Breaking: Internet Explorer 8.1 Eagle Eyes Leaked

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Smashing Magazine tries to be at the forefront of new and exciting developments in the wide world of the web. You might have heard that we met with the IE 8 Chief Strategist1 in the past, so it should come as no surprise that we like to keep up with the latest events in the web browser industry.

Even with the successful recent release of Internet Explorer 8, in some underground circles there is already talk going around about the next version of Internet Explorer: IE 8.1, codenamed Eagle Eyes. Loaded with exclusive features such as a new JavaScript engine, support of WebSlices and full web standards support (CSS 3), IE 8.1 is speculated to debut in this summer.

In this article, we take a closer look at the new features of Internet Explorer 8.1, compare it with other browsers and share with you our first-hand experience with the browser. Overall the browser is faster, more flexible, more stable and also more secure and performs already much better than a recently released IE 8. One word sums up our experience with IE 8.1: Eagle Eyes is the browser that Internet Explorer should have brought on the market a long time ago – and now it’s finally here.

New Features and Notable Improvements

User Interface

The user interface of IE 8.1 didn’t change much; just some minor tweaks to make the web browser more in tune with the Microsoft Windows 7 OS theme.

Screenshot of IE 8.1

Improved Security and Web Slices

One of the promising features of IE 8.1 is improvements in security measures and their revolutionary feature: Web Slices. The SmartScreen Filter2 and Cross Site Scripting (XSS) Filter now catches 96% of known Malware and Phishing sites as opposed to the 75% success rate in the current version of IE 8. Web Slices3, the IE 8 feature that lets you keep track of changes to sites that you frequent, is noticeably quicker in letting you know that an update is made.

Web Slices.

Firefox Extensions Support

Eagle Eyes’s most exciting (and highly anticipated by developers) feature is its wide support of Mozilla-based add-ons. Though IE 8.1 duly notes that not all plugins will work perfectly, we have tested four popular Firefox plugins (Firebug, Web Developer, Tab Mix Plus, and No-Script) and they worked flawlessly (some of the developers even claim that – in terms of performance – they work much better under IE 8.1 versus Firefox 3).

Firefox Plugin Support

IE 8.1 performs better against the Acid 3 test

Our test with IE 8.1 shows that it performs very well against the Acid3 Test4, a test that checks how well a web browser follows web standards. Simply put – in relative terms to other modern “web standards” browsers such as Firefox 3 and Safari – IE 8.1 kicks major butt in the Acid3 Test scoring 71 out of 100, passing with flying colors.

Screenshot of how IE 8.1 beat the Acid3 test.

Sure, the Acid3 Test is a big deal. Microsoft is pulling out all the stops with IE 8.1. In our exploration, these are just some of the notable features of Eagle Eyes.

Fast JavaScript Engine

Internet Explorer has always been the leader of executing client-side scripts, but that didn’t stop Microsoft from continuing its thirst for excellence by including a completely new JavaScript engine called JSE, which stands for JavaScript Speedy Engine.

Do not ask about what units or methodology was used. Just trust me.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Development Team has teamed up with the Google Chrome Development Team to create JSE in a seemingly grand plan combat Mozilla Firefox’s growing market share. The result: a JavaScript engine that outperforms all modern browsers currently available on the market.

Overall, Internet Explorer 8.1 performs much faster, is more stable and offers users a better user experience. Dramatic speed improvements of the Javascript engine are visible and clearly outperforms other browsers.

Multiple Browser Rendering Engine Options

Apparently, the IE development Team recognized the strengths of the Gecko Layout Engine5 (used in Firefox) and the WebKit rendering engine6. Because of their GNU LPL7 licensed code base, Microsoft was able to legally incorporate a variety of rendering engines for users (and web-developers) to select from.

Browser rendering options.

In our exclusive interview with Mike Chelly, one of the senior developers of the IE development Team, we found out that Internet Explorer’s main priority during the development of the new browser was to make it much easier for developers to code and debug their sites:

Mike Chelly:
One of our primary goals is to give developers an easier way to test and debug how their sites and web apps work in different browsers, from within one browser. [Pauses to answer a call from his iPhone] We know in the past that we’ve gotten a bad rap for IE’s layout engine so we’re making up for this by not only releasing a web browser that outperforms every browser currently out there in terms of web standards support, but also gives you the chance to use another open source browser rendering engine in case you find ours isn’t good enough or if you want to make testing convenient and do it all from within the Eagle Eyes.

Server-side code decompiler

If you’ve ever wished to know how sites and web applications work, Eagle Eyes (the name is fitting in this context) will let you view the server-side source code of a web page. We didn’t explore this feature much, but from basic tests, the server-side code decompiler was able to tell us how the Mixx8 promotional algorithm worked.

