Though speculation has pegged IE8's release for sometime this year, a Microsoft executive has confirmed that the browser will not ship until 2009.
In a blog post Wednesday, IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch said Explorer 8 will not be released in final form at least until the first quarter of next year. In fact, the browser will undergo beta testing into the new year, said Hachamovitch.
"We will release one more public update of IE8 in the first quarter of 2009, and then follow that up with the final release," Hachamovitch wrote. "Our next public release of IE indicates the end of the beta period. We want the technical community of people and organizations interested in Web browsers to take this update as a strong signal that IE8 is effectively complete and done."
Microsoft is planning to include a number of new features in IE8, most noticeably in the privacy arena.
InPrivate Browsing will let users control whether IE8 saves their browsing history, cookies, and other Internet data. InPrivate Blocking will inform users about sites that can track their browsing history and will allow them to block such activity. InPrivate Subscriptions will let users choose which Web sites to subscribe to or block.
A fourth feature, Delete Browsing History, gives users control over their browsing history after visiting a Web site.
Businesses should be careful about deploying IE8, however.
Microsoft has previously warned Webmasters that its support for new standards could result in pages not displaying correctly in Internet Explorer 8.
In a post earlier this year, Microsoft technical manager Nick MacKechnie said IE8, unlike its predecessors, would favor widely used Internet standards -- and not Microsoft protocols -- as its default settings. "Browsing with this default setting may cause content written for previous versions of Internet Explorer to display differently than intended," MacKechnie said.
With Explorer 8, Microsoft has promised default support for W3C Internet programming guidelines. Among other things, IE8 will feature default compatibility with Web standards such as CCS 2.1 and HTML 5. It also promises improved support for the Ajax language.
Microsoft is offering developers a downloadable metatag that they can add to their Web pages if they want IE8 to render their content using IE7's default settings.
The warning is consistent with a bulletin released earlier this year by researchers at Gartner, in which they caution developers about the changes in IE8.
Gartner said that IE8's default standards mode "will result in pages that don't display correctly for some enterprise applications."
Still, Gartner recommended that enterprise developers fall in line with Microsoft's commitment to standards when creating new Web applications. "Strive to design for standards, not browsers," Gartner said. "Don't depend on any one client-side technology. Focus instead on validated user interaction patterns."