Microsoft has announced that its final update of the current beta Internet Explorer 8 browser will be released in next year's first quarter -- after which it will launch the final release. Some observers had been expecting the final update to be released this year.
After one more update of beta IE8 early in 2009, the next public release is "typically called a 'release candidate,'" Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch explained earlier this week on a company blog. The release candidate, he noted, indicates the end of the beta period.
'Complete and Done'
"We want the technical community of people and organizations interested in Web browsers to take this update as a strong signal that IE8 is effectively complete and done," he added. "They should expect the final product to behave as this update does."
Practically speaking, he noted, this means testers should feel comfortable testing sites and services with the early 2009 beta release, he said, making changes if needed for customer experience and reporting any critical issues back to Microsoft. The final release, Hachamovitch said, will be delivered after the company responds to any feedback on critical issues.
He added that "we will be very selective about what changes we make between the next update and final release."
However, a posting by a Microsoft technical manager earlier this year noted that IE 8 will be more favorably disposed to Internet standards, rather than proprietary Microsoft standards, as in the past. So browsing with the default settings could cause problems for pages and services designed for earlier IE versions.
The default mode will include greater compatibility with W3C Internet guidelines, CSS 2.1, and HTML 5, as well as improved support for AJAX techniques. An upcoming add-in from Microsoft can be used by developers so their pages are displayed according to IE7.
New Privacy Features
Hachamovitch reported that Microsoft has been going through extensive data on IE8's performance. This includes 20 million IE sessions, hundreds of hours of usability lab sessions, thousands of threads from user forums, and hundreds of hours "listening and answering questions in meetings with partners and other important organizations."
He added that this doesn't include data from users who choose to say yes to report a Web page problem when IE 8 has crashed or otherwise failed to perform correctly.
The additional time before final release will allow Microsoft to tweak any bugs and finalize several expected new features. News reports indicate that the additions are primarily in the area of privacy. For instance, one feature could include include private browsing so users can control whether the browser saves their history and other related data. Some observers have referred to this as porn mode.