Will IE 9 put Microsoft back in the web browser game?

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Will IE 9 put Microsoft back in the web browser game?

Post by shanaya on September 23rd 2010, 7:28 pm

Will IE 9 put Microsoft back in the web browser game?

Although Internet Explorer still has the largest market share of any web browser, the trend has been downward as users desert for Firefox, Chrome or Safari. But can that trend be reversed? We've been hearing a lot lately about the next version of the IE web browser, and it's finally been released - or at least, the public beta has. The unveiling came on September 15 at a launch event in San Francisco, where corporate Vice President Dean Hachamovitch spoke to web developers and others about the company's view of Windows and the web. You can read the transcript of his speech here:
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-hachamovitch

Microsoft's PR for the new product is this time not on security or speed, but on "unleashing a more beautiful web." You can download the beta here:
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-beauty

You'll see that the download site itself tries to be an example of that "more beautiful" web experience, with some impressive visuals, from the sample sites that move when you hover over them to the way the rest of the content drops off the page and the download dialog box swoops gracefully in to take center stage when you click the download button.

The beta is available in English for both 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 7 and Vista (but not for XP). You can also get it in a number of different languages, from Arabic to Ukrainian (29 languages in all). The download file is 2.37 MB and takes only seconds to download on a broadband connection. The installation itself is extremely fast, as well.

So what's new? Of course, the big difference is the much touted support for HTML5, the latest version of the Hypertext Markup Language, which is the standard for presenting web content. HTML5 supports many new elements that give web developers more flexibility in creating interactive web sites, and it will be supported by all the major web browsers. The new version of HTML also contains audio and video elements that will make it possible to play back sound and movies without having to use plug-ins such as Flash. You can see a gallery of sites that use HTML5 here:
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-html5

The look of IE 9 is extremely simplified in comparison with IE 8. You won't see the Favorites bar across the top, nor the menu toolbar. In fact, it resembles Google's Chrome in that respect. Personally, I don't like this minimalist approach - oh, it looks okay, but for me it's not nearly as functional as having the things you need right there where you can access them with a single click. So the first thing I did was enable the Favorites bar, the command bar and the status bar, which you can do by right clicking to the right of the tabs. Then I unlocked the toolbars, which allowed me to move the command bar down to a second row. You can still add or remove commands on the command bar, but I could find no immediately obvious way to get back the menu bar (File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools, Help). More annoying is the tiny size of the address box, which makes it impossible to see all of a long URL.

Some things that I noticed right off the bat that I do like include the options in the Tools menu to Send to OneNote, Blog the page in Windows Live Writer, and Create Mobile Favorites. You can also add these as buttons to the command bar. When you do enable the Favorites bar, it will retain your Favorites from IE 8. I also like the performance. IE 9 brought up most of the web sites I tested noticeably faster than IE 8 on the same machine. Thanks to hardware acceleration, IE 9 can use your graphics card's GPU to speed things up. BetaNews reported that IE 9 outperformed Firefox (both 3.6.10 and 4.0 beta 5) and vastly outperformed IE 8, but not the latest version of Chrome:
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-efficiencytest

And here's something neat: if you have a bunch of toolbars installed by sites or by your PC vendor (Google toolbar, Yahoo toolbar, etc.), it's now easy to disable them in one fell swoop. The first time you boot the browser, it asks if you want to speed up browsing and startup by disabling the add-on toolbars. It even shows you how much time each add-on toolbar takes up in browser startup time.

One of my favorite new features is "pinned sites." How many times has this happened to you: You like to keep Facebook (or any other site) open in your browser but you open some other sites, then you close those sites and accidentally close the one you wanted to stay open? It's happened to me many times. With IE9, you can "pin" those favorite sites to the Windows taskbar. You just drag the site's icon from the IE address bar over to the Windows taskbar and now you have an icon for that site there. If you close the site in IE, or even close IE completely, that icon stays on the taskbar and you can open the site directly from there. Some sites even display a jump list from that taskbar icon. For instance, if you right click the LinkedIn icon on the Windows taskbar, you see choices for Home, My Inbox, My Profile, My Connections and My Groups, so you can go directly to whichever of those you want. This is very convenient.

As with Chrome, the address box also functions as a search box. Type your search term there and you get (by default) the Bing search results. In today's "how to" section, we'll tell you how to add Google (or another search engine) to IE 9. When you click the New Tab page (the small tab at the very right in your row of tabs), you'll see a list of your most frequently visited sites, as well as links to reopen closed tabs and reopen your last browsing session and a link for InPrivate Browsing. You won't see the "Use an Accelerator" option that was on the New Tab page in IE 8.

Another new feature is the download manager that shows your recently downloaded items. To get to this, Click Tools and "View downloads." Here you can view, track and search your downloads. If you don't want this information retained (for instance, if you don't want others to be able to see what you've downloaded), you can clear the list with a single click.

Now here's something interesting: Aero Snap works with IE 9 tabs. You can drag a tab to the edge of the screen and it will resize there in the same way a program window does. So you could put one tab on one side and another on the other to compare the two. I'm not sure, though, whether there is a way to recombine them in the same IE window.

The security and privacy features have been improved, too. The SmartScreen filter uses a download reputation service that gives you information about download files and the reputations of their publishers to help you decide whether they're safe. This means you don't get so many unnecessary warnings with known good files, and you get more serious warnings if a file shows signs of being malware. However, this feature is not visible in the beta version of IE 9 (although it's there).

Interestingly, at least one analyst sees IE 9 as indicative of Microsoft's Cloud strategy, writing that it shows the company still expects PCs that are capable of working without an Internet connection (so-called rich clients) to dominate. That's in opposition to Google, which is creating an operating system that will essentially be nothing more than a web browser where all applications will be delivered over the web.
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-cloudstrategy

I applaud Microsoft's philosophy and approach to this issue. I don't want to be totally dependent on the Internet. I was on the road (and in the air) last week and traveling always reminds me of just how unreliable Internet connectivity still can be. I'm very glad that I could still write an article on my laptop even when I wasn't connected to the 'Net.

According to MSNBC.com, there were more than two million downloads of IE 9 during the first two days after it became available. This is up considerably from the beta launch of IE 8, which resulted in 1.3 million downloads over the first five days:
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-1st2days

Tell us what you think. Have you downloaded and installed the beta of IE 9? How do you like it? Does it seem faster? Do you like the new streamlined interface or did you turn your toolbars back on? What's your favorite feature? What's missing? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forums at
http://www.win7news.net/4I12A4/100923-forumIE9


I am downloading to try it out. Who knows? Maybe I will actually use it. :p
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Re: Will IE 9 put Microsoft back in the web browser game?

Post by Carl D on September 26th 2010, 2:09 am

I'm tempted to try it. But, up until now, the only thing I ever use IE for is Windows Update (in XP and prior Windows versions).

I'm a Firefox person. Smile

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