The SmartScreen Filter evaluates URLs and their associated servers. If the software recognizes a server as containing malicious content, it displays a warning, saying it's unsafe to browse to a respective site that could cause harm on the user's computer. The user is then given the option to continue to the page or go back to their home page without downloading any content.
According to Microsoft, the SmartScreen filter continues to improve. In August 2009, it blocked 70 million malware download attempts. At the time, just 15 percent of Web users were surfing with Internet Explorer 8. Today, Microsoft reported, nearly 26 percent of the Web population is using IE8, and the company's SmartScreen filter is blocking "five times more malware month on month" compared to August 2009.
Of course, whether Microsoft's ability to block a billion malware download attempts is really something to gloat about is up for debate. On one hand, the company seems to be doing a better job of keeping users safe. On the other, the fact that that many attempts have been made might speak to security issues that still plague the Windows ecosystem. Regardless, it seems that Microsoft is turning its blocking abilities into a positive thing. And to some extent, it's commendable.
But that won't stop me from choosing Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox over Internet Explorer.