Latest version of Internet Explorer worth test driving
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in Vancouver March 29-April 4, 2011 issue #1118
Many people browse the web using whatever is pre-installed on their
For Windows users, that means double-clicking the blue letter “e” icon
that represents Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE). Many others,
however, have considered IE slow and insecure. They prefer to seek out
and install alternative web browsers like Mozilla Firefox, or lately,
Google’s Chrome. Worldwide IE’s market share dropped below 50% for the
first time last fall.
Microsoft hopes to change those opinions; Internet Explorer 9, released
in mid-March, stands a good chance of doing that.
IE9 is a complete redesign of Microsoft’s browser. It has a clean,
minimalist interface designed to keep the focus on online content.
Performance has been turbocharged, surpassing even previous speed
champion Chrome – at least by some measures. Support for hardware
acceleration further boosts speed, making this perhaps the best Windows
browser to use on graphics-intensive sites.
It’s also the first Internet Explorer version to largely comply with
web design standards, though this may prove to be a mixed blessing. A
new tracking protection feature promises improved privacy protection.
Like Chrome, the address box does double duty as a search box; you can
type search terms into it when you don’t know the address. Also new:
site pinning lets Windows 7 users pull a website icon down to the
taskbar, where it will sit just as if it were an application, though
many users may never discover this handy feature.
The 61% of Windows users who are still running XP won’t have a chance
to discover any of IE9’s features. It’s only available (from www.beautyoftheweb.ca)
to Windows Vista and Windows 7 users. IE9’s hardware acceleration won’t
work with XP. Users of 64-bit Vista or Win 7 versions will discover
that the 32-bit version of IE9 is faster and provides better
compatibility with browser add-ons; installing the 64-bit IE9 version
also installs the 32-bit version (labelled just ‘Internet Explorer 9’
in the start menu).
IE9’s improved adherence to web standards means that, ironically, it’s
less compatible with sites optimized for the quirks of earlier Internet
Explorer versions. Many business sites, in particular, were designed
specifically with XP’s once widely used IE6 in mind.
With the release of IE9, Microsoft is hoping the 12% of computer users
who have stuck with the old Internet Explorer 6 will finally move on.
That’s good advice: IE6 is slow, insecure and has forced developers to
include non-standard design tricks.
These hard-core IE6 users tend to fit into one of two categories:
•those (most often outside North America and Europe) running pirated
copies of Windows XP; and
•users in large organizations whose websites and internal network pages
have been designed with that browser in mind.
Neither group is going to be quick to move to IE9, in part because of
its lack of support for Windows XP. (Ironically, XP users may be best
off moving to a non-Microsoft web browser.)
Internet Explorer isn’t the only browser with a recent new release.
recently released version 10, though because Chrome updates itself
quietly in the background, users may not have noticed. Chrome has been
the fastest-growing browser of late, with use rising about 1% each
month. Mozilla Firefox’s version 4.0 was finally released near
the end of March.
Despite all these new and improved web browsers, increasingly web
traffic is bypassing browsers entirely. Typically, smartphone and
tablet users, for instance, access content on YouTube, Google Maps, the
CBC and more through dedicated apps, rather than their gadget’s
browser. And even on personal computers, dedicated applications are
becoming commonly used for social networking sites like Twitter and
other online sites.
Nevertheless, take a look at Internet Explorer 9 whether you’re using
an older IE version or one of that browser’s alternatives – at least if
you’re running Windows Vista or 7.