Even though I've got little great to say about IE8, there's almost always at least some features worth mentioning. And while I'm happy they decided to put the compatibility view into the back and add a button for it instead (rather than making it default and "standards mode" second), the real innovation, I think, is the web accelerators.
This might actually be a feature we'll see a lot in the future. Especially when you take mobile internet into account... Then when you think about it, it's kind of silly no browser did this before, or operating system for that matter.
How it works? Rather simple really. You select some tekst and a button appears next to it. Click on it to get access to a list of accelerators you've installed. Then you can either click on one of them to be sent to a page, with your selected tekst as argument, or you can get an inline preview of the accelerator.
At first it seems like a long shot, but when you think about the possibilities things can get interesting.
For instance, I've created a small Twitter accelerator that takes your selection and opens your Twitter page, inserting the selected text. All you have to do is press update (and possibly cut some tekst...). I'll leave other textbook cases up for other blogs (google for them).
Now I've encountered a few problems that seem to limit this technology. I have a feeling some of them are security related (and I also have a feeling this feature will be the source of at least two or three exploits before it matures...). Like, my first idea was to create an auto-twitter-poster. But that entails getting a little more details from the user. Either a username and password (and use the API by proxy) or see the page to get the security hash required when posting. But this is impossible. So now the user has to go to your page, the first time, and trust your username with your page. Meh?
Another problem is double encoding. For instance, when you select a colon :, the url will urlencode the colon and then encode the % from the encoding, again. Seems a silly bug.
And I can see a subtle security problem arising here. The accelerator's preview is requested when you hover with your mouse over an accelerator. No biggy, except it also sends the selection when it does so. I'm not sure on the delay, but it's less than 1 second. Not only does this demand a lot from accelerator hosts, it poses a slight privacy risk as those sites get pinged every time you want to use an accelerator.
On the other hand, it seems like windows 7 will come with accelerators as well. I can see that come in handy (but with the same flaws).
I do predict that this feature will pop up in other browsers real quick...
I'm working on a few simple accelerators that seem to be missing from the collection over at MS. I'll post them soon.
You can find them on http://acc.qfox.nl/
. Have fun :)