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Ensure you’re ready for Internet Explorer 8

A few weeks ago Microsoft released the first release candidate of its latest browser, Internet Explorer 8, indicating it won’t be long until the final version is unveiled.

From what we’ve seen so far, there are a large number of new features which Microsoft hope will keep their market share in the face of the threats posed by Firefox and the more recent Chrome browser from Google. Notable new features include:

  • Web Slices - snippets of web content, that refresh regularly. Think of them like "mini favourites" that update like an RSS feed;
  • Accelerators - perform common functions on highlighted text. i.e. look up an address on a map;
  • More secure "In-Private" browsing; and
  • New Developer/Debugging tools that mean no more using Notepad to “View Source."

But one major design change will potentially affect site administrators more than anything else. By default IE8 will render sites in a more standards-compliant way, working in a similar way to the current range of open source browsers.

Due to the way in which previous versions of Internet Explorer have worked, web developers have historically developed special workarounds for IE users but, with the release of IE8, this requirement will be vastly reduced – if not quite eliminated. One consequence: there will be many sites that encounter layout or functional issues when viewed in IE8's default configuration.

Microsoft have acknowledged this situation as a consequence of moving to a more standards-based approach, and so provide a mechanism for a user to render the site "as per IE7" within IE8. This approach relies on the user themselves both experiencing problems and knowing how to handle them (by using the Compatibility View button in the IE8 address bar).

For organisations who run websites, a much more proactive approach is to assess whether your site has issues for IE8 users and if so, either fix the issues or put in place a specific meta tag to tell the new browser to display in one mode or the other. This way, the user never needs to encounter problems at all.

Intergen has been working with IE8 throughout its development and has developed a new service to help this transition. The Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 Health Check service is a low-cost offering that will check how your site will render in IE8, identify any issues, and put you in an ideal position to act on them as IE8 hits the wider marketplace.

Posted by: Piers Chamberlain | 10 February 2009

Tags: Internet Explorer, Health Check

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