Microsoft is actively looking for a way to make itself more relevant in the web world. With that in mind it makes good sense that the company is building a browser single-mindedly focused on satisfying the needs of its end users. Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is supposedly ready for the average user to test and it comes with host of compelling new features.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit it, but Microsoft is capable of making killer software when the right motivators are in place. That motivation seems to be present now as Google continues to gobble up market share in the online (and offline) advertising space and keeps its stranglehold on search engine traffic.
To fight back, Microsoft is jumping back into its stronghold: a strong majority of web users who access the web with Internet Explorer from within its Windows operating system. If it can appeal to those “average” users, then Microsoft will begin to command more relevance as more people begin to rely on its products. Windows Live Writer is one example of how Microsoft saw an opportunity to connect with bloggers, build goodwill, productivity, and make a whole segment of users dependent on it for a technology solution.
I’m sure a similar strategy will coalesce as Internet Explorer 8 approaches launch. And in fact, it will be continuing a longstanding tradition in the Internet Explorer family.
So what’s the big deal with Internet Explorer 8? There are some features that look compelling, and if Microsoft continues to listen to its user base it could end up being a definite step forward in browser technology.
One concept Microsoft touches on is a general awkwardness web users encounter when they’re trying to pull content from various sources on the web into a remixed presentation, also known as a mesh. Notably, Mozilla is actively exploring the same challenge with its new Ubiquity plug-in.
While Mozilla uses a command line interface, Microsoft uses something it calls Accelerators and a home page that includes links to common online tasks.
Internet Explorer 8 also introduces colored tabs, which help coordinate related topics. Microsoft gives the example of all tabs using the same color that originated from a single search page.
The address bar has a lot more functionality as well, Microsoft calls it the Smart Address Bar.
Microsoft seems to be earnest in its effort to appeal to the average user, “We focused our work around three themes: everyday browsing (the things that real people do all the time), safety (the term most people use for what we’ve called ‘trustworthy’ in previous posts), and the platform (the focus of Beta 1, how developers around the world will build the next billion web pages and the next waves of great services),” according to the company’s blog post.
Those are strong words, but Microsoft sometimes has a tendency to trap its users inside a gilded with ever-escalating costs. Is this the beginning of a different Microsoft that appeals to a new, expanded set of people? On the Internet, the users will decide.