A preview of Internet Explorer 9 has been released to the public earlier this week to test the waters with early adopters. If you are keen to download a copy (which is a painless installation and can run side-by-side with your existing version of Internet Explorer), you can grab it here. Bear in mind, this will only work on Windows 7 and Windows Vista so if you have Windows XP you are out of luck.
So what does it look like?
At the moment, it is very plain indeed. Microsoft has advised that it will be refreshing the preview every eight weeks to include the features found in prior browsers. It does include some significant optimisations though, such as:
- official support for HTML5 (which provides native support for H.264 media without a plugin),
- official support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 (Second Edition).
I’ve only used it for under an hour but I can say that it is incredibly snappy but not sure that I would use it yet as my primary browser. Given that fundamental things like tabbed browsing, the address bar and even the back and forward buttons are missing it could prove to be quite confusing and frustrating for those of us not content with using the menus or keyboard shortcuts.
At the moment, IE9 scores 55/100 on the Acid3 test. In the past, Microsoft has not been especially keen in passing this test with flying colours but we may see things change here as uniform rendering across browsers is well and truly in the sights of the project team responsible for the development of this version of Internet Explorer. On paper, IE9 is still slower than Firefox and Chrome but has significantly closed the gap to hundreds of milliseconds instead of thousands of milliseconds.
Could this perhaps be a demonstration from Microsoft that they can actually compete when they find the motivation? Microsoft has pulled a few gems out of the hat lately, including Windows 7, Zune HD, Office 2010 and Windows Phone 7 Series might get some legs as well (putting aside the horrible name).
Perhaps there is a hidden agenda on Microsoft’s part by supporting HTML5 to put a dent in Adobe’s stranglehold on the market and to give Silverlight a leg up?
It will remain to be seen how IE9 shapes up but there is certainly no harm in downloading the preview and giving it a shot. I’ll come back and look at the subsequent refreshed versions of IE9 as they become available but for the time being I will be sticking with Firefox.