The Microsoft MIX08 conference is going on this week and even though I didn’t go this year (maybe next year or ReMix) there are enough people blogging about what’s happening at the conference that you can still keep up with most of it.
There were a lot of big announcements during the keynote and the first day of the conference, including the first public beta of Internet Explorer 8. This release is primarily focused on web developers and designers to give them as much time as possible to validate that their web sites will display properly in the new IE8 standards mode, which is now the default rendering mode.
I installed the beta on one machine yesterday and so far, I like it. There are some definite speed improvements in the rendering and overall the browser has a snappier feel. I have only run across one web site that doesn’t display properly in standards mode but it is still very usable. When viewing that same site in IE7 Compatibility mode it displays correctly.
I’m not sure how useful the web slices will be. Web slices are essentially an RSS feed for a web site. There are only a few sites providing web slices right now. I’m sure as time goes by and more sites start offering web slices their usefulness will become more apparent.
Also new in IE8 are web activities. These are effectively XML based plug-ins for Internet Explorer. Right now activities look more promising than web slices since they can hook up to web services and seem to be relatively easy to create. The potential for abuse seems a bit higher, however.
Right now there are very few minor UI changes. IE8 has almost the same look and feel as IE7. The biggest changes are the Emulate IE7 button and a new banner for a blank tab. It is still unknown if there will be any major UI changes for IE8, but if there are don’t expect them until late in the beta cycle, sometime before the RC1 release (if they have one).