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

    Matthijn Dijkstra

    March 31, 2009 4:15 am

    Well I wont put much value to those speed charts, it says that it is much faster than Safari, but which version? When you look further, they have the ‘multi-render’ feature so it can render as Firefox 3 and Safari 2! But… then again, we are at Safari 4 at the moment… which has allot of speed improvement.

    Now I have read further, and must say the Server Side decompiler is really awesome, allways wanted to know how SmashingMagazine works behind the scenes ;)

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  2. 52
  3. 103

    I love how people add comments thinking this is real. I was believing it even a few minutes after reading the article. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone… but then I realized, why does SmashingMagazine talks about this (SM is an awesome blog for all JS/PHP/CSS and coding stuff) when I think I never saw a post about some “leaked” software. Then I typed in Google “Internet Explorer 8.1″ and no relevant links were found except this one :P

    You got me :P

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  4. 154

    Man, you fooled me good. I was looking at the server side decompiler and asking myself: How the f%^& could they claim to do that? It has to be bogus.. Nice one, as always.

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  5. 205

    Dam, you got me good I had eaten it all up then scrolled down and like… wat? April fools… :(

    Damm you.. ><

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  6. 256

    I can’t decide what makes me laugh more. The article or the comments of the people who actually believed this is true.

    @Dave: Yes, the bar chart on JavaScript performance is completely incorrect ;-)

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  7. 307

    IE & Improvement !!!!
    Impossible

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  8. 358

    You blew it at the “full web standards support (CSS 3)”. “Firefox extensions support” was just icing on the cake ;)

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  9. 409

    I always get a laugh how during April Fools day on the Internet, everyone seems to clamber over each other to be the first to post a comment showing that they were smart enough to tell it was a joke… :)

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  10. 460

    @Rob: Haha! You know, that’s actually funnier than the poor ignorant people who have no idea it’s a joke at all.

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  11. 511

    Looks very promising… you got me! …Egg and my face were in complete alignment

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  12. 562

    Roshan Bhattarai

    March 31, 2009 4:25 am

    LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL……………I like the way you celebrated the april fool day…..but it’s just March 31st here dude…I was really shocked by the server side decompiling feature at first glance…

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  13. 613

    When your post date comes up as March 31st seems slightly stupid to argue Kiribati. If the date was April 1 then would be funnier.

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  14. 664

    Well let us see if these are all true…..
    and I’m in luv with firefox so don’t know whether I’ll dwnload IE 8.1 after its release.

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  15. 715

    Excellent post, had me interested until the code decompiler and I thought WTF! and then – bugger date check – thanks for that but really MS should take some of these as hints how to actually make a browser people do want….

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  16. 766

    Alexander Baldwin

    March 31, 2009 4:42 am

    Okay okay. I was all for this, but CSS3 support?! Come on, we all know that’s never going to happen!

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  17. 817

    Wow, this seems to be the release where MS will FINALLY join the ranks…

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  18. 868

    You had me until the Acid test. Microsoft, actually supporting SVG? Never happen.

    Good one!

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  19. 919

    Nice, giggity :D

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  20. 970

    And i thought it was actually too good to be true!!!

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  21. 1021

    Praveen Vijayan

    March 31, 2009 4:48 am

    WOW!! f***king awesome joke!!! a day early – wish a day ie will equipped with all this features ;)

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  22. 1072

    Ha ha I thought it was real until I read the comments….you SM guys simply rock at everything you do.

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  23. 1123

    The Monkey Pirate

    March 31, 2009 4:53 am

    Happy April foo… wait. Not yet.

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  24. 1174

    Firrst half of the post I was interested, second half of the post I felt DUMB due to the interest I had in the first part! LOL

    Funny

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  25. 1225

    Firebug for IE?! Would be a dream!

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  26. 1276

    Simao Belchior de Castro

    March 31, 2009 5:02 am

    April fools day is tomorrow. Changing the day makes it just a plain lie.

    If you can’t fool people properly in the proper day, just don’t.

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  27. 1327

    LOL, Thank you, you just made my morning.

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  28. 1378

    You almost got me. Wondering what Microsoft thinks about this post.

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  29. 1429

    Happy April Fools! :P

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  30. 1480

    server side decompiler…. of course ;-)

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  31. 1531

    It sounds to good to be true…oh wait…it is!

    Good one!

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  32. 1582

    Even though it’s a day earlier, it’s still make a good jokes. IE could never archive any of those features :D.

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  33. 1633

    Wow! :D

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  34. 1684

    one of the best joke about IE ;) great post! wonderful, Jacob!

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  35. 1735

    probably it will be the best joke in the web this April,.. will see :)

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  36. 1786

    at first i thought .. wtf? then i saw the acid3 test and .. noway :D heh

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  37. 1837

    Santosh Puthran

    March 31, 2009 5:22 am

    It looks like a April fool joke.

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  38. 1888

    Maybe…just maybe this will happen. I will wait and see about that one. Who knows, Microsoft might have finally got their heads out of their rear-ends for a change. :)

    @kylereddoch

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  39. 1939

    I was going to make some huffy, elitist remark and then I remembered what tomorrow (for me) is. Successful troll is successful. :D

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  40. 1990

    i was kind of confused as i read the first 3-4 paragraphs and took a look at the date…. not april. 1st? .. wtf?

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  41. 2041

    Microsoft needs to hire you guys to head product development. If they ever built such a beast, I’d probably use it.

    Come to think of it, why the heck hasn’t Mozilla created an extension to allow you to swap WebKit for Gecko? Wouldn’t it be sweet to combine IETab with a “WebKitTab” and be able to test all rendering engines from one browser? Or did they make that and I just missed it?

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  42. 2092

    You totally got me.

    I had completely forgot that we were so near the 1st April. :o

    Though, it would be awesome if there where any browser out there that would be a “Developers browser”.

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  43. 2143

    The server-side decompiler blew it. Everybody knows that is impossible :P

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  44. 2194

    I am bedazzled, just a bit more now and I am willing to convert from open source technologies to anything Microsoft throws at me.

    Unless of course (didn’t read the whole article) Microsoft is actually offering this as open source as well.

    Cheers for best tech April 1st in years..

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  45. 2245

    It will let you view server side scripting… -> that was priceless. And I love how the code it was showing is PHP. I was saying to myself… “Oh $h!+ !!!” How can that be good!?

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  46. 2296

    “Wikipedia entry on the layout engine that IE 8.1 pwns hardcore.”

    :D

    Great job!

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  47. 2347

    GUYS
    I felt fluffy inside there for a minute :(
    you got me he he he :) Nice!

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  48. 2398

    lol! this is definitely april fools post!!!!!!!
    good article though !! :-)

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  49. 2449

    Nearly choked on my bread laughing… :D Nice one.

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  50. 2500

    …UH!!…too nice to be real!!

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