With competition in the Web browser market continuing to mount, Microsoft is responding with more frequent releases of Internet Explorer. The company announced the first release candidate — a near-final version — of Internet Explorer 8 is available today.
The release candidate, which has improvements to visual search, private browsing and a smart address bar,
can be downloaded from this page. [Update, 12:13 p.m.: This link only offers a download of Beta 2 of IE8. I’m checking on where you can get the release candidate bits and will post a link here as soon as I find out.]
[Update, 12:34 p.m.: Behind this link, you’ll find the various flavors of the Internet Explorer 8 release candidate for various Windows operating systems — Vista, XP, Server 2003, etc.]
A more detailed list of features can be found in this story on the second test release of IE8 in September.
“We had a feature complete browser at beta and really focused on the time between beta and now to take feedback from customers to make sure we could understand issues they may be having, but also tweak new features we’d added,” said Mike Nash, corporate vice president for Windows Product Management.
Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6 in 2001 and let five years pass before releasing a final version of IE7 in October 2006.
That earlier lag time between releases allowed competitors to gain ground. As recently as 2004, Internet Explorer had more than 90 percent of the browser market. In summer 2008, IE’s market share was 73 percent, Firefox had 19 percent and Apple’s Safari had 6 percent, according to Net Applications.