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IE8 Release Candidate Boosts Speed

Ahead of Internet Explorer 8’s debut, Microsoft urges developers to test their Web sites for compatibility with a pre-release tool.

Microsoft late last month said that users should expect to see marked improvement in performance in the release candidate (RC) of its forthcoming Internet Explorer 8 Web browser.

RC1, set for release Jan. 26, represents the stage before the final release and provides the best means for developers to test IE8 compatibility with their Web sites, according to Microsoft.

James Pratt, Microsoft's senior product manager for Internet Explorer, says there's "noticeable, measurable improvement" in speed with IE8 RC1 relative to beta 2. To improve the browser's performance, Microsoft avoided individual benchmark studies for the most part. Instead, the team looked at where IE8 was spending its time in a sample of the top 25 Web sites.

"We found that IE8 was spending about 20 percent of its time on JavaScript," Pratt explains, "so 80 percent of the time was spent doing other things." In response, Microsoft refocused on improving the subsystems in the RC1 version to increase the browser's performance.

Pratt says Microsoft has been promoting standards compliance with IE8, mainly by staying true to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C's) CSS 2.1 spec. However, there are differences in interpretation. One example is table rendering, where the CSS 2.1 spec is vague. Pratt notes Microsoft has submitted 3,500 test cases to the W3C to help improve the spec.

To test compatibility, developers should use the compatibility-view button on the IE8 browser, says Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft's IE team.

The final release of IE8 hasn't been announced yet, but, leading up to the anticipated release of the browser, Microsoft made the IE8 Blocking Toolkit available. The blocking tool is targeted at enterprises that want to enforce policies that would prohibit upgrading to the new browser.

To configure the tool, IT professionals can run the Registry file in individual PCs or manage it via Group Policy in domain-joined networks. These processes are explained on Microsoft's IE blog, located at the company's MSDN site.

Also, the company last month released its Web Platform Installer (Web PI) 1.0, a free downloadable tool designed to help install the Microsoft Web Platform or its components. The whole platform can be installed to support Web app development. Alternatively, users can opt for specific Microsoft products, such as IIS, Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition and others, Microsoft says.

This latest version of Web PI has been in beta since late November and has been inching its way from RC stage to its current 1.0 release-to-Web status. Earlier issues, such as lack of support for Windows XP and Windows 2003, have been overcome. It also allows the installation of ASP.NET MVC and Visual Studio Tools.

Web PI runs on Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and XP OSes, as well as Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. It requires .NET 2.0 Framework to install.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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