The first public beta of Internet Explorer 8 was released a couple of days ago. I downloaded it (14.4MB), but only just remembered to install it today.
The copy was installed on my Windows XP SP2 ThinkPad. Installation went fine without a hitch, albeit a bit slow (10 minutes) and it does require a restart. This suggests that IE8 does tie itself deeply with the OS like past Internet Explorers. It was a one-off restart that was expected and since I had to restart my PC anyway for a completely different matter, it didn't bother me one bit. Though I am sure some of you may take issue with it, so feel free to bitch about it.
A quick test through Acid2 revealed that IE 8 beta completely passed the test, which rendered the page perfectly. However it did fail the Acid3 test, but don't fret Microsoft, even Firefox 2 failed - though it did achieve a higher score. Enough about theoretical tests though, the most important thing in choosing web browsers is the speed. Thankfully IE 8 beta seems to run a quick browser rendering engine. A couple of sites that works with IE 7 breaks (like Eurogamer) but this is still good news because IE 8 will now follow web standards by default, and hopefully this will force the web masters at Eurogamer to redesign their recently redesigned glitchy frontpage. On the other hand IE 8 beta also comes with a built-in IE 7 engine which you can use if you prefer Microsoft's interpretation of CSS.
A new feature that I do fancy is called Activities. When a user highlights a body of text within a web page, a pop up with a little green arrow will appear. By selecting it a menu will appear which gives the user the option to search the text highlighted through the search engine of their choice. More search engines can be added via the IE 8 website such as eBay and Live Search Maps. It isn't just search engine. Activities includes option to send the text through e-mail, or translate them via Windows Live. Right now the choices of Activities are a bit sparse, but I hope to see more include in the future like the option to blog through Blogger or to translate via Babelfish.
IE 8 seems to be a huge step for Microsoft as it will be a change of web browsing philosophy, with the company finally embracing web standards. Firefox still has the upper hand in terms of customisation, though the ever increasing bloatedness of the browser (even without add-ons) is something I hope try to sort. And Opera is still the most nimble browser ever created. Either way, with the release of IE 8 beta, an increase in developer competition should be expected. This will hopefully lead to a better web browsing experience for everyone.