I was reading about the new features of Internet Explorer 8 on Sizlopedia and decided to give it a test drive myself. I haven’t really used IE since the days of Windows 2000, when version 5.5 came out, so it took a while to get used to the new interface even though it debuted in IE 7. And since I am not accustomed to this browser, I will not debate on its features and improvements, nor I will compare it with Firefox or Apple Safari right now as it is at an early stage. Instead the main focus of this article would be the web surfing experience I got from this browser. I tested it on some of the most commonly visited websites and documented my experience on them.
First of all though, I checked out its memory footprint. For some reason, iexplorer.exe creates another instance of iexplorer.exe which draws the main windows form, and it also requires ctfmon.exe to run. The total IE 8 Process tree takes about 76 MB of memory, which is not a big memory footprint for a Web Browser these days. Interestingly, though I had Firefox running at the time I recorded this with the same website open, and it only takes about 58.5 MB.
The new Facebook was recently released for Internet Explorer users this Tuesday and reportedly provided the same level of functionality as provided on the Mozilla-based browsers. When I loaded Facebook, everything looked fine in the new version. There were no drawing glitches and the CSS rendered the same on Internet Explorer as it did on Firefox. Unfortunately, Facebook only looks good on IE. Most of the AJAX on Facebook doesn’t work, including Facebook chat, notifications, translator and wall. I had a very hard time just trying to update my status, a mission I ended up failing.
The Yahoo! Home page took a bit of time to render, but once it did, I experienced no problems. Flash, and AJAX interweaving looked great and all the features of the page were fully functional. Upon approaching the New Yahoo! Mail, I was greeted with a very much expected browser incompatibility message, which I chose to ignore. As with the parent site, Ymail also took a little longer to load, especially the chat module, but once loaded, it worked as smoothly as it would on any other browser. In fact, in my opinion, it was looking a bit better than Firefox.
Gmail had lots of trouble loading, and I had to go through several refresh cycles to get it into a working state. And by that I mean I was able to navigate a bit. Random glitches occurred while GTalk wasn’t responsive at all. The Google Reader was working fine, which suggests that IE mostly has trouble working with AJAX other than ASP.NET Extensions.
YouTube, quite frankly, was a mess. It loaded in time, looked fine but I couldn’t get anything to work without turning on compatibility mode. The only advantage IE takes on YouTube is that Flash Player 9 Update 4 doesn’t crash here like it does on Mozilla based browsers, meaning that we can actually use the latest Flash Player available from Adobe. Insight was working fine, albeit a little slow, while videos with annotations or captions took a while longer to load.
Bad news for Gamespot users! The new version of Gamespot, Gamespot Wide doesn’t work on IE 8 without turning on compatibility mode. This means we are stuck with the old version of the site until Microsoft figure out a way to get the AJAX problem fixed. One thing notable here is that the anti-aliasing and effects looked a lot better, most probably due to the fact that IE 8 fully utilizes the ClearType rendering.
This brings my test drive of the browser to a screeching stop as it was unable to expose the full functionality of most of my favorite sites. I didn’t take the browser to Flickr or Last.fm yet, but I am not expecting much from this build. In comparison to Internet Explorer 7, this version is only a few steps back so it wont be too much to say that this may just be the most stable iteration of Microsoft browser to date, and hope fully, things would only get better. I encourage you to give it a try too, and share you’re experiences here, as different machine and operating system architectures have dynamic impact on performance.