Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 - Preview has been made available for download. Though you won't be able to use it in your day to day browsing as of yet as it is in quite row format without any navigational/address bar. We have to click Page > Open > Type in the Web URL to open. Beta series should start in couple of months once things are better managed for end users. Currently it's for enthusiasts who wants to see and test their website/web-app behavior in IE9.
Here are some snaps, I have taken:
Microsoft released what it's calling the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview at its Mix conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, a prototype that's designed to show off the company's effort to improve how the browser deals with the web as it exists today and support for new web technologies that are coming right now.
The new software is only a framework, raw enough that it's still missing a "back" button. But with "a few" updated preview versions set to arrive at eight-week intervals, the project will develop into a beta, a release candidate and eventually the full-fledged product IE9, said Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer and the executive who'll describe the project at Mix.
Coming in the new version is support for new web standards including plug-in-free video; better performance with graphics, text and JavaSript by taking advantage of modern computing hardware; and a new effort at gathering and responding to feedback from those using the prototype software, Hachamovitch said.
IE9 is months from release, but already it holds the potential to alter the browser market. Not only could it reinvigorate competition with a host of new rivals, it could help usher in the cloud computing era that some of those rivals are eager to embrace. In that era, the web transforms from a foundation for static documents and websites into a foundation for interactive programs.
IE6, released in 2001 when Microsoft had won the browser wars of the 1990's, still is widely used today. It's loathed among web developers who want to use more modern web technologies, and despite the release of IE8 a year ago, Microsoft is still saddled with a reputation as a company behind the browser curve. Mozilla's Firefox now accounts for nearly a quarter of usage, Google's Chrome has burst onto the scene and now is in third place, while Internet Explorer continues to gradually lose its share of usage.
With IE9, though, Microsoft is trying to rebuild the browser for the web that's to come through new standards such as HTML5 and CSS3, updates to Hypertext Markup Language for describing web pages and Cascading Style Sheets for formatting.
The software caught the attention of Microsoft's biggest browser rival. "IE9 looks great, very glad to see it. Congrats to the IE team!" said Mike Shaver, vice president of engineering at Firefox backer Mozilla, in a tweet.
"We saw that HTML5 will enable a new class of applications. Those applications are going to stress the browser runtime in ways today's websites don't," Hachamovitch said in an interview. "We realised very quickly that doing HTML5 right was much more about designing all our browser subsystems around what the new apps will need than it was about a particular feature checklist. It's understanding where the apps are going to go and building the platform that will get them there."
With IE8, Microsoft put a priority on complying with existing standards, a dramatic turnaround from an earlier attitude that resentful web developers saw as "Standard? IE is the standard". With IE9 Microsoft is moving its standards religion into the future.
The company signalled its heightened interest in web standards through new engagement in developing HTML5 and SVG, the Scalable Vector Graphics standard that the company shunned for years despite its possibilities for better rendering of graphics such as logos. IE9, those standards arriving as an actual product.
IE9 has "HTML5 through and through," Hachamovitch said, as well as support for CSS3 and for showing SVG 1.1 imagery inline. Hachamovitch's demo shows H.264-encoded HTML5 video, and he said that graphics such as maps are vastly more sophisticated with SVG support.
When Microsoft showed IE9 technology in November, it didn't shy away from IE's poor showing on the Acid3 test of compliance with various standards and technologies. IE8 scores 20 out of 100, the November IE technology reached 32, but the IE9 Platform Preview makes it up to 55. Microsoft also dings the test as imperfect, adding in a blog post, "A key part of our approach to web standards is the development of an industry standard test suite. Today, Microsoft has submitted over 100 additional tests of HTML5, CSS3, DOM [Document Object Model, the structure of a web page] and SVG, to the W3C," the World Wide Web Consortium that oversees HTML and various other web standards.
Hachamovitch distinguishes this from the just-in-time compilation approach of other browsers, which he criticises as a difficult balance of optimising code well without slowing down the arrival of web pages.
With the Chakra approach, "developers don't have to change their mark-up. The web page didn't have to change. Essentially, dual- and quad-core machines get put to good use," Hachamovitch said.
Microsoft already showed off IE9's use of Direct2D and DirectWrite, interfaces in Windows Vista and Windows 7 that can accelerate graphics and text. At Mix, Hachamovitch's demonstration shows the technology works to speed up SVG graphics as well.
The IE9 Platform Preview itself is a change, too. Previously, Microsoft delivered a more finished product to the world. Now it's trying to get feedback at an earlier stage of development. And it's explicitly seeking comment on a wide range of elements:
"The main technologies to call out here broadly are HTML5, CSS3, DOM and SVG," Hachamovitch said in a blog post. "The IE9 test drive site has more specifics and samples. At this time, we're looking for developer feedback on our implementation of HTML5's parsing rules, Selection APIs, XHTML support and inline SVG. Within CSS3, we're looking for developer feedback on IE9's support for Selectors, Namespaces, Colors, Values, Backgrounds and Borders, and Fonts. Within DOM, we're looking for developer feedback on IE9's support for Core, Events, Style and Range."
Alphabet soup, to be sure. But when it comes to building a modern web, those letters all reflect important standards. Microsoft's embrace is all the more significant given that, with its Windows and Office businesses, has the most to lose from the migration of applications from the PC to the cloud.
Incompatible with Windows XP
Microsoft won't say just when it expects to ship Internet Explorer 9, but whenever it does, it won't be running on Windows XP.
"Building a modern browser requires a modern operating system," said Hachamovitch.
The preview version that was shown contains the Chakra engine, but not the full user interface (or even a back button), which requires Vista Service Pack 2 or later.
One of the areas of focus was on the ability to play HTML5 video. As for which video codecs Microsoft will support, Hachamovitch would only commit to H.264.