What browser do you use? If you’re the average internet user, you use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It came bundled with your PC and you never found a compelling enough reason to switch.

But despite Microsoft’s marketshare, we shouldn’t let the numbers fool us: there’s still a battle being waged in the browser market. And it’s no surprise why: there’s a lot of value in owning the application people use to access the internet with.

Earlier this week Google released a new beta version of its browser, Chrome, that it claims is 25% to 35% faster than the current stable version and that also includes a number of new features, such as auto-fill and full page zoom.

Yesterday, Google followed up that release with the launch of ChromeExperiments.com, which highlights JavaScript applications that take advantage of the superior JavaScript engine Google claims Chrome has. ReadWriteWeb has a good overview of some of the cooler applications.

While Chrome marketshare is still nowhere near within striking distance of Firefox or IE, it’s obvious that Google isn’t giving up on Chrome and has a real desire to compete. But it won’t have the spotlight all to itself this week. Microsoft is gearing up to launch IE8 today and the reviews thus far are pretty positive. Some are trading in their old browsers, while others are stopping at calling it an improvement.

Given Microsoft’s experience with Vista, a major release that’s considered an ‘improvement‘ is probably music to the ears of everyone in Redmond.

IE8 sports a number of significant new features and ironically, it’s getting high marks from some for its security prowess. For web designers and developers, the best news may be that web standards compatibility is improved.

Since older versions of IE required designers/developers to develop little ‘hacks’ to ensure IE compatibility, Microsoft has included a compatibility button that makes it easy for users to browse pages that were designed for the less-standards-friendly older versions of IE. That was nice of them.

Of course, Microsoft is in a different position than its most powerful competitors, Google and Mozilla. It’s the incumbent and it needs to defend that position; Google and Mozilla need to come up with something that gets IE loyalists (and the apathetic) to take their side.

If IE8 is well-received, it will be interesting to see what salvos Google and Mozilla fire next. From my perspective, so long as all armies maintain a decent level of respect for basic human rights (e.g. standards compatibility), the browser wars are tolerable.

Photo credit: Matrixizationized via Flickr.