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Internet Explorer 9: The Best Browser?

Previously known for being bloated, inefficient, dangerous, and non-compliant with well-established standards, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer began to lose hold of its dominance with the rise of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. Will Internet Explorer 9 draw consumers back to Microsoft’s browser for good?

According to Microsoft’s Exploring IE Blog, the new web browser, launched on March 14th, was downloaded over two million times, equivalent to 27 downloads every second.  This could not come any sooner, as Google’s ten percent share of the market seems to grow day-by-day. Featuring a plethora of user interface upgrades and fixes under the hood, it appears as if Internet Explorer may be able to compete with the best of them for some time to come.

What exactly has Microsoft done to gain your respect back? What specific changes have been made to significantly influence consumers to return to Internet Explorer?


User Interface

One of the most important aspects of any program is the user interface, and in this iteration of Internet Explorer, Microsoft opted to follow the minimalist trend while also adding IE-exclusive features. Pinned Sites allows consumers to integrate their Windows 7 taskbar with the Internet, allowing for the pinning of sites that can be returned to later via a shortcut. Realistically, this would be beneficial only for sites that you check constantly, as it yanks out an entirely new window, cluttering your workspace.

Another welcome addition is an entirely new Download Manager, which gives users the ability to manipulate downloads while also checking for malicious files. For some, myself included, the download management on previous iterations of IE has led to many situations in which you lose your files or want to change which file should have priority. It’s great to see that Microsoft made the decision to revamp user interaction with downloads.

Including enhancements to tabs and the new tab page, Internet Explorer 9 finally fixes efficiency issues that were immediately evident in the browser’s predecessor. The new tab page no longer wastes space, displaying your most visited sites. Tabs are now revealed next to the address bar, but there is an option to have a separate row with an additional feature that allows for the closing of inactive tabs. While foreign to many years ago, tabs have rapidly evolved into one of the best features of browsers. Fortunately, Microsoft has finally gotten this aspect of Internet navigation right.

Scripting Engine

Under the hood, Internet Explorer 9 is substantially faster than its predecessor, employing the use of a new JavaScript engine. Internally referred to as Chakra, Microsoft built an engine that has a separate background thread for compiling JavaScript, running it on a separate core when possible. This directly results in blazing-fast speeds. Many benchmark tests have indicated that IE9 is one of the fastest browsers on the market.

Microsoft attributes the efficiency boost to dead code elimination through Chakra, which can deem sections of code unnecessary. Sparking controversy with Mozilla executives, it has been criticized as being buggy, though many, myself included, have yet to encounter these bugs.

Rendering graphics beautifully, Internet Explorer’s hardware-accelerated GPU handles processing-intensive work better than other browsers currently do, but the next version of Firefox will have similar acceleration and will likely compete with

Malware Protection

One of the most important goals going into development was to improve the security features of Internet Explorer. With the help of the new SmartScreen Filter, which employs the use of a technology that analyzes any given files reputation. This is done through through the examination of a complex set of data, including how many other people have downloaded the file and if they found it to be safe or malicious.

While this by no means can replace your tradition malware prevention software, added security measures that protect your personal information are almost always welcome, granted they do not interfere with your experience.

Typography

Prevalent to graphics-oriented individuals, Microsoft’s web browser has lacked many of the most used web fonts. By allowing developers to use the @font-face rule, Internet Explorer now has complete support for the CSS3 fonts module. To translate: all of the sites that differentiate their look through the use of immersive fonts will now appear as they are intended to on Microsoft’s platform.

HTML5 Support

For all of the web developers out there, Internet Explorer 9 has made significant strides to embrace HTML5, including support for HTML5 video and audio tags. Encoding in MP3 and AAC for audio and MPEG-4 AVC for video, further tolerance of file format requires third-party plugins, which drag down browser performance, but not to such an extent that it hurts the overall user experience. In addition to AV support, IE9 can now fully interpret the HTML5 canvas tag and a number of SVG elements.

The Verdict

Similar to the stigma against Windows-based cellphones and PCs, Internet Explorer suffers from a bad reputation. While its improvements in the categories of speed and performance are impressive, it lacks the thriving third-party ecosystem that is required of browsers nowadays.

The general install base of Microsoft’s browser came due to the fact that it is initially installed on every PC running Windows, so it is great that those who do not know alternative options are available will see IE9’s enhancements as beneficial. However, many of those who have the eye to examine the Internet landscape will find that IE9 will not serve them well as a daily driver.

How to Get Your Hands on IE9

One of the most influential incentives to download Internet Explorer 9 is the fact that it is free! There’s no harm in trying out the browser as it will take up a small amount of space and allow you to determine for yourself the browser you prefer.

Compatible with only Windows 7 and Vista, the product is available for download off of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9-specific website.

What do you, browsers and enthusiasts, think of Microsoft’s latest browser? Have you already downloaded it? Do you like the user interface upgrades? Is it significantly faster than the competition? Are you going to use it as your daily driver? Sound off in the comments blow.


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Jack McGrath

Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...


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