Screenshot of a social media site that isnt Digg so should I really bother writing an alt attribute?

Website Skins

IE 8.1 allows you to keep a list of websites that you’d like to re-skin into one of the (currently) ten website templates that IE 8.1 comes with. When you next visit the site, it renders it into a prettier version by switching its stylesheets. This will allow IE 8.1 users to replace the design of an unreadable website to a template that is more viewable. In our test case, we used the Six Revisions9 website.

In its current state, this is what the ordinary Six Revisions website looks like:

Six Revisions screen shot. Such a great site I wonder who runs it.

We selected the “Mozkine” theme and this was the result:

Hey this looks like the Mozilla.org theme!

Judging solely on this test case, it shows how useful this feature can be in making the web a prettier place.

Conclusion

Our test run of IE 8.1 shows that the developers of the Internet Explorer team have done a great job improving the browser’s rendering engine. IE 8.1 Eagle Eyes has a lot of potential to quickly become the browser of choice for many web-developers. We weren’t able to find out when exactly Microsoft is going to release the first public beta of the new browser, but some sources from the developer’s team claim that it will happen this summer.

It is safe to say that Internet Explorer 8.1. will be – based on our experience and superior expertise in this matter – dominating the browser market unless other browsers shape up and step up. We are hoping that IE 8.1 will be released soon, as we’ve been dreaming about it for a while now.

*Seriously Steve, was that restraining order necessary? I was only trying to give you a hug. In retrospect, I should’ve not done that naked.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://forum.smashingmagazine.com/news-f38/smashing-s-meeting-with-ie-8-chief-strategist-t979.html
  2. 2 http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/features/stay-safer-online.aspx?tabid=2&catid=1
  3. 3 http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/features/web-slices.aspx?tabid=1&catid=1
  4. 4 http://acid3.acidtests.org/
  5. 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gecko_(layout_engine)
  6. 6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebKit
  7. 7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Lesser_General_Public_License
  8. 8 http://www.mixx.com/
  9. 9 http://sixrevisions.com/

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Jacob Gube is the Founder and Chief Editor of Six Revisions, a web publication for web developers and designers, and the Deputy Editor of Design Instruct, a web magazine for designers and digital artists. He has over seven years of experience as professional web developer and web designer and has written a book on JavaScript.

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  1. 1

    It is tomorrow 1 april, not today…

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  2. 2

    is it a joke???

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  3. 3

    Breaking News: Smashing Magazine April Fools leaked in March

    0
  4. 4

    […] Graph created with MS Excel to showcase Microsoft’s greatness in the software market […]

    That made me laugh.

    0
  5. 5

    “Breaking News: Smashing Magazine April Fools leaked in March”

    LOL

    0
  6. 6

    Go for it! Where is the download button??
    I want that!

    But hey, wait. I can use my beloved IE6 till that date, cause it is faster in JS than all the others, right???

    :D

    0
  7. 7

    I can’t believe that they actually decided to support Firefox extensions in IE! Sounds… weird.

    0
  8. 8

    A day early, guys.

    0
  9. 9

    Breaking News: Google’s V8 Javascript engine is slower than IE 6

    Also, the Acid 3 test is strikingly identical to the Firefox 3.0.x version

    0
  10. 10

    Gutted :( for a second the world seemed rosey again!

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  11. 11
  12. 12

    A day early!

    Also, you probably should’ve showed a “100/100″ screenshot instead of “71/100″ when you say it passes the Acid3 test :)

    0
  13. 13

    ….would be nice though

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  14. 14

    you got me !!
    I believed in 8.1, I believed in firefox extensions, but I couldn’t get the “browser javascript performance” graph. That was too much, too many mistakes. I started thinking that smashingmagazine sucks, and went down the page to see who did write that crap.

    at second reading… I start laughing out loud.
    My favourite the server side code decompiler ! (and of course the algorithm found).

    0
  15. 15

    Nice, will link it @ work :D

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  16. 16

    Smashing Editorial

    March 31, 2009 3:23 am

    @Peter Gasston (#7), @Mike Rundle (#11):

    actually, it is April 1st in Kiribati already (see )Time zones) and since we have readers all across the globe, it sounds quite OK for us to publish the post now. We don’t have that many readers from Kiribati, but it would be unfair to publish it when it’s April 2nd there ;)

    0
  17. 17

    haha fucking awesome! :p

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  18. 18

    Tip: read alt and title attributes. :)

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  19. 19

    LOL!!
    That was funny :)

    0
  20. 20

    I still love my buggy IE 6 loaded with shit :D.

    Nice stuff for the 1st April, I must say :D

    0
  21. 21

    Wow. I really thought I was lacking behind when I saw the graphs.

