Internet Explorer 9 surprisingly good, but Firefox 4 coming too

March 21st, 2011 | by Raymond Lau

Microsoft officially took the wraps off the final version of Internet Explorer 9 in Singapore today. We’ve reviewed the beta previously, and nothing earth-shattering has been added since then. The spanking new browser saw mainly performance tweaks and interoperability enhancements in its final version.

For the benefit of those not up to speed with the browser, let’s do a re-cap of its new features: IE9 is very, very fast due mainly to hardware acceleration, it has a clean new interface, it complies with Web standards, and you can do neat things with websites like pin websites to your Windows 7 taskbar. Developers can even take advantage of jump lists by coding their websites appropriately.

As you can see, there’s really nothing new to review. IE9 is a surprisingly good browser; once Web developers update their website to render their pages correctly – and not assume that every IE is born equal – there could potentially be an uptake in usage.

According to Windows Client Business Group Lead Matthew Hardman, that’s not a very difficult thing to do. The IT staff at Citibank, for example, took only one day to optimise their site for Internet Explorer 9, providing personalised experiences to their customers through custom jump lists. Other Singapore companies which have adopted IE9 in its Web design strategy include Golden Village Cinemas and DBS.

Microsoft claims that IE9 blocks 99 per cent of socially engineered malware attacks, five times more than Firefox and 33 times more than Chrome. The browser comes with its own ad blocker of sorts called Tracking Protection, which is designed to stop third-party content from tracking the user’s browsing habits.

But the feather in Microsoft’s cap is surely IE9’s extensive support for Web standards, such as HTML5 and CSS3. In fact, one of the browser’s unique selling point is the decreased reliance on plug-ins for displaying content, letting pure lines of text code do all the work. IE9 is thus future-proof to a certain extent. At the same time, a compatibility view button lets users “fix” weird-looking pages by switching back to old IE mode.

But with Firefox 4 coming on March 22, Microsoft’s browser could be in for a tough fight, especially in view of the former’s strong ecosystem of extension developers. Regrettably, the company currently has no formal plans to enhance IE9’s add-on ecosystem, something which we’re sure will put off power users.

All in all, IE9 seems to have successfully struck the sweet spot between performance and compatibility, though it’s a pity that Windows XP users won’t get the upgrade.

To see for yourself just how good this browser is, visit the Internet Explorer Test Drive site and compare how various tests perform when run in IE9 or your other favourite browser.

Meanwhile, here’s Hardman giving you a quick preview of the browser for Techgoondu:

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