Microsoft Corp on Wednesday made available a test version of Internet Explorer 8, the next edition of its Web browser.

At Microsoft's MIX08 online technology conference, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft's Internet Explorer team, provided a first glimpse at the successor to IE 7, which was released in October 2006.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser is the world's most widely-used Web browser with a greater market share than Apple Inc's Safari or Mozilla's Firefox. The browser is also part of the ongoing battle between Microsoft and arch-rival Google Inc.

Firefox is closely affiliated with Google, which provided around 85 percent of the revenue of Firefox's parent organization, the Mozilla Foundation, which was $66.8 million in 2006, according to filings published last October.

Google distributes Firefox as its preferred browser software in a number of its own products. Mozilla continues to receive revenue from Google under a contract set to expire in November 20, 2008.

Microsoft's presentation was catered heavily toward Web developers, but Hachamovitch showed some user features of IE 8. One feature allows users to save work being done on a Web site to the local computer when an Internet connection goes down.

Another feature lets users highlight an address on a Web site and then see a map within the Web site with a single click. Users can also highlight a product name and be able to see if the item is available for sale on eBay.

The new browser is available to developers here

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the new browser would use the most-standards-compliant mode by default in rendering Web sites.

That means Web sites will essentially look the same regardless of browser and developers will not need to do multiple versions of Web sites for different browsers.

It's a departure from what Microsoft did in IE 7 and seen as a move to assuage developer, regulatory and legal concerns.

The European Union launched a new antitrust investigation into Microsoft to probe complaints from Norwegian browser maker Opera Software about how Microsoft ensures rival Web browsers are not fully compatible with Internet Explorer.

Critics argue that Internet Explorer is inferior to rival browsers and Microsoft maintains its lead because Explorer comes standard with the company's Windows operating system.

Microsoft also said it was making available a test or beta version of its Silverlight 2 multimedia technology. Silverlight 2 is the next version of Microsoft's competitor to Adobe Systems Inc.'s.