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August 28, 2008

New IE8 Features Detailed

Microsoft's new beta of Internet Explorer 8 has a host of new features, as detailed here with screen shots from Ars Technica.  One feature is of way more interest than the others, and that is "privacy mode."  The short of it is that privacy mode will help maintain a user's privacy by erasing cookies and temporary files in the cache from the last browsing session.  It will also delete scripts from sources that allow tracking over multiple web sites, such as scripts used by ad providers for targeted advertising.  Google Analytics relies on such scripting. 

Google, Yahoo, and others rely on cookies and other scripting strategies to deliver the goods and make the bundles of cash that Microsoft so greatly covets.  Cue the image of Steve Ballmer in a darkened office half-profiled in ambient street light rubbing his hands.  Those files are read countless times by servers when users visit any number of web sites that are tied into multiple ad networks.  That's part and parcel of the commerce business model on the web.  So it seems that if Microsoft can't dent Google's  market share for ads and services, perhaps it can fracture the market so no one can effectively have it.  Or is that view too cynical?  Some would suggest that companies such as Comcast, AT&T and others would try to manipulate their networks under the guise of "network management" to disadvantage their competitors for video download and other services.  But we've never seen anything like that in the broadband market, have we?

Microsoft might be able to pass this off as a response to protecting Internet user privacy, but there are broader implications.  Like 'em or not, a lot of the Internet works via cookies and scripts.  All of those shopping carts that conveniently remember their contents, those recommendations from Amazon, all of those logins to newspaper sites and any number of web conveniences work from this technology.  Some music services load music streams via the cache as flash or swf files which are retrievable and replayable.  Content owners may be thrilled if these files are quickly deleted, but users might not.  The convenience of the cookie/script technology may force consumers to turn this feature off. 

Microsoft should be complimented for actually offering a choice to users to protect their privacy.  It's better than the several steps one has to use to manually delete files, cookies, and other tracking objects from the cache.  I'm not sure the Internet offers a middle ground between privacy and convenience.  I have a funny feeling that convenience will win out for most users, just as I have a funny feeling that this feature is aimed squarely at Google.

Download IE8 Beta 2 here.  [MG]

August 28, 2008 | Permalink


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