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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 Link

User Interface Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Mixx promotional algorithm worked.

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

Website Skins Link

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 Revisions8 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.

Conclusion Link

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 Link

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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

    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.

  2. 2

    It is tomorrow 1 april, not today…

  3. 3

    is it a joke???

  4. 4

    Breaking News: Smashing Magazine April Fools leaked in March

  5. 5

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

    That made me laugh.

  6. 6

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


  7. 7

    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???


  8. 8

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

  9. 9

    Peter Gasston

    March 31, 2009 3:16 am

    A day early, guys.

  10. 10

    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

  11. 11

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

  12. 12
  13. 13

    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 :)

  14. 14

    ….would be nice though

  15. 15

    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).

  16. 16

    Nice, will link it @ work :D

  17. 17

    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 ;)

  18. 18

    haha fucking awesome! :p

  19. 19

    Tip: read alt and title attributes. :)

  20. 20

    That was funny :)


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