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Internet Explorer 8 Release Approaches As Microsoft Offers Second Beta

The beta includes a number of new security features, including protection against cross-site scripting attacks and a phishing and malware filter.
The search box at the upper right-hand corner of IE's browser screen has been significantly improved in beta 2. It includes automatic suggestions, so that a user typing "Counti" might see "Counting Crows" in the suggested search list. It also includes the ability to show graphics in the suggestions area, so that someone using the search box to search Amazon.com for Counting Crows CDs would be greeted with additional information like CD cover images.

In the earlier test version of IE8, Microsoft worked around incompatibilities and broken Web sites caused by the browser's newfound adherence to standards by including a button labeled "Emulate IE7" that required users to shut down and reload the browser if they encountered a Web site that didn't render properly in IE8. In the new version, an icon of a torn page in the URL bar will automatically reload and re-render a site under old IE7 rules without having to shut down the browser. Clicking the icon will automatically add the site to a list of those to be loaded in "compatibility view," and companies can set the browser so that all intranet sites, many of which were designed with older versions of IE in mind, load in compatibility view.

IT shops get a number of new features in IE8 beta 2 as well to test before they deploy the final version when it comes out. These include the ability to wrap IE8 and customizations into a Windows Vista configuration that can be automatically deployed to employees when needed, improvements to the user interface of IE's Administration Kit, new group policy settings, and developer tools that come as part of the browser rather than with a separate add-in toolbar.

While Microsoft continues to release new features in IE8, Mozilla isn't standing still. Earlier this week, it announced a project called Ubiquity, which would allow users to create their own Web "macros" to share with others or find information. Using Ubiquity, a user could highlight the name of a business on a Web site, right-click and bring up a command line, type "map" and generate a map of the surrounding area around the business, and share that map with others. The feature is similar, though a bit more extensive, than the Accelerators feature (which used to be known as Activities) found in IE8.