IE8: User interface above performance

Microsoft prioritized Internet Explorer 8's user interface over performance benchmarking when building the browser, according to a Microsoft executive.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

The user interface was top priority for Microsoft in building its latest version of Internet Explorer, not performance benchmarking, according to a Microsoft executive.

Stephane Kimmerlin, product marketing director, Windows client business group, Asia-Pacific, Microsoft, said during a press demonstration of Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) beta 2 that the browser's important features were user interface enhancements, aimed at automating some common actions for users.

Performance benchmarking, such as the speed of loading pages, was a secondary priority in comparison, he said.

"When we designed IE8, we did not start with performance in mind," said Kimmerlin, in response to a question on the speed of IE8's Javascript engine.

Nick Wong, platform strategy advisor, developer and platform evangelism, at Microsoft added: "It is about how discernable the [speed] difference is [between different Javascript engines]...IE 8 reloads pages faster and responds quickly."

Competing browser, Chrome, has been touted by Google for its V8 Javascript engine, which the search giant claims is capable of processing Javascript applications much faster than the competition.

Kimmerlin also said it is premature to comment on IE8 beta 2's system resource requirements compared to IE7, adding that users should wait for the final release of the browser before running performance benchmarking tests.

Features new to IE8 will include various user shortcut menus, called "Accelerators", accessible within pages that are aimed to speed up the ways users interact with the information presented.

Microsoft also demonstrated a feature called Web Slices, which allow developers to create a snippet of sites that users can subscribe to for updates. This is different from RSS (really simple syndication) feeds in that the snippets are written in Microsoft's hAtom format, and are meant to work within the IE8 application, not a feed reader.

Search box privacy issue
Another feature Microsoft showed was an "enhanced search box", which performs a full search through a user's history, bookmarks and RSS feeds to pull up matching search results for a query. Competing browsers, Mozilla Firefox and Chrome have similar features.

But one area of contention raised was privacy. Kirk Drage, Microsoft Asia-Pacific regional manager of its local software economy arm, said during the briefing this "full search" function does not send data back to Microsoft, where Chrome tracks user behavior to Google.

Chrome has raised concerns over the data it sends back to Google within its "Omnibox"--a combined location and search bar within the browser--which sends data back to Google in order to "suggest" matching search queries in real time, as users type.

According to Dickson Seow, head, Southeast Asia, communications and public affairs at Google, this feature has been somewhat misunderstood by the online community.

He said a random 2 percent of entries typed into the Omnibox are logged by Google. Google has also decided to make the data collected for use with Chrome's live search function anonymous after 24 hours, according to an entry on Google's official blog. However, the blog entry noted that this 24-hour expiry refers to the "Google Suggest" Omnibox feature; Google intends to store the data for a longer period for its core Web search service.

Seow said: "For those using Google Chrome, the information shared with Google when you are using our search engine is similar to the information that is shared when you are using a different browser and search on Google."

He added that the Google Suggest tracking feature can be turned off within the browser, and that it is automatically turned off in Chrome's "private" mode, which it terms Incognito.

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