Breaking: Internet Explorer 8.1 Eagle Eyes Leaked


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 theme!

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


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.


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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.

  1. 1

    If only it was true :o(….. I am so very sad now, it all looked so promising… boohoo


  2. 102

    Microsoft should take note and make these changes. Does anyone have a mailing list for Microsoft developers. I am sure most of the email addresses end in

  3. 203

    @Creamy CSS: Thanks! :)

  4. 304

    Website skins? Come on guys… That is more than lame. Based on how IE works I can imagine how using skins will ruin everything for you.

  5. 405

    Dude, I was like “HOLY SHIT!”, and then I saw the server-side script deal, which is impossible – not that Microsoft making a good browser is possible either – and I was very disappointed :)

  6. 506

    HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!! IE 8.1 FTW!!!! Nice one, Smashing!

  7. 607

    It would have been worthy to talk about compatibility mode in this post. I think for most web developers making the transition to supporting IE8 this is required knowledge.

  8. 708

    ha ha, thats excellent… almost had me until the part about plugins :)

  9. 809

    Whahahahahaha, I can’t believe this is true story! if (this== true){ i am gonna eat IE6 raw }

  10. 910

    Client-side server code decompiler… no shit ? it’s wild west on the web :) or is it like fifth dimension ?

  11. 1011

    Firefox addon support would be a killer feature really.

  12. 1112

    Dammit, got me. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I read Firebug would work on it.

    *Cue cartman voice*
    “I hate you guys!”

  13. 1213

    Yeah you got me up to the firefox plugins :)

    I think that’s because i wanted good css support so badly …

  14. 1314

    Thanks for wasting my time reading the first half of this crap. Real professional, guys. This was not funny or even believable, since the second section was support for Firefox extensions — yeah, right.

  15. 1415

    Haha, great April Fools’ joke, also love it that the JS chart states “Graph created with Microsoft Excel to show it’s software greatness” :P

  16. 1516

    sounds interesting!

  17. 1617

    I love how people do not read the whole thing. You had me until the graph. Also, I have to say that the timing is actually brilliant, since it’s close enough to April 1st that it can be a joke without it actually being on April 1st and therefore obvious.

    Good job, Jacob.

  18. 1718

    I knew something was up when you said “full CSS3 support”. WAY too good to be true for IE.

  19. 1819

    you got me! =]

  20. 1920

    LOL LOL and LOL
    heyyyy how much are you paid for, smashing????
    by the time ie can do all these things listed, other browsers will be able to support 3D simulation browsing already…….. hahahahaha

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    lol nice. You actually had me for a while. I was even believing the FF addon support. But the “server-side code decompiler” is where I started lol’ing.

  23. 2223

    Nice one guys.. the 8.1 on the Browser Version picture was a weak photoshop. ;)

  24. 2324

    Die IE! DIE!!! +)

  25. 2425


    Yeah, that’s the one that really convinced me as well.

  26. 2526

    Clicked as soon as I read ‘web standards support’ really ;)

    In reality, what I’d like from a non-aprils-fooled IE 8.1 would be for it not to be rubbish. However, recent history (4, 5, 5.5, 6, 7, 8.. uh… actually most all of ’em) dictates that I will probably be disappointed. Are my standards too high, or IEs too low? :)

  27. 2627

    Cynthia Clinton

    March 31, 2009 7:03 am

    You guys suck! I was all happy that IE was going to offer the skins and the firefox extension capability. lol

  28. 2728

    this post made me believe just for 2 minutes that the IE is still a … pretty good browser ;
    that was just before i realized that today is 31st march

    the IE sucks

  29. 2829

    I think the joke is on you SM for forgetting that there is 31 days in March.

  30. 2930

    Got me. I’m still shaking!

  31. 3031

    My favourite is the Windows 7 theme

  32. 3132

    Firefox rules..

