn't take a rocket scientist or conduct a market research to know that its IE web browser is losing market shares. Personal computer users at home and especially for those who can't live without a web browser & internet connection like bloggers, they have left IE for good ever since other competitors like Firefox and the latest Google's Chrome got more to offer.

One particular reason of why many web browser users are leaving IE is because of its speed, IE is like a turtle in the speed race against the others. In fact, according to JavaScript rendering tests run by Computerworld, the final version of IE8 is only slightly faster than the browser's Release Candidate 1 (RC1). Computerworld ran the SunSpider benchmark tests in Windows XP three times for each browser, then averaged the scores. Here's the list of the results:
  1. Google's Chrome is about more than four times faster than IE8
  2. Coming in second was Mozilla's Firefox v3.0.7 at 59% faster than IE8
  3. Followed by Apple's Safari v3.2.2 for Windows was 47% faster
  4. Opera v9.63 came last but still 38% faster than IE8
However, Microsoft seems to continued downplay benchmarks such as SunSpider and says this with denial from the truth: "Internet Explorer 8 is one of the fastest browsers on the market today, beating other top browsers in page load time on almost 50% of the 25 top comScore Web sites."

James Pratt, a senior program manager for IE, acknowledged that the differences were slight and that speed is important to users: "We know that speed is critical to people who are using browsers today, and we recognize that users have a choice when it comes to browser."

Speed is very essential for people who live in the internet, just like Kevin C. Tofel from jkOnTheRun has said in his blog: 'If the “Achilles Heel' is speed, I have to pass. I simply live way too much in a browser, so speed is a premium that I have to have for productivity purposes. Likening the browser to an OS, I need to move through the environment so that my tools don’t get in the way."

2313018061_e45de2f773When Microsoft was claiming that IE8 is faster than Chrome v1.0, it didn't take long for Google to released a faster beta version of Chrome. According to Chrome product manager Brian Rakowski, the beta is up to 35% quicker than the previous version of Chrome. Other new features include being able to drag tabs to get a side-by-side view, form autofill, autoscroll and a full-page zoom.

IE8 may be a slowpoke, but it does however offer some good points like security. Many business users and enterprises are still using IE up till today, and personally I've experienced myself how local banks here in my country are still insisting their customers to use IE for on-line transactions. But is it true that IE8 is more secure than older versions or it's competitors?

In the latest CanSecWest's PWN2OWN contest, a contest where researchers who successfully hack into computer systems provided will be rewarded with money and the hacked machine, found out there's a "brilliant" IE8 bug. According to Terri Forslof, the manager of security response at PWN2OWN sponsor TippingPoint, another researcher later broke into a Sony laptop that was running Windows 7 by exploiting a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8. "Safari and IE both went down," she said in an e-mail.

But among the hacked web browsers in the contest, Apple's Safari is the fastest to went down. Charlie Miller, the security researcher who hacked a Mac in two minutes at last year contest, improved his time by breaking into another Mac in under 10 seconds! "I gave them the link, they clicked on it, and that was it," said Miller. "I did a few things to show that I had full control of the Mac."

This year's PWN2OWN also features a mobile operating system contest that will award a $10,000 cash prize for every vulnerability successfully exploited in five smartphone operating systems: Windows Mobile, Google's Android, Symbian, and the operating systems used by the iPhone and BlackBerry.

Miller said he won't enter the mobile contest. "I can't break them," said Miller, who was one of the first researchers to demonstrate an attack on the iPhone in 2007, and last year was the first to reveal a flaw in Android. "I don't have anything for the iPhone, and I don't know enough about Google."

On the other side; Mozilla also posted the first beta release of Fennec, its mobile version of the Firefox Web browser. The Fennec v1.0 Beta 1 release currently is only available for Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, that runs Nokia's Maemo open source operating system. One powerful features in Fennec is the TraceMonkey JavaScript compiler, which promises to dramatically speed up many aspects of mobile browsing.

Back to the IE8, Microsoft is touting it as the answer to the call of challenge from competitors, and filled IE8 with new features and improved securities, here are some of them:

Compatibility View: IE8 will automatically tell web pages that won't rendered properly by showing a broken page icon at the side of the address bar. Users can manually turn on/off this feature.


Accelerators: Lets you map directions, translate words, email your friends, and more in just a few mouse clicks.


InPrivate Browsing: Browse the web without saving your history with Internet Explorer 8's InPrivate Browsing. Works like the Chrome's incognito window feature.


Web Slices: Keep up with changes to the sites you care about most. Add a Web Slice and you won't have to go back to the same website again and again for updates on news, stock quotes, online auctions, weather, or even sports scores.


Search suggestions: Search smarter with detailed suggestions from your favorite search providers and browsing history. See visual previews and get suggested content topics while you type in the enhanced Instant Search Box.


SmartScreen Filter: New security features help to protect you against deceptive and malicious websites which can compromise your data, privacy and identity.


Microsoft's IE8 right now only available through on-line download at its official website, Microsoft hasn't specified to push IE8 via Windows Update service yet. And Microsoft won't confirm when the final version of IE8 will be available for Windows 7, but it's expected to show up in the next public release for Windows 7.

Sources are from:

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