Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1: not just yet…


Internet Explorer 8 beta 1 is available as of today. For me, the most relevant improvement is that IE8 is designed to adhere to W3C standards. It supposedly passes the ACID2 test, though early adopters quickly found some issues with that.

What counts for me though is a real life test, so I decided to feed it two web applications that I run frequently in IE7 these days. First Google Reader, the feed aggregator with the handsome face and the pleasant character. Second is a mashup of the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform and CycloMedia 360-degree panoramic photos that I built last week as a prototype for Geodan. This is how the latter looks in IE7 – it is not available on a public web site:

IE7_ve_cyclo

So let’s look at both applications in IE8 Beta 1.

Google Reader

Google Reader is my default home page in IE7, so it opened immediately ion IE8 as well. I did not adjust any settings in IE8 yet, so IE7 compatibility mode was switched off.

First thing I noticed is that the rendering of some of the user controls is a bit off. Compare this reference rendering (Firefox 2):

readerdetail_ff2

to the IE8 rendering:

readerdetail_ie8

This in itself is not a big thing. More serious is that the combo box control shown above does not work at all in IE8 Beta 1. Hmm.

googlereader_keyboardhelpNext thing to try is the keyboard controls – the one thing that sets Google Reader apart from the competition for me. I start browsing through my new articles using the j and k keys. It all starts out OK, with just some small rendering oddities, but I soon start noticing it all becomes very sluggish. After a minute or so, IE8 locks up completely. And all I did was scan through my list of new articles.

I force-quit IE and try again in IE7 compatibility mode. I need to restart IE to make the switch, which is a little annoying.

In compatibility mode, the rendering issues have disappeared and Google Reader doesn’t lock up anymore.

Virtual Earth & Cyclomedia mashup application

Now this was really a disappointment. You’d guess their own VE platform would pose no problems in a new IE. On the contrary.

ve_cyclo_ie8_nativeThere are major rendering issues. See the screenshot for a visual impression. Firstly, the VEMap doesn’t render in the designated size. It gets worse when you zoom in or out using the mouse wheel or the toolbar – the map occupies the whole browser window then. Secondly, the Minimap doesn’t render correctly. The Road / Aerial switch control is not visible and the view indicator is not rendered semitransparent. Also, the VE toolbar isn’t rendered as semitransparent either.

Even more serious though is that it’s just plain slow. Panning takes forever, while on IE7 it is smooth.

Lastly, my custom VE code to display a polyline arrow to indicate the view direction for the Cyclomedia image does not work: the arrow doesn’t show up at all. I didn’t investigate this further, but instead switched to IE7 compatibility mode once more to see if things would improve.

Well, they didn’t. All I got was an empty browser window.

That put the lid on my IE8 Beta 1 experience for now. I’ll try again a few Betas down the line. A final tip for XP users: if you want to uninstall the IE8 Beta 1, look for ‘Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1’ in your Add/Remove Programs panel. I looked under M (for Microsoft)…

Oh, I’m not the only one having, erm, issues with IE8. Here’s a post about IE8 and Google Maps

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