Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch today announced the availability of beta 2 of Internet Explorer 8. Prospective tire kickers can grab a copy at the Windows Internet Explorer 8 Home Page. Hachamovitch also lists new IE 8 features including reopening closed tabs, a "Smart Address Bar," and various safety and reliability enhancements.
Frankly, I have rather unwillingly given up on Internet Explorer 7 since it is such a lumbering behemoth particularly when using tabs. The only time I ever voluntarily open it is when I need to print a Web page (because the IE printing fidelity is superior to Firefox) and when I am checking how pages render in IE, since it is still the predominant browser and sets its own peculiar standard. In that regard, Hachamovitch reported that
IE8 is more interoperable with other web browsers and web standards. The contribution of CSS 2.1 test cases to the W3C is an important in order to really establish a standard way to assess standards support. We think that CSS 2.1 remains the most important place to deliver excellent interoperability between browsers.
After deciding to default IE8 to the most standards-compliant mode available, we wanted to be sure to address compatibility concerns for organizations and individuals. Would websites that expect IE8 to behave the way IE7 does create a problem for end-users? Since March, we’ve been telling developers about a small change they can make to their sites to tell IE8 to show their sites as IE7 does. Many have – but there are a lot of sites that may have not yet addressed this. The Compatibility View button (new to IE8 Beta 2) is a good solution to provide end-users a good experience as the web transitions.
It appears that Microsoft is really attempting to stuff the incompatibility genie back in the bottle which is all to the good, but the proof will be in the pudding on that and IE8 performance.
Update on August 8, 2008: Microsoft has released a convenient crib sheet listing the new features of IE8 beta 2.