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Inside Internet Explorer 9: Redmond gets back in the game (arstechnica.com)
90 points by alexandros on Sept 15, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

While I am happy too that the new version of IE is coming soon and it supports the latest standards, let us not forget that we all were saying the exact same thing when IE7 and IE8 came out:

This new release will help developers very much by supporting the latest standards.

The problems is not with supporting a subset of the latest standards. The problem is that the latest standards change over time and IE stays the same for 2-4 years.

In the long run, as a web developer I feel that IE7 or IE8 did not help me much in reducing the work I have to do to fix the compatibility issues. Now instead of just IE6, I have to fix issues with IE7 and IE8. (I have had issues where I could fix the problem using some extreme hacks in IE7 while there was no way to fix the issue in IE8. Later I was forced to use the EmulateIE7 meta-tag for the website, which was BTW developed this year. For the curious, the problem was similar to this: http://stackoverflow.com/q/1156985/184 )

Until unless some version of IE ships with an auto-update mechanism, I will just refrain myself from going gaga over the new CSS/HTML standards support of IE. The most important thing they have to fix is their release cycle (+ auto-update) and they seem to ignore this part for a long time. Now every time a new version of IE comes out, I don't know whether to smile or to cry.

They could shorten their release cycle but it wouldn't change the behavior of their largest customers.

Consider a large organization that finally installed IE7. [Welcome to 2006!]

I'm sure we'll have to deal with this for years to come (unfortunately), and neglecting corporate customers leaves a lot of money on the table.

A thousand times this. I have clients who are site-wide IE6 to this day. Ironically, Firefox worsened this problem, because all those clients also allow you to run Firefox (because IE6 barely works), but have apps that require IE, so (a) there's little incentive to upgrade (just use Firefox!) and (b) it's still likely that your first visit from a user there will be from IE6.

IE7 is also much easier to work with than IE6, having had the semirecent pleasure of getting a jQuery-ish Rails app working on both.

When chrome frame gets officially greenlighted, I'm immediately dropping all IE 6-8 support and campaigning as hard as I can at work for them to do the same.

They have auto-update. Usually disabled, because people somehow hate windows update, and corporate clients don't really want weird-application-breaking updates unless THEY decide they want it. So, whatever auto-update mechanism MS puts in place, people will break it.

There's a massive difference between the Firefox auto-update (you're not launching until I'm installed then you're good) and the IE update (I'm going to make you reboot your PC, or nag you until you leave your PC idle for 15 minutes and I'll reboot losing your work for you. Oh yeah im tied into Windows Update so your PC as a whole might have random issues after reboot.)

Visually, IE9 is one of the most gorgeous browsers I have ever seen. It had the wow feeling I had after installing Chrome for the first time.

The amount of new features in this release is amazing. I am blown away at how much has changed.

I think the whole speed issue has become a moot point now. Shaving of milliseconds off of already fast browsers doesn't impress me anymore.

To everyone who complains about standards compliance, IE6 etc. etc. remember that when IE6 came out, it was the greatest browser ever. It was revolutionary for the time and it doesn't deserve the hate it receives. MS Shouldn't have let it stagnate, but look at HTML4, it only recently is being updated.

Say what you want about ActiveX, but it was MS attempt at updating the browser, because the standards bodies weren't.

I love chrome, but right now there is no reason for me not to switch to IE9. I use minimal addons (StumbleUpon/Lastpass), I could care less about tiny speed improvements. People who have switched away from IE, may find it hard to go back, but people who haven't, will really have no reason to switch after this release hits final.

Great work Microsoft and IE team.

Better standards support in IE is a boon for everyone; JS shivs and CSS resets only go so far in alleviating development pain. Still, I don't know that I would go so far as to say "back in the game" but, rather, "no longer so shockingly backward;" if only because IE is still chained to Windows. While it _is_ 90% of the desktop market, mobile platforms are making great strides into ubiquity and, at least anecdotally, folks tend to prefer homogeneity of their program set across devices.

"...folks tend to prefer homogeneity of their program set across devices."

You must know different folks than I do. Most of the people I know that aren't developers wonder why the icon for "internet" has a big E on it. I can guarantee you that the grand majority of people don't realize that the web browser on their mobile device isn't the same as the web browser on their desktop. And if they do, they're unlikely to be using IE right now anyway.

