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Microsoft's IE 8 beta adds 'special' list

Tells you what works

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Microsoft has issued a third Internet Explorer 8 beta that includes a list of compatible websites for users less than "web savvy".

The IE 8 Release Candidate is the third pre-release version of Microsoft's browser but the first to include a list of web sites that Microsoft says actually work with its browser.

The Compatibility View List was announced last month by Microsoft after it found users testing the second beta had been unable to view websites without IE 8 scrambling them.

IE 8 introduces two modes for viewing sites: default and compatibility. Default supports the latest web standards, like CSS 2.1. Compatibility is designed to let you view the millions of sites and applications built for old versions of IE that were not compliant with web standards.

The idea was that a button would let users flip over to viewing such sites, but many forgot to make the switch, resulting in scrambled sites. Even sites supposed to work in default mode were getting scrambled.

Microsoft then introduced the idea of the Compatibility View List, which is supposed to tell the browser when it's viewing a site that's not been updated to support IE 8.

The list is composed and edited entirely by Microsoft, based on its reading of telemetry data and information from product support channels, the company said in December.

The company has justified the list saying this approach is used by Opera. That's possibly not a good argument, given that Opera's browser market share varies between less than one per cent and less than three per cent, depending on whose numbers you count.

The real competition Microsoft's facing in browsers is from Mozilla's Firefox and - possibly - Google's Chrome, which has grown fast in the four months since its release.

IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch encouraged website and application developers to test their sites and services with the RC. Hachamovitch's team made a similar appeal when they blogged about the new list last month.

Hachamovitch asked people to make "any changes necessary" to their software and to let Microsoft know about their experiences. He couched this with his familiar caveat that Microsoft would only make "selective" changes to the release candidate and act only on "critical" feedback.

He defined critical to include security, backwards compatibility, robustness, and completeness with respect to planned standards work.

You can view the full list of IE 8 RC features here, complete with what's been added since the second beta, and you can download the beta here.

The RC is only for Windows XP and Windows Vista, with a version for Windows 7 - currently in beta - due with the next update to the planned operating system. ®

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