Downloadable Internet Explorer 8. Wait, What?

Maybe it's just me, but the unexpected words "ready for download now" referring to a Microsoft product seem... unusual. Microsoft was outlining the features and interoperability of its next generation web browser at the MIX show in Las Vegas yesterday, and shocked a lot of developers by announcing it was ready to download right away as Beta release.

Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft, said IE 8 Beta 1 delivers increased interoperability, offers developers better predictability when designing sites, and will feature full support for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) 2.1 when released to manufacturing.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 includes integrated developer tools for quickly debugging HTML, CSS and scripts in a visual environment. Moreover, two new features, Activities and WebSlices, are intended to enable developers to reach beyond the page and introduce new ways for users to stay connected to the content and services of their choice.

An interesting wrinkle in the new version is the WebSlice, a method for developers to make certain parts of their pages readily subscribable. That will be a boon to users who follow things like sports scores, auctions, and breaking news feeds that would benefit from constant updating without refreshing entire websites. Like most all Beta releases, I'm sure it's a mess. Sounds like the final product will be substantially better than version 7, though.