Even though Microsoft already released the final standalone version of Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8) in March, the company is continuing to add new functionality to the version of IE 8 that is bundled with Windows 7.
One of the new features not in the standalone build -- but present in the version of IE 8 that is in the Windows 7 Release Candidate -- is a new tab-responsiveness capability.
One of the selling points of IE 8 is tab isolation. Tab isolation means if one tab crashes, it doesn't (necessarily) crash your whole browser. I like tab isolation. What I don't like, as I've noted previously, is the tab unresponsiveness I've had since I downloaded the final IE 8 bits on my trusty ThinkPad X60 running Windows XP.
The new tab-responsiveness feature in the IE 8 in the Windows 7 RC is designed to provide Microsoft -- and users -- with more feedback when a tab fails to open. Instead of whirring endlessly, leaving users wondering whether a Web site is down; not working with IE 8's default standards mode; or what, a new tab dialog box is designed to pop up, allowing users to shut down proactively an unresponsive tab.
In a May 4 posting on the Microsoft IE Blog, officials explained the purpose of the new dialog box:
"For the Win7 RC, we added functionality to IE8 that lowers the threshold for identifying delayed responsiveness that might be a hang. Basically, IE’s frame uses a timer, and if the tab doesn’t respond within a given interval of time, the frame gives the user the choice to recover the page, close the page, or wait for the tab to respond.
"A tab might become non-responsive like this for different reasons. The webpage in the tab might use a plug-in that is very busy pulling down a lot of video information from a slow server and then processing it. The webpage might be on an intranet (e.g. http://salarydata) and different authentication mechanisms are negotiating, slowly, what the user is allowed to see. Sometimes, it's an issue with IE. Better telemetry here is crucial in figuring out what we, as engineers, do differently here. "
There are two things I can't tell from the post and that I've asked Microsoft. One -- what is the timer setting? In other words, how long do users have to wait until the dialog box appears? And two: When (and how) will those of us running IE 8 on XP and Vista get this feature, too? I want it now!
If and when I hear back, I'll update this post.
Update (May 6): It sounds like the dialog box pop-up isn't really needed or appreciated by a number of Windows 7 testers. Microsoft has made an update available to turn off this feature in the Release Candidate. No word on if or when Microsoft will also release an update to provide us long-suffering IE 8 users on XP and Vista with this tab-responsiveness feature. Also no word from the Softies on how much time elapses before the pop-up box appears, offering users a chance to kill an unresponsive tab.