Wednesday, January 28, 2009

IE8 Release Candidate 1 Has New Security Features

Even as the tech world continues to test Windows 7 beta -- and compare it to Vista -- Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 (RC1).

Much has changed since the second beta version of Microsoft's Internet browser. The browser is complete with reliability, performance and compatibility improvements, and there are new security features.

Microsoft said the technical community should expect the final IE8 release to behave as RC1 does. That means IE8 is effectively complete, but the company will continue to review feedback on critical issues.

Reviewing the Changes

On the reliability, performance and compatibility front, Microsoft studied feedback and addressed several issues. The company also worked closely with the security community on clickjacking protection.

According to Dean Hachamovitch, a general manager at Microsoft, Web sites can now protect themselves and their users from clickjacking attacks "out of the box," without impacting compatibility or requiring browser add-ons.

Microsoft also made some changes to the InPrivate feature and the user experience based on feedback. For example, based on data about how people use actually the browser, Microsoft made fitting more items on the Favorites bar easier.

"IE8 focused on how people really use the Web. Consumers want a browser that makes the tasks they do every day faster and easier. The activities people spend their time on define real-world performance: Navigating to Web sites, working with tabs, searching, keeping track of changing information (like traffic or an auction), and using the information from one site with another (as in getting a map)," Hachamovitch said.

"Everyone wants a trustworthy browser that keeps them in control and protects their safety," he said. "Developers want great developer tools, great interoperability, and a powerful platform that enables them to innovate. For some people, accessibility is crucial; for some organizations, policy, administration and deployment are essential."

A Focus on Privacy

Two privacy features -- InPrivate Filtering and InPrivate Browsing -- stand out most to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. InPrivate Filtering prevents content providers from gathering information to create a three-dimensional view of users' browsing habits. Private Browsing is a security feature that prevents somebody who has physical access to a PC from seeing what sites users have visited.

"Where you visit on the Web is as much your business as the books you pull off the shelf at the public library. Is it appropriate for someone to be looking over your shoulder? There would be people who say it is. I've spoken with business owners who believe the online browsing habits of their employees are their business," King said. "But it's a fine line, and I think it's notable that Microsoft has addressed that."

InPrivate Filtering, he added, enlarges the user's circle of privacy. It's a subject that King feels is going to become more important over time because search engines are "not particularly open" about the length of time they keep user data or what they do with it.

"Microsoft deserves a pat on the back," King said. "The InPrivate features really do relate to issues that many consumers think about and are concerned about, but in some cases those concerns have been ignored or pooh-poohed by other vendors."

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