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Internet Explorer 9 beta


I’ve been following the development process of IE9 since right near the start. I’ve played with 2 of the platform builds Microsoft put out, getting a feel for the speed of the engine. Even on my lowly computer at work, I was impressed. The speed was there, and it seemed website compatibility has only gone up with each build. However, on September 15, Microsoft released the first beta version of IE9. Curious as always, I downloaded it and installed it onto my home computer.

The installer for the X64 edition weighs in at about 36MB. It extracts itself, only to promptly download about another 40MB before it actually installs itself. I believe these are some Windows Updates needed to run the new browser. My install was on Windows 7, I wonder if Vista users have more updates to download.

A reboot later, I was off and away.
 IE9 #1 IE 9 at startup on my PC.

 

The first thing I noticed was the startup speed. IE9 opens like a rocket, unlike IE8 which can feel very plodding at times. From my informal results, I would say that it is about as fast as Chrome 6 on my PC in startup speed.

Browsing the web itself with the browser is quite nice. Pages are loaded far more quickly than my 384k ADSL connection seems capable of. It seems the idea to accelerate the process using a graphics processor was a wise idea from Microsoft. The whole experience is smooth and doesn’t have that odd tearing and smearing sometimes seen in earlier IE versions.

Page compatibility is high, but not perfect. Many sites I visited had buttons in the wrong place, adverts skewed out of place and other anomalies. Usually, a click of the compatibility button did the trick, but this is far from ideal. Hopefully, as IE9 matures, site compatibility keeps going up. There is no reason why it shouldn’t, as IE9 is so far ahead of IE8 in standards compliance it isn’t funny.

I’m still mixed on the pared down interface, I think it needs some work still to achieve the right balance. There are other annoying issues as well, such as me unable to find out how to add a RSS feed to IE9’s feed reader. In IE8, you had a button that would light up when it found a feed, which you could click to open and add the feed. I see no such thing in IE9, yet strangely enough, one can easily work with existing feeds. Minor interface issues really.

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the IE9 beta. The speed and standards support should go down well with just about everyone. I think that some users may have no reason to switch to another browser after using IE9, as it does just about everything it needs to. Combine that with the stunning power of Group Policy controls for the corporate world, and you have a winner. IT departments who were looking to shift to another browser will no longer need a reason to, unless they are still running Windows XP of course.

Well done to Microsoft, and I look forward to the next beta or whatever else they have in mind.

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