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IE 8 Slowed by Third-Party Software, Microsoft Says

Microsoft admitted last week that some users of Internet Explorer 8 may perceive its newest Web browser as sluggish.

The slowness can be a real problem, rather than a perceived one. Microsoft ascribed such problems to browser addons, pluggable transfer protocols, and non-Microsoft security software, according to an Internet Explorer blog. The culprits are third-party software that bog down IE 8's performance, Microsoft contended, not the browser itself.

For those experiencing slowness, Microsoft suggested running its Process Monitor tool to isolate the problems.

"Process Monitor allows you to view all registry, filesystem, and process activity on your computer, and includes a powerful set of filtering features to enable you to narrow down your view to just one process," the blog explained.

Users can filter out the processes that slow the browser and then save the list of acceptable processes. Addons can be disabled using Internet Explorer's "Manage Add-Ons" command under the Tools menu. The most troublesome addons typically are toolbars and browser helper objects, which will run with each new tab opened in the browser, according to the blog.

Skype, the software used for Internet telephony, gets singled out by Microsoft as one of those addons that will slow the browser. The IE team doesn't provide a resolution for the Skype add-on problem, but describes how to manage addons here.

Pluggable transfer protocols, which are typically installed by download managers, can also affect the browser's performance. However, no advice was given on how to deal with them. An example of a pluggable transfer protocol is "offline frameworks like Google Gears," according to the blog.

Security software can slow IE 8, but Microsoft offered no practical tips for remedying this situation. For instance, some security software (but not Microsoft's) will scan content flowing through Internet Explorer, causing poor performance. In addition, security software can strip out an HTTP header that tells servers to send back compressed content. Security software can also clog the restricted zones list in Internet Explorer, bogging down the browser.

"The Zones system was not designed to accommodate thousands of manually specified sites and performance will suffer when Zones are configured in this way," the blog explained.

Performance can also be hampered when an automatic proxy detection mechanism in Internet Explorer implements the Web Proxy Autodiscovery Protocol (WPAD). Users can disable this protocol in Internet Explorer, but Microsoft doesn't recommend it for corporate users.

Despite all of that, Microsoft still claims that IE 8 is the fastest Web browser. The company described its methodology for making that claim in a white paper published back in March. The measurements made by Microsoft's research team often depended on spotting visual cues to determine browser loading times, rather than other measures.

Overall, Internet Explorer's market share appears to be declining. In the United States market in March, Internet Explorer had a 70 percent market share. However, that share declined to 57 percent in July, according to StatCounter.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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