Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2: Shaky Debut, Undocumented Issues

From online tax software to third-party security applications, these combinations with IE 8 beta 2 produce so many maddening, time-consuming glitches that for most people it may not even be worth it to try at this stage. The Test Center examined two bugs documented by Microsoft itself, as well as bugs the company has not yet disclosed, and found IE 8 in its present form needs much more work before final release.

Microsoft's got a lot of reputation riding on the final releases of Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8. Making both available to the masses in beta version is a good way to take the pulse of public opinion on these products and to garner information on issues users may find.

Microsoft has beaten the critics to the punch when it comes to IE 8 beta 2 by posting a knowledge base article (kb 94987) outlining currently known issues with the browser. An in-depth test drive of IE beta 2 confirms these known issues, but also revealed other issues that are not detailed in Microsoft's knowledge base article.

There are some problems that are not so surprising, such as incompatibility with third-party products like McAfee, Real Player and Roxio. The argument can be made that in the cases of third-party issues, those vendors have to step up to the plate to ensure functionality with IE 8. Some known issues are more surprising, such as incompatibility with Visual Studio .Net and Visual Basic 6.0 Active X controls. All of the products are of course related to Microsoft's own development platforms. This begs the question: If Microsoft is having problems making its own software products work with IE 8, what type of hurdles will third-party vendors have to clear to get their products to work?

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Other issues came up during our testing with other popular Web sites, particularly with JavaScript and with performance of Windows Live using IE 8 beta 2.

There seems to be a pervasive sluggishness with Windows Live and IE 8. Opening Windows Live Hotmail from the Windows Live Toolbar took 44 seconds before the browser page crashed with the following error: "Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage" and a directive to "Diagnose Connection Problems." To ensure this was not an issue with the site, we went to Windows Live Hotmail immediately after using Firefox and Windows Live Hotmail opened immediately. Going back to IE, Live Hotmail opened in 10 seconds on the second try.

Reviewers also noted a problem with IE 8 displaying command buttons properly in pages on's site. However, IE 8 beta 2 is efficient enough to recognize Compatibility mode needs to be initiated when viewing When IE 8 is emulated to run as IE 7, the buttons are displayed correctly.

IE 8 also appears to have difficulty playing well with JavaScript. One site tested,, uses JavaScript for a number of animated images. All of these images were displayed as broken links.

IE 8 also could not load correctly Turbo Tax's online site. Running the site in compatibility mode did, however, fix the issue.

Compatibility mode, though, simply cancels out many of the benefits of IE 8 and adds to a gawky, awkward feel to the entire experience.

There's a lot of potential with IE 8. Microsoft joined the crowd and offered its own version of browser "incognito mode" (known popularly throughout the industry as "porn mode"), called InPrivate Browsing. Web Slices is another feature that lets a user create what's akin to graphical RSS feeds. For example, you can add a Web Slice to eBay to keep track of an item up for bid. The Web Slice will give you an actual graphic feed or "slice" of eBay's site rather than just text as with RSS feeds. These sites must have the Web Slice functionality embedded in them for a user to add this feature.

Accelerators are add-ons that allow information to be transferred from one Web page to another without the need for copying, pasting and navigating to a new browser window or tab.

The fact is, there are so many new features and commands that the interface is almost crowded. There is a myriad of toolbars in IE 8 and there isn't much flexibility when it comes to moving them around.

Of course, the contention to all of this is that this is beta software. IE 8 beta 2, for all purposes, is still a work in progress. It will be interesting to see how and if this browser will mature into a product that keeps Internet Explorer rooted as the world's most widely-used browser.