  33. 3233

    MS making something useful? Hah! Nice Acid test, looks uncannily similar to my FireFox screenshot. The day IE becomes a useful browser will be the day the world comes to an end.

  34. 3334

    This news is FAKE because all these features are already present in IE8.0.

  35. 3435

    Ha ha! Good one. This fooled my boss, he actually believed it to be true!

  36. 3536

    The sad part of this joke is that we’re so used by now to MS releasing poorly designed software that we’d actually be surprised by a decent IE browser.

  37. 3637

    Got me too.

    The only thing that was weird is that it was not a new version. If it was IE 9.0, that would be even easier to believe.
    What I hope now is that MS developers will see this page and will question themselves about what everyone wants concerning a navigator. They should look at the poll too.

  38. 3738

    ROTFL!!! Too excellent! Congrats!

  39. 3839

    Server-side code decompiler? How should this work? Magic? :D
    Good one, but where do you live? New Zealand? The Blog’s date is still the 31st.

  40. 3940

    April’s fools people!!!! LOL

    sure i’ll absolutely going to download it!

  41. 4041

    Lol, I love the tiny text under the graph :)

  42. 4142

    You fooled me so badly lol…..

    Server-side decomplier :P

  43. 4243

    haha, nice. i like the Server-side code decompiler.

  44. 4344

    I got stuck on the server side de-compiling which would present HUGE risks for security reasons.

  45. 4445

    haha damn it, had me going there.

  46. 4546

    God I hate this website

  47. 4647

    Christopher Mena

    March 31, 2009 8:07 am

    I freaked out at the style sheets option… GOOD ONE SMASHING! You guys rock.

  48. 4748

    if they copy soo much from firefox or google chrome maybe they should start using the actual code from chrome or firefox and contribute back to the community

  49. 4849

    the “Server-side code decompiler”, is not something like, wow, i can see the passwords to databases to many many sites of rookies developers who put them in php scripts?, it’s that a good idea?, i think it’s stupid, thank you microsoft for another one, and, if their os it’s bad fixed and too much expensive, how can i wait something good for this?

  50. 4950

    Haha you guys had me going for a minute, the Firefox extensions thing is impossible though, and the source code view thing gives it away.

    1) Firefox extensions are built on top of Firefox’s framework. Even just porting a Firefox extension to another XUL-based application is hard work. Making extensions work on IE would be impossible, especially something like Tab Mix Plus, which majorly changes how the Firefox tab bar works and is very dependent on… well, the underlying tab bar being the Firefox one. Even small changes to Firefox will break extensions that use the features that were changed (hence why addons are disabled when you upgrade until they are patched).

    2) There is no standard way to query a website for its PHP or ASP source code. The website must specifically choose to make a method available for download of its source, and for the most part many websites will not because they are “closed source” (, for example, would never do it anymore than they would release the source for Windows).

    3) IE6 and 7 score very poorly on JavaScript benchmarks. Although it is believable MS would skew their own benchmarks. The tiny text is good and I completely missed it.

    4) IE would not let you use a competitor’s engine inside their own browser unless they completely switch to Webkit or whatever (I think there were legit rumors they planned to chuck Trident and do this in the future). There would also be licensing issues considering Gecko and Webkit are under some form of open source licences.

    5) Website skins would not work since every website author will code their site differently. With an ideal design where HTML is used to store content and CSS for styling, multiple styles can be provided BY THE WEBSITE. However styling can be embedded in pages as legacy HTML tags (IE font tags) and HTML tables can be heavily used/abused to fix layouts. These would be impossible to adjust with a universal restyling engine. Even with an ideal page such an engine would have to be able to dynamically figure out what on the page is a header, what is content, etc. Failure rates would be high.

    Right now Stylish is an extension for Firefox which can be used to change the look of webpages, but they are written to change INDIVIDUAL pages or sites, and are written for the specific page or site.

    Not to mention MS wouldn’t include a Mozilla styling. :P


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