IE9 - Giant leap or one small step?

Is Microsoft's choice of development track for IE9 ego-rubbing or user-centric development? Either way is it too-little too-late for the IE dynasty?

Next week will see the release if Internet Explorer 9.  But despite the invitable fanfare from the massive PR machine at Microsoft does this new release really represent something groundbreaking or is it too-little, too-late?  We're going to explore what's new in IE9 to see what's really on the horizon.

Where is the web going?

As Internet Explorer loses browser-market share developers and designers have been bolstered by the emerging big-player's desire to bring forth standardisation.  This approach is necessary because what the internet is, in essence, is moving so dramatically from the collection of static text that it was fifteen years ago to the fluid conversation of content, images, video and audio that it is today.

What's more dramatic perhaps is that it has escaped the confines of the conventional browser.  Content is now created and consumed on devices like mobiles and TVs through bespoke apps that are not confined to an HTML environment. 

What new features are important?

For a year now we've been plotting the progress of HTML5 and CSS3 development and standardisation.  We've broken these new features down into a couple of slightly arbitrary sections:

  • CSS3 - Browser capabilities that allow designers to describe design more simply.
  • Embedded Content - Audio & video content and in-browser drawing.
  • Web Applications - New tools for complex services like on-line mail.
  • Forms - New models for accepting user input in an organised, accessible way.

Eye on the prize...

What is so sad about the new IE9 release is that Microsoft have, it seems, concentrated most of their effort on two things:

  • Canvas
  • CSS3 Selectors

... and the reason this is so sad?  Because IE9 seems to have concentrated on the two features that are pretty well supported through third party plugins; Explorer Canvas and Selectivizr

What the update completely fails to address are those items of functionality that are actually quite hard to address without native browser support that would have a real impact on the lives of users, designers and developers;

  • CSS3 Properties
    Many of which would ubiquitous (and therefore useful) if Microsoft would support them.
  • Web Applications
    Features that would make a practical difference to their user's experience and which again often have full support from Opera, Webkit & Mozilla.
  • HTML5 Form Controls
    Features that provide more than the basic set of form controls which otherwise hasn't changed since the Internet Explorer 1. 

Why these changes?

It seems apparent to me both from the choice of developmental direction and the tone of the IE9 Preview site that the concentration has been squarely focused on wowing the media and has entirely ignored both the development community and their user base.  

The elephant in the room.

Finally, yes, I haven't forgotten the elephant in the room: IE6.  Whether Microsoft has oganised themselves into a strategy that does anything about the stalwarts still using IE6 remains to be seen.  It seems there is some doubt the IE9 release will have any effect at all.

What I would be interested to know is will those people who do move away from IE6 do so towards a new version of IE - in which case why have they not done so already - or will they move to a new browser all together.  

Is Microsoft leading or lingering?

Well they're lingering aren't they? Our browser support charts show this quite clearly.

There is not a single feature where Internet Explorer trumps another browser and yet there are dozens of quite important features where Microsoft fails to meet otherwise universal support.

Furthermore most of the ticks that are appearing in the IE9 column can be made to appear with a Explorer Canvas and Selectivizr making, in my opinion, a bit of a mockery of the whole release and certainly no demonstrable difference to anyone who's not benchmarking their PC.

The truth of IE9

This new browser seems entirely focused therefore on demonstrating that a bit of hardware acceleration makes all the difference without addressing the key IE problems that the wider comunity complains about so vehemently and so constantly.  

IE9 will, I predict, become derided by developers just as all the other itterations have and Microsoft will continue to lose market share to Apple, Google and Mozilla.

IE9 itself will be shown for what it really is; ego rubbing and a few rather irrelevant benchmarks. 

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Write a comment.

Responses. (7)

  1. M O



    "IE9 will, I predict, become derided by developers just as all the other itterations have and Microsoft will continue to lose market share to Apple, Google and Mozilla."

    Microsoft should just give up on the web browser game and leave it to the pros.

    I'm dreading the thought of having to support 3 iterations of IE now (IE7, 8 and 9). And I feel sorry for those who are still forced (by company policy) to support IE6 still as well.

    Hopefully users will upgrade to IE9 sooner than later and we can stop supporting IE7 at least. Sigh...

  2. a o


    u wont know

    leave it to the future before you jump to conclusions that ie will lose market share.. firefox is losing out to chrome right now safari is not even in the game. ie9 is probably going to perform up to par such that you wont even need an alternative browser except chrome(it is outstanding i must say)

  3. D W


    What about Mac?

    Great post Jim - one thing I've not heard much talk about yet is whether Microsoft have a Mac version of IE9 up there sleeve.

    Surely to compete with Chrome, Safari Firefox and even Opera this release needs to be cross platform compatible…

    …but you never know! ;o)

  4. J M


    @Daryl - Mac Version

    Interesting, a Mac version!

    Somehow I doubt it though; this release seems to be more about hardware acceleration than anything else which would suggest they're still focused on Windows as a competitive platform (no surprise there of course).

    A Mac version of a MS would surely be a much bigger PR coup for Apple than it would be for MS particularly because I assume (guessing here) that MS would find it far harder to build a comparably performing browser on the other side of the fence.

    For what it's worth I might be entirely misinterpreting MS's motivation for IE9 and the beta may surprise us all. I'd prefer to be wrong to be honest... we'll see tomorrow.

  5. P I


    IE9 doesn't do jack shit for 70% of windows users

    66-70% of windows folks are still on winxp, and not in the win7 or vista camp.

    That means no IE9 for them.

    Will they decide to upgrade their web experience by switching from IE6 to something better? They havent done so thus far, only now it costs $89 a pop.

    But maybe the energy behind HTML5 will push companies to make an investment in their platform and throw down the cash.

    Unlikely i think.

    Our major browsers will be IE6, IE8 and >=IE9 for a while. A long while.

  6. K A



    Why does the link from "findmebyip" of "IE9 Beta Update" come to this article?

    A bit mis-leading. I as expecting an update on IE9 support, instead it's another article about "oh the mess we're in" but with an IE9 flavour :P

  7. P M


    Issues with IE9

    IE9 doesn't seems to be that stable at present. Eg: One of the gwt sites works with all browser version IE8, Chrome, Firefox, Safari but not with IE9, seems like IE9 has messed up stuff