Security and Privacy
Microsoft has also tweaked the security and privacy features of IE in RC1 -- notably, its phishing filter and the feature previously called InPrivate Blocking, which has been renamed InPrivate Filtering.
InPrivate Filtering is designed to prevent Web sites from sharing information about your browsing history without your knowledge. Often, a site will share content with one or more other, third-party sites -- for example, it could include an interactive map or an ad from a partner's site. If the site gathers information about you, such as your IP address and operating system (sites can gather this information even if you have cookies turned off), it could share that information with its partners.
This has privacy implications, because if a party provides content or ads on many sites across the Web, that provider will be able to track where you've gone and build a detailed profile about your Web travels and interests. InPrivate Filtering stops that by not allowing the site you're visiting to send information to third-party sites.
In Beta 2, InPrivate Blocking was available only when you used IE8's so-called porn filter, InPrivate Browsing. Not so with RC1. You can now turn on InPrivate Filtering whenever you want by either pressing Ctrl-Shift-F, or choosing Safety-->InPrivate Filtering. Your can turn it off by using the same method.
Why not keep InPrivate Filtering on all the time? Because when you use it, you might block important content from third-party sites, such as maps and stock quotes. You do, however, have some control over which sites can share information. Select Safety-->InPrivate Filtering Settings, select Choose content to block or allow , and you'll be able to customize which content you want allowed, and which blocked.
In addition, the SmartScreen filter, which warns users when they visit a known phishing site, has been strengthened -- it now also warns you when you visit a site known to contain malware.
The phishing warning page has also been changed. In Beta 2, you could click through from the warning screen to the phishing site, even though you were warned not to. In RC1, there appears to be no way to click through. However, there is a way, although it's hidden -- click More Information , and at the bottom of that page will be a link labeled Disregard and continue (not recommended) . Click it, and you'll be taken to the site.
Microsoft also says that IE8 now protects against so-called clickjacking -- where a hacker can place an invisible button underneath or on top of a legitimate button -- with its cross-site scripting filter.
The Bottom Line
IE8 is clearly nearly ready for release. RC1 is stable and fast, and it contains a full feature set, although there is still a bug or two -- for example, the fact that it wasn't able to display RSS feeds in the Address Bar as I typed URLs.
Although it's generally not a good idea to use release candidates for production machines, I've been using RC1 without any problems on one of mine. The usual caveats apply as with any prerelease software -- it's not yet finished and so should not be counted upon.
This story, "Internet Explorer 8 RC1 Is Speedy, Reliable" was originally published by Computerworld.