MIX 08 kicked off this morning here in Las Vegas, and that meant a keynote with a ton of announcements.  I’ll leave the Silverlight chatter to the developers, but there was one part of the keynote I found especially interesting.  Dean Hachamovitch, the IE group’s general manager, followed Scott Guthrie on stage to show off the first release of Microsoft’s IE8 browser. 

While ie7 has some great features to compete with Firefox and others on UI, it’s always been a bit of a thorn in the side of WEb developers.  Dean echoed this, showing an example site in safari and Firefox, and then the broken version in ie7.  Well ie8 seems to address those issues, with a real focus on interoperability and compatibility.  But don’t think all the time you’ve spent getting a site to work in ie7 was for not: the new version has an ie7 emulator mode, and the developer dictates which version is seen.  Pretty cool.

Two other features really caught my eye.  The first is the “WebSlice” functionality.  Kinda like an RSS feed for pages where there is no RSS feed.  I’ll just use the example from the keynote.  When you log in to facebook, you get a list of recent activity from your friends.  With ie8, you can take a slice of the page and add it to a special favorites area on the browser’s task bar.  Just mouse over it for a quick capture of the latest updates.  What’s cool is it’s not just text like with an RSS feed.  The slice is designed to match the theme and brand of the site in question.  Other uses include watching ebay searches, news, stocks, weather (shown below)…really anything that updates periodically.  Just another way to save a few clicks.  More on that here.

ie8 Webslice example

The second cool thing is the activities functionality.  Just think how many times you look at a Web page for a store location, then have to copy the address and paste it in to a search or map tool to find.  ie8 takes a “smart tag” approach to recognize these things in a site’s content.  hover over the address, and an activity icon appears.  Click it for a list of options, including a map that hovers right there over the page.  Very cool.  There are a ton of business applications to this presently swirling through my head.  More on that, including a list of available activities, here.

ie8 activities example

More knowledge to come as it’s given to me.  Enjoy!  And if you’re ready to download the beta, you can get it here.


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