MIX09 Day 2 Keynote Pt 1: Dean Hachamovitch on Internet Explorer 8

Dean Hachamovitch is the General Manager for the Internet Explorer team. Amazingly, he managed to blog about IE8 at the same time as he was delivering his keynote – he must have been typing with his feet :-)

Dean started with a humorous video on the “history of the web”.

Last year at MIX, we made eight announcements about IE8 and we heard feedback that eight things were too many to remember. The IE team unsurprisingly gets lots of feedback, and does their best to respond to it! So today’s keynote focuses on three categories: the people who build the web, the people who use the web, and the people who attack the people who use the web.

Internet Explorer addresses the fundamentals that developers expect for a modern browser – interoperability, security, standards, performance that developers, but it was also designed as a great application for regular end-users who just want to browse the web. While it’s interesting for a small number of advanced web developers to be downloading nightly “bleeding edge” builds of a browser like Firefox, by nightly build, building real-world sites means taking account of millions of regular users and their needs.

Today, we’re excited to release the final build of Internet Explorer 8 to the web. It’s available in twenty-five languages, across Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 and 2008 in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. We’re releasing it here at MIX09 because we’re excited about what you can build with it as developers and designers. We used real-world data to build IE8 – hundreds of millions of users, 200+ data points with the products, millions of user sessions, hundreds of hours of usability labs, and dozens of in-home studies. Never underestimate how many people click “submit error report” and the value of that data in improving the product!

A few features demonstrated during the keynote:

  • 80% of navigations are back to where the user has been already. That’s why when you go to the address bar or the search box, you’ll see data from previous navigations.
  • In the search box, you’ll see “quick pick”. 70% of users have more than one search provider installed, and we wanted to make it easier for users to access them.
  • Restoring tabs that have been closed is really easy – when you open a new tab, you’ll automatically see a list of tabs that have previously been opened in the current session.
  • Color-coding and grouping for tabs, so you can open a large number of links and easily identify where they came from.

We discovered that users don’t care about why a browser crashes when it fails, they care about getting back quickly to where they were and minimizing downtime. In IE8, we now have tab crash isolation – when one tab of the browser fails, it doesn’t bring down the entire browser.

Performance has been a major area of investment in Internet Explorer 8, as this performance testing video demonstrates. The speed of a browser is dependent on more than just a scripting engine – when you look across the entire stack (DOM, HTML rendering, script, etc.), IE8 is faster than other browsers on many real-world sites. Even the JavaScript engine itself is 70% faster than the one shipped in IE7.

IE blocks over a million phishing attacks a month. It also has a huge impact on protecting against malware – our data shows that one in forty users running IE8 have been protected from malware each week. An independent study shows that IE8 protects against twice as many malware attacks as any other browser. There are many new security features added to Internet Explorer, including click-jacking protection, per user ActiveX, cross-site scripting filtering, and Data Execution Prevention.

What about standards? IE has historically been criticized for not fully supporting core web standards like CSS. In practice, every browser has work to do here. We have an amazingly broad set of CSS 2.1 test cases (over 7,000), and we’ve submitted them to the W3C. For thousands of tests, all three browsers do the “right” thing, but we’ve also got hundreds of examples of where other browsers that claim ACID2 compliance fail to fully implement the CSS standards. In practice, 100% standards compliance is really hard. Many standards can’t even be completely met at this point in time, because they’re not final. For IE8, we focused on the test suite and delivering as complete an implementation as possible so that we can help you build sites that work across multiple browsers.

Building on the core foundations, Internet Explorer 8 introduces a number of additional opportunities to extend a web site experience so that it more fully integrates into a users’ life. In IE8, we’re introducing web slices, accelerators and visual search to make it possible to get quick access to real-time information while you’re browsing.

  • It’s easy to create a web slice – just a few extra tags. As an early reference example, OneRiot built a web slice that is driving 18% more traffic to their site than would otherwise be the case.
  • One interesting piece of information from our instrumentation shows that a very common flow for users is to open one tab, copy some information and paste it into a new tab. Accelerators help smooth this workflow – you can select a piece of information and quickly do something with it – blog, tweet or email it, map it, etc. There are over 1,200 accelerators, web slices and visual search providers out there already today, including Digg, ESPN, OneRiot, Amazon, Sina, TaoBao, and Yahoo.

The release of IE8 isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. It’s easy to underestimate this opportunity. Ten years ago, we shipped IE5. Wikipedia credits IE5 with giving birth to AJAX to the world, even though nobody was talking about AJAX at the time. We see IE8 as a similarly pivotal release, and we’re excited to see what you do with it!