Internet Explorer 9 released globally today


14 Mar 2011

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Microsoft has launched the finished version of Internet Explorer 9 globally, which includes hardware acceleration, improved security and features such as “pinned sites.”

According to Microsoft, the beta of Internet Explorer 9 has been downloaded more than 40m times, gaining more than 2pc of usage on Windows 7.

Some 250 sites have partnered with Microsoft to take advantage of some of the new features on the browser, including Facebook, WordPress, Dailymotion, Pandora and The Huffington Post.

“We were working with some early adopter sites and we’ve gotten positive feedback from both developers and those who own the sites,” said Ronnie Dockery, Microsoft’s client lead, speaking to Siliconrepublic.com.

“The feedback we’re getting is that it’s really easy to upscale your site to integrate HTML5 to it and to pin your site to the taskbar.”

Cleaner UI

The browser UI itself has gotten a redesign, focusing on a cleaner, less cluttered appearance.

“The idea round IE9 is to bring the site to the fore and take away the clutter of the browser,” said Dockery.

“When people use their PCs at home, they spend a lot of their time consuming content. With IE9, we’re highlighting the website in a really simple and clean way.”

Hardware acceleration

Internet Explorer 9 utilises Windows PC hardware to enhance web browsing performance. Using the GPU, Microsoft claims that Internet Explorer 9 unlocks “90pc of the PC’s power” for a faster web-browsing experience.

Dockery believes this will help Internet Explorer 9 stand out from competitors, such as Firefox and Google Chrome.

“The hardware acceleration is taking the full value of your PC and by default it’s much faster,” said Dockery.

The next versions of Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft Silverlight will take advantage of IE9’s hardware acceleration.

New web technologies

IE9 also has support for new web technologies, including CSS3, SVG and HTML5. Dockery said HTML5 makes sites seem more like native apps.

“It’s a really rich experience,” said Dockery. “It takes websites to the next level in terms of interactivity, with rich content and high-definition videos.”

Pinned Sites and JumpList

The web browser also has Windows 7 integration, with features such as Pinned Sites and JumpList.

These allow users to put websites directly to the Windows 7 taskbar, letting them perform tasks related to the sites, such as checking an email, accepting a friend invitation or checking breaking news.

“It’s powerful because people go back to your site all the time and your site becomes their de facto music site or news site,” said Dockery.

Security

IE9 has more new security features implemented. Tracking Protection is one, which allows people to control what sites they want to share their information with and more importantly, what sites they don’t want to share information with.

Users can put sites on Tracking Protection Lists to help manage who can and can’t access their data.

Internet Explorer 9 also integrates SmartScreen malware protection with the Download Manager.

SmartScreen uses reputation data to remove unnecessary warnings for familiar files and shows more severe warnings when a download could have a higher risk of being malicious.

Browser wars

The update on Internet Explorer could be what Microsoft needs in order to make its web browser more dominant again.

Recent statistics show that Firefox is the No 1 browser in Europe, though Internet Explorer still has the top spot in Ireland.

"This is the first time that IE has been dethroned from the No 1 spot in a major territory," said Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, on the release of the web browser statistics.

"This appears to be happening because Google’s Chrome is stealing share from Internet Explorer while Firefox is mainly maintaining its existing share."

Firefox is also planning release version 4 of its browser soon, after recently launching its release candidate.

With such strong competition from Firefox and Chrome, Microsoft needed to up its game in order to remain relevant in the evolving nature of the web. It seems to be heading in the right direction, particularly with added security features and support for HTML5.

Will the release of IE9 help change Microsoft’s web-browsing fortunes or do Firefox and Chrome hold a firm grip on the market?