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Internet Explorer 9 is the latest version of Microsoft's web browser. Although it's not expected to be released to the public until 2011, developers may download a preview version for beta testing. They are looking to make a huge number of improvements to the browser (compared to previous versions), which we're really excited about.

HTML 5 / CSS 3 Support

Previous versions of IE (IE 6 comes to mind) have had poor support for web standards, sometimes using a different interpretation of the standards causing major headaches for web designers. "We love HTML5 so much we actually want it to work," quipped Dean Hachamovitch, the General Manager of the IE team. HTML5 aims to reduce the need for proprietary plugin-based applications (like Flash and Silverlight), introduce semantic replacements to help computers better understand website content, and introduce new browser APIs to power the next generation of web applications. Although not fully completed, the HTML5 draft specs have already been introduced to varying degrees in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, some mobile browsers, and others.

CSS 3 support is also expected. This will allow web designers to use advanced styling to do things like:

  • Rounded borders
  • Multiple backgrounds and gradients
  • Enhanced support for colors and transparency
  • Drop shadows
  • Custom fonts

By implementing the latest web standards, Microsoft is offering its customers the best web experience possible.

Chakra JavaScript Enginge

The IE development team will also introduce a brand-new JavaScript engine to better compete with other browsers. According to results published by Microsoft, IE 8 is the slowest browser when it comes to JavaScript. The current version of Chakra is already faster than Firefox's JS engine, but still needs refinement to catch up with Safari, Chrome, and Opera. It compiles Javascript in the background, on a separate CPU core if available, improving the end-user experience.

In addition to raw speed, they are also looking to boost compatibility with JavaScript standards. According to the ACID3 JS test, IE 9 only scores 55/100. This is a major improvement over IE8's score of 20/100, but some browsers (like Google Chrome) already score a perfect 100.

Hardware-Accelerated Graphics

Internet Explorer 9 will also be utilizing your graphics card to handle HTML, graphics, and video rendering. Current browsers handle this on your main CPU instead. End users will notice that pages scroll smoother and 3D graphics / video will play better.

Conclusion

Internet Explorer 9 will certainly be a major improvement over previous versions. While it isn't up to par with rival browsers, Microsoft certainly hopes to catch up (and eventually surpass them) in terms of standards compliance and performance. You can check out the latest build of IE9 here.  I'll be sticking with Chrome/Firefox for now, but definitely keep an eye on this one!