IE 9 (RC): ups and downs

Mar 03, 2011 by Oana


Last month, on February 10, Microsoft has launched the release candidate (RC) for IE 9 browser. Theoretically, this is the last phase of development before the RTM (ready to manufacturing) version, the company focusing on fixing the remaining bugs. At first glance, the World Wide Web is filled with criticism against IE 9, the users being disappointed by the outcome, but if you take a second look and install the RC you'll see that (as any other software application) IE 9 has both ups and downs.

Although I personally gave up using IE a long time ago in favor of Firefox, I do have it installed and I employ the Microsoft browser occasionally. What I like about IE9 RC is that it's pretty easy to install and doesn't interfere with my default browser, practically I can run both browsers in parallel. Although this version of IE has improved in terms of performance, when it comes to looks the results aren't that great.

Inspired by Chrome (at least in my opinion), Microsoft has unified the search tab with the address bar for an easier and faster search, which is pretty neat. What I don't like is that if you have only one tab opened, by closing that tab the entire application closes, and this can be really frustrating. The new UI has a clean, almost minimalist design, which includes the "Home", "Favorites" and "Tools" buttons.

A big plus which is widely appreciated by developers is that IE 9 brings in "future-oriented" features compatible with HTML5 and CSS3 standards. Although we may have to wait a while until these standards are widely spread, it's good to know that when the time comes IE 9 will be fully equipped.

Other neat features include: "Pinned" sites which can support multiple tabs, the "Tracking Protection" functionality which helps users dodge persistent ads, an improved JavaScript runtime, better security features thanks to a new "Safety" menu, the "ActiveX" filter which allows users to disable any plugin faster, an enhanced "Download Manager," less RAM consumption, etc..

All these improvements are Microsoft's attempt to stop the galloping loss of market share, and I have to admit that until now it was pretty convincing: IE9 Beta has been downloaded 25 million times. Even more, the RC version succeeds to fill in the gaps in terms of security and privacy, thanks to the enhanced features. But let's see how IE 9 is handling its rivals: Firefox and Chrome.

IE 9 vs. Chrome 9 vs. Firefox 4

As I see it IE's biggest threat is Chrome, which in three years after its initial development has reached version no. 9 and continues its expansion in terms of markets share. See chart here: http://gs.statcounter.com/ .

Compared with IE, Google Chrome 9 brings in "Google Instant Search" feature, 3D hardware acceleration and Chrome Web Store (which is filled with web apps that can be tried out for free). On the other hand, Firefox 4 has an enhanced UI, its very own "online tracking opt-out mechanism" and benefits from WebGL hardware acceleration which improves the performance of online 3D graphics without using plugins (the same stander is employed by Chrome) + a JavaScript engine named J├ĄgerMonkey.

Even if IE 9 is Microsoft's most successful browser since IE 4, its main issue is that it only is compatible with Windows 7 and Vista, so it doesn't run on XP, this way losing plenty of users (XP still holds more than 50% of the Windows OS market). So when IE is losing, Firefox and Chrome are winning.

Rumors have it that a final version of Internet Explorer 9 is expected to be announced at the MIX 11 event in April. So, we have less than a month to wait until Internet Explorer 9 will be released in its best shape.


Tags: Microsoft 


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