Internet Explorer 9 hits beta, but will it win users?
Ever since Internet Explorer beat Netscape and turned into the web industry’s least favourite boat anchor, Microsoft has been struggling to turn the tide. IE7 was little more than a statement that it planned to become a contender again, and IE8 was a decent overhaul, but one whose success came firmly from being a Microsoft release rather than because of any intrinsic improvements over its rival Firefox.
With IE9, everything’s changing. For starts, XP isn’t supported – unless you’re on at least vista, you can’t use it. The once heavy, intrusive browser has been stripped down, now focusing on the web content you’re looking at rather than trying to impress you with gimmicky features, heavy interfaces or many of the other IE hallmarks we’ve seen over the last five years. In short, IE 9 is now Google Chrome. It looks like Chrome, it smells like Chrome and, while it doesn’t work as well as Chrome, it’s still in beta.
Many of the new features are ones we’ve seen before, such as being able to rip tabs out of a window at will, or more subtle notifications when IE wants to check that you’re okay with a page or alert you to something. There are some new ones though, including the ability to add bookmarks to your taskbar and run them like applications, and Aero Peek support for the tabs you have open in your browser – at the time of writing, Chrome only displays the active browser window. It feels like Microsoft is putting its ego aside and realising that it’s the web pages that matter. This is how the whole industry is going at the moment, and it’s good to see it not trying to fight it. After all, when you’re the dominant player, you don’t have to. It’s unlikely that IE9 will give you a real reason to switch back, but it should be an excellent update if you use it by choice.