    You’ve got me. :(

    0
  22. 22

    ROFL!!!

    The whole article tells what Microsoft should do but never will do ;) Good joke :)

    0
  23. 23

    You don’t pass an Acid test unless you perfect it. It’s not a case of doing at least half well.

    Still, I lol’d.

    0
  24. 24

    Would be nice if it were true, but alas ’tis the season for humour :)

    0
  25. 25

    Michael SteelWolf

    March 31, 2009 3:38 am

    That was great!

    0
  26. 26

    you gave urself away when you said Microsoft collaborated with google for their new JS engine… lolz… ya, right…. lolz again

    0
  27. 27

    Darren Azzopardi

    March 31, 2009 3:39 am

    Hook link and sinker…..if it weren’t for the end

    “Jacob Gube is a professional contemporary dancer for the New York City Dance Company.”

    Loved it..would be awesome if it happened :)

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  28. 28

    Y’all’re assholes. Ruined my day when I realized it was April 1st.

    Well, it was nice for a short few moments …

    0
  29. 29

    u just gave billgates a heart attack….

    0
  30. 30

    Shame it’s a day early… but very funny! I believed the first couple of bits and was getting quite excited until the Acid test bit…

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  31. 31

    Very funny! I love the server-side code decompiler! :D

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  32. 32

    fail :)

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  33. 33

    The server side code decompiler and algorithm for Mixx made me laugh… preg_match (‘/cats/’…)

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  34. 34

    Ahahaha!!! U ROCK!

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  35. 35

    damn, I read though half of it, still believing this is true. but the ‘skin option’ completely made me look at the calendar :D

    0
  36. 36

    Five Minute Argument

    March 31, 2009 3:55 am

    You had me at “full web standards support (CSS 3)”. I’ll be amazed if IE (or any other browser, for that matter) *ever* has full CSS 3 support!

    0
  37. 37

    (mike chelly) – “pauses to answer a call on his iPhone”

    nice touch – if the graph had been as subtle we might have fallen for it

    0
  38. 38

    Adrian Giddings

    March 31, 2009 3:56 am

    You utter bastards :)

    Worse than falling for Eric Spiekerman as the new head of Microsoft font development last year.

    ” [Pauses to answer a call from his iPhone]” was a beautiful touch and made me think for a minute.

    Keep up the great work.

    0
  39. 39

    Man, I know you love Microsoft’s IE :P

    Is Internet Explorer turning into a little IE Tester-like browser, now that it supports multiple rendering engines?

    God, what doesn’t Microsoft do to make you use their products.

    Since they’re not capable of creating a good browser (like Mozilla), they’re just implementing other’s engines, in case you like them more than IE’s engine…

    Lame Microsoft, not surprising at all…at least we’ll have a more standard compliant browser to replace IE6/7 in the years to come…

    Wait….now I have to test for Firefox, IE6, 7, 8 (soon 8.1 to add), and Safari? Jesus!
    This will screw my analytics too!!

    0
  40. 40

    You had me fooled until the Javascript performance graph :)

    0
  41. 41

    IE7 doesn’t work very well – but it works a lot better than IE8.0 (scores as low as 12 in Acid3)

    Who cares about “web slices” etc.?

    I wish they would focus on improving the core e.g. HTML and CSS rendering. Actually I wish Microsoft would give up and discontinue all Internet Explorer products!

    0
  42. 42

    ROTFL, I have to admit I read the entire article believing that was a serious one!
    The server side decompiler scared me! :D

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  43. 43

    That bar chart on JavaScript performance is completely incorrect… you actually expect us to believe that IE6 is faster at JavaScript than all the other browsers?!?

    In reality, Chrome and Opera are by far the fastest. I’ve seen this from my own testing and I’ve even talked to Microsoft people who admit that IE 8.0’s JavaScript was 10x SLOWER than Chrome in their own tests.

    If you’re going to show charts like that, please state where you got your information. I think that any web developer would tell you that that chart is completely wrong.

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  44. 44

    Ha ha ha, this article really makes me laugh….. LOL

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  45. 45

    had me for a while. i started to wonder at the firefox extension implementation. buy i just thought it would be awesome. it was the server side script decompiler that made me realise. even microsoft aren’t that stupid?

    sad really, this is how microsoft should make it

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  46. 46

    That *might* happen….maybe 10 years later.

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  47. 47

    exactly what IE and other browsers needs to do lol

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  48. 48

    and how about the png problem ? are tested yet?

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  49. 49

    Also, I think Microsoft needs to take this article seriously. Otherwise, no joke, IE is doomed :)

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  50. 50

    Got me until the “server side code decompiler.” Suddenly, I realized…

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