First Look: IE 8 Final Fixes Some Problems, Leaves A Big One

However, IE 8 software fails, miserably, when tested with the standards-focused Acid 3 test for compatibility - - to make sure it works well with technologies such as CSS, HTML4 and XHTML - - and falls far short of scores delivered by other new browser software from Google and Mozilla. While most users won't notice the difference right away, if at all, the inability to come anywhere close to adhering to the standards could be a huge stumbling block for developers. Developers count on those standards to make sure their work can run across many different browsers and on many different OSes.

IE 8 passes the earlier Acid 2 test, which, as with Acid 3, is maintained by The Web Standards Project. But on the more sophisticated Acid 3 Test, IE 8 scored 20 out of 100. (Chrome scored 79 out of 100; FireFox 3.0.7 scored 69, while FireFox 3.1 Beta scored 93 out of 100.) Because one of the biggest criticisms of IE 8 during the prerelease stage was that it failed to even come close in standards testing, the final release will do little to nothing to impress developers who were already skeptical.

On other issues, though, which are of greater importance to end users, IE 8 has made strides.

The final code for the browser that Microsoft made available for download installs quickly and painlessly on XP and Vista. (While earlier, prerelease versions of IE 8 were bundled with its Windows 7 beta, Microsoft did not appear to immediately make a final version of IE 8 available for its forthcoming desktop OS.) Sites that the Test Center had previously opened in prerelease versions of IE 8, including and sites that were JavaScript-heavy, did not show any of the broken links or graphics in the final version that they did earlier.

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In addition, McAfee security software that earlier could not run on PCs with IE 8 now appears to download, install and run just fine on PCs with the browser installed.

Checking memory consumption, IE 8 is competitive with other browsers. It called upon 60 MB of memory when it had two Web sites open: The Drudge Report and The latest release of Google's Chrome browser called 49 MB for the same sites, and FireFox's most recent general release, 56 MB - - putting all in the same ballpark.

Other key new features of IE 8 - - "Compatibility Mode," "Web Slices" and additional security features -- all worked in prerelease, and all worked during initial testing in the final release.

With questions remaining, though, over whether Microsoft will invest resources in meeting Web standards, IE 8 should continue to be a thorny issue for many. And until we see a final version of IE 8 that works well with Windows 7, questions may continue there as well.