Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IE9 First Details

Microsoft revealed some first details of Internet Explorer 9 at the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference, as reported by Mashable today. Only in development for three weeks, there's still quite a lot of time before it gets to market. According to Mashable, Microsoft did have the following to say:

  • On HTML 5: Microsoft was coy about whether it would support all of the HTML 5 standards, the next generation of HTML. The company doesn’t seem willing to commit to the standard until it is set in stone, but “wants to be responsible” about supporting it.
  • On Javscript: They admit that their previous browsers don’t match the speed of Firefox or Chrome. However, it appears that IE9 looks to narrow this gap. From some of the data they presented, it looks like they’re getting closer to matching the other browsers (though they don’t beat them).
  • On CSS Support: It looks like IE9 will finally get better CSS support, especially for rounded corners. It’s a disappointment though, when you consider the other browsers have supported these things for years.
  • On Hardware Acceleration: IE9 will utilize DirectX hardware acceleration to improve graphic and AJAX rendering. It will push more work towards the GPU. This is actually looks pretty slick from first appearances.

While I can understand Microsoft's position that HTML5 is not set and therefore may not support everything in the barely-draft spec, some of the elements seem pretty well locked in with only minor syntax and rendering issues left to suss out. To that point, I hope Microsoft can at least work in that support. The CSS support is a whole different story. Given how long the CSS2 spec has been out there (since 1996), it would be nice if they'd commit to fully supporting it, even if they aren't yet sure about CSS3 support.

As Internet Explorer's market share is slowly eroded by Firefox, Safari and Chrome (on a trend that, if projected as a simple linear graph, would see IE go away by 2021), Microsoft is motivated to increase the overall performance of its next browser. Unfortunately, given the slow pace at which IE version 8 is being adopted over older versions (still at 34.1% of all IE installations after release March 19, 2009, versus IE7 at 37.6% after release October 2006 and IE6 at 28.3% from way back in August 2001), it is quite likely that even after IE9 is released it may be years before developers can rely on its features on public-facing web sites.

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