IE 8 Hits Beta 2, Privacy Features Added

Microsoft Wednesday released the second beta of Internet Explorer 8 and introduced new features focused on privacy, including one users are referring to as "porn mode."

The beta (available here) comes nearly two years after Microsoft released IE 7. The final release of IE 8 is expected to come at year-end, although Microsoft has not set an official date.

With Beta 2, Microsoft is introducing InPrivate Browsing, which ensures users don't leave any trace of the sites they have been visiting. Some are referring to the feature as "porn mode," given that it most likely would be used to hide tracks to such sites.

InPrivate Browsing opens up a separate window; when closed, it deletes records of cookies, passwords, search queries, temporary Internet files, form data and words typed into the address bar.

Microsoft also has added a feature that lets users selectively delete their browsing history instead of having to clear out the History file altogether, which is how IE 7 works. With the new feature, users can save cookies for sites that are listed as Favorites while deleting cookies for all other sites in the History list.

IE 8 also includes InPrivate Blocking, which prevents Web sites and content providers from sharing information. The intent is to thwart advertising networks that build user profiles based on a user's browsing history across multiple sites.

Microsoft is introducing IE 8 just after rival Mozilla introduced Firefox 3.0 and at a time when that open source browser's market share is up to 19% and IE has fallen from 79% to 73%.

The trend toward software-as-service is rekindling the browser wars and driving Microsoft to step up innovation around IE.

Microsoft said earlier this year that IE 8 would include new "slipstreaming" capabilities that will make it easier for the browser to be tied to Vista so the two can be deployed in tandem.

The company also is updating the IE Application Compatibility Toolkit and the IE Administration Kit, and said it will use Group Policy settings to aid in application compatibility and add enhancements to help recover faster from crashes The intent is to make it easier for administrators to add IE to their operating system image.

Other new features include SmartScreen Filter, which enhances IE 7's anti-phishing tools with malware-blocking capabilities.

Also new is an integrated filter to prevent cross-site scripting; an inline search capability; a management console for add-ons that provides access to toolbars, ActiveX controls and plug-ins; and a Compatibility View that lets users view sites coded for earlier versions of IE.

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