Starting on March 5, 2008, Microsoft made available for download the first public beta of Internet Explorer 8. Two of the new features highlighted by Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager Internet Explorer, during his keynote address at MIX08 in Las Vegas, were Activities and WebSlices. Giving that Hachamovitch's presentation, as well as IE8 Beta 1, is essentially focused on web and content developers, there is not much that the end user can get out of Internet Explorer 8 that he can't get from Internet Explorer 7 or rival browsers such as Opera, Firefox or Safari. Activities and WebSlices are two exceptions, and the videos embedded at the bottom of this article will offer Microsoft's perspective on both.
"With Activities, you can access your services from any
webpage. Activities simplify the common task of copying, navigating, and pasting into a single action. Just make a selection and click on the Activity button or context menu to view your services. Under the hood, an Activity uses a simple XML format called OpenService. The main functions of an Activity are: Preview - viewing a mini representation of the service results on hover of the Activity; and Execute: opening the service in a new tab when the user clicks on the Activity," explained Jane Kim, IE Program Manager.
It is obvious that the Activities set of contextual services has been focused on a close Microsoft and Internet Explorer 8-centric universe that also features integration with some of the closest partners of the company, as well as with Windows Live. By comparison, WebSlices offers a tad more control to the end user, in terms of focusing on just a porting of a website, and benefiting from streamlined access.
"WebSlices bring your favorite pieces of the web with you. WebSlices are portions of a webpage that you can subscribe to and view updates directly from the Favorites bar. WebSlices let you subscribe to a portion of webpage to get updates and view these changes without having to go back to the site. Clicking on the WebSlice button adds the WebSlice to the Favorites bar. In the background, IE checks for updates on a schedule. When IE finds an update, the item on the Favorites bar bolds. You can click on the item to view the details," Kim added.
Update: The WebSlices screenshot was replaced in order to reflect some of the changes we have implemented on Softpedia. As you can very well see, now Softpedia supports Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 WebSlices, permitting you to subscribe to a portion of the website and keep up to date with the news and additional content from the IE8 Favorites bar. How did we do it, you ask? Well it's rather simple, you have to think of WebSlices as a bundle between the hAtom Microformat and the WebSlice format that can be added to a website via HTML annotations. Microsoft even provides web developers with a whitepaper on WebSlices that will get you going in no time.