Microsoft released the latest version of its new web browser – Internet Explorer 9 – late Monday, hoping to fend off recent challenges by Firefox and Google Chrome. It’s available for download in 30 languages at BeautyOfTheWeb.com.
“IE9 has just released around the world,” a booming voice told a cheering crowd at 11:00 pm Monday (04:00 GMT Tuesday) in the Austin City Limits Live concert hall where a launch party was being held.
By delivering Internet Explorer 9 just under two years after the arrival of IE 8 (and only six months after it released a beta version of this browser), Microsoft set something of a record in browser development. But its competitors have been moving even faster.
“Things are about to change,” Microsoft corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch said just hours earlier at a press conference at the South By Southwest Interactive technology festival. “We took a dramatically different tack,” he continued. “It’s a really good day for the Web.”
IE 9’s biggest selling point, as advertised by Microsoft, is the “beauty of the Web.” That’s an artsy way to say that this browser finally catches up with competitors in its support for Web standards and performance. IE9 is built to make the most of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, as well as graphics processing chips that can power videos, games and graphics.
The product was first released to the public in beta form a little over a year ago, and the company claims that the new program’s speed and security will change users’ perception of the web and even foster the creation of a more “beautiful” internet.
Accompanied by a $10m advertising push, Microsoft hopes that IE9 will help stem the rise of rival browsers such as Google Chrome. Ashley Highfield, UK managing director of Microsoft, said that the release marked “the tipping point for the next generation, high definition internet; it’s a critical component for the next chain of events”.
More than 40 million people have already downloaded the beta version of IE9, giving the product a small percentage share (nearly 2-3%) of the global web browser market before it has even officially launched. Microsoft says it has had the highest and fastest adoption rate of any beta product it has ever launched.
Although the company claims that using hardware acceleration makes IE9 a faster browser than any other on offer, Mr Highfield added that the point of the “new web” was the widespread adoption of standards across platforms and programmes. He said more widespread use of the latest programming language, HTML5, would make the web “more beautiful” and easier to access.
The IE9 adopts the same stripped-down interface as Chrome, with all of its earlier controls packed into a single strip of toolbar icons and tabs to represent open pages. But as in the beta version, this design barely lets you see the address of the current page – especially since its combined address/search bar also must accommodate search, refresh and stop icons at all times.
The new browser also effectively allows web sites to look far more like applications than web sites. “Jump lists” allow bookmarks to offer enhanced features if they are added to a user’s tool bar. Music sites, for instance, can include play and pause functions on a menu that appears directly above the site’s icon.
Adopting a cleaner interface, IE9 now uses a single box for web addresses, searching and users’ web history. Since the release of the beta, Microsoft has also improved how IE9 allows users to protect themselves from tracking, and adjusted which notifications pop up.
The long list of partners that have adapted websites to IE9 includes Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Hulu, and Yahoo!, according to Microsoft. “We have worked with partners reaching a billion active Internet users,” Hachamovitch said. “All of these partners are using IE9 to make a more beautiful Web, starting today.”
IE9 promised to be another hit release for Microsoft, which has had market success with the Windows 7 operating system and the Kinect motion-sensing controller accessory for Xbox 360 video game consoles.
IE 9 was zero trouble to download and run on a Windows 7 PC, fully updated with last month’s Service Pack 1 update. Have you tried IE 9? How did the installation go? What do you think of the browser so far? Tell us your thoughts in the comments. [via Digital Trends, Physorg and Washington Post]