It’s no secret Microsoft’s browser lost ground as savvy Internet users ditched Internet Explorer for the faster, more modern Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. But Microsoft has a real competitor once again with IE9, released at midnight Monday night on Windows 7 and Vista after several months of beta testing.
The focus is on speed, privacy and simplicity, with a stripped-down interface, tracking protection, pinned sites, jump lists and enhanced support for HTML5.
While tracking protection prevents website operators from collecting information about you, InPrivate browsing prevents Internet Explorer itself from storing data about your web surfing habits, including browsing history, temporary Internet files, usernames, passwords and cookies. “InPrivate Browsing prevents Internet Explorer from storing data about your browsing session,” Microsoft says. “This helps prevent anyone else who might be using your computer from seeing where you visited and what you looked at on the web.” InPrivate browsing has been around since IE8 but remains a key privacy tool for users in IE9.
Taking a page from Google Chrome, Microsoft has ripped the clutter out of IE9′s interface, leaving more room for browsing. To add space for web pages, laptop batteries, Microsoft put the URL/search bar and the tabs in the same row. But users who prefer extra room for tabs can switch to a more Chrome-like interface in which the tabs and URL occupy separate levels. To make that change, or to add a menu bar and favorites bar, simply right click near the URL bar to bring up a menu.
Like all major browser vendors, Microsoft is boasting support for HTML5 video and other media, even though the HTML5 specification is still several years from final approval. Microsoft claims hardware acceleration puts it ahead of the competition (Mitac bp-8089 battery), and has set up numerous demos, including this Bejeweled-like tile switch game, to show off IE9′s HTML5 chops.
IE9 scored 135 out of 400 on a test to determine support for the HTML5 standard. On my Windows 7 computer, Firefox scored 159 and Chrome led the way with 301. Caveat: The test seems to indicate what percentage of HTML5 features each browser supports, but not the functionality of each supported feature. The test does not cover all HTML5 features, either.
IE9′s tracking protection is like a “do-not-call” list, letting users control whether third party site content can track them online (Toshiba Pa3534u-1bas battery). “Many webpages include content from other websites,” Microsoft says. “When content is loaded from a third party site, standard information, including your IP address and the address of the webpage you’re viewing is sent to each of the third parties that have content in the page you’re viewing.” This is an opt-in service letting users subscribe to tracking protection lists.
As always, Microsoft is all about developers. If you’re a web developer looking to build sites for IE9, make sure to check out Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 Guide for Developers.
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Flying Images: Internet Explorer 8 Vs. Internet Explorer 9 Vs. Google chrome
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