Yes, it's very likely that I know different folks. That's why I hedged my comment by noting that it was purely anecdotal: I tend to associate with computer scientists, mathematicians and medievalists. The first and last groups tend to be most interested in homogeneity, in my experience.

Besides, if we're to say that IE is "back in the game" then surely we should count only those who make a conscious decision to use IE; otherwise we're using vastly different terms.

IE has the opportunity to come out with a truly standards compliant product. If they can give it the speed/wow factor the Chrome release had, then they'll be back in the game.

Regardless, if they create a product that is rid of all of the burdens of previous version, ie. ActiveX and BHOs, then they're giving many consumers little reason to switch to a competitor if they're computer is shipped with IE9

They need to yank out activex and bhos and focus on security above most other things. I don't know if they will though because of microsofts stance on backwards compatibility but it looks like they are trying to change at least.

MS will find all the possible ways to abuse a monopoly when they have one.

I don't think we need IE back in the game, we need to change the game to be as client agnostic and standards based as possible.

All they really need to get back in the game is to come within a lap of the lead browsers -- they don't need users to migrate back from Firefox and Chrome, they just need the "default" browser to be good enough that change isn't necessary.

Personally I can't see why they don't stick an IE badge on webkit and be done with it.

Actually I think that's pretty well addressed in the article - WebKit supports a bit too much. Contrary to Apple Microsoft targets the corporate market and weird internal applications. If they start implementing unstable features or using an engine that supports them they will just paint themselves into a corner once again.

. . . or a Windows badge on Linux.

For the most part webapps will work under any OS with a browser, you can't really say the same thing about Windows/Linux software.

Windows NT was designed to have "multiple personalities". It has a Win32 personality most Windows programs see, a POSIX personality (that I think doesn't exist anymore) and an OS/2 personality (that I never saw). Each one could run binaries designed for the respective environment. Few Windows programs ever touch the NT kernel.

OSX is also modeled like this. There is a Mach kernel and a BSD-like personality on top of it.

Wine allows Win32 software to run on top of Unix without ever realizing they are running on top of a "fake" Win32 stack.

I think GNUStep could be used to build something similar that could allow OSX software to run on non-OSX hosts.

the posix personality still exists - it's called SUA; the Subsystem for UNIX Applications. the guys at interop systems have made a really nice ports-esque system for it so it's easy to get up and running with the usual pile of apps.

Do you have more details on this? I looked around for a while and ended up installing cygwin...

I totally agree, I've many times pleaded the case that MS should just ditch Trident in favor of Webkit, and everyone would benefit.

I think it's like a turf war inside MS and the existing IE team managers wouldn't like to lose their position of strength and the no.of developers working under them.

Also the browser is taking up more of the OS capabilities, like threads, storage, GPU acceleration and so on. So MS would be reluctant to let the browser become too strong. But the horse has already bolted and there's always Linux, Android, Meego etc for the browser makers to cater for the netbook, tablet, smart phone markets.

webkit has a fatal flaw: they didn't write it!

It seems like the tech sites that end up with mega-publisher owners are a bit soft in articles that cover products from major potential advertisers.

Conde Nast owns Wired, arstechnica, webmonkey, and reddit

Tabs to the side of the address bar? Using the URL space for search? What are they smoking?

We'll see how standards support actually turns out...

As a user who regularly has 15+ tabs open simultaneously, this is the one reason I cannot see myself using IE9.

URL space for search? That's one feature that Chrome had first, and most people seem that I've seen to like it. Of course, for me, Chrome's best feature is that it picks up sites you search on and automatically adds them to the search engine list ... that's convenient.

> URL space for search? That's one feature that Chrome had first

Firefox has had this feature since in 2004 [1]. It's called Smart Keywords [2]. It can be enhanced with an extension called SmartSearch [3].

[1] http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/11/65668?...

[2] http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Smart+keywords

[3] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/188/

Can’t put a year to it, but Opera supported this (even without Firefox-style keywords) years and years ago.

Now it needs a decent js engine (js/html5 canvas is sort of slow right now) and more space for tabs (lemme put them into the titlebar or below the address bar forchrissake).

Now it just needs a semi-decent debugger.

The dev tools in IE8 are pretty darn good. I still use Firebug as my primary, but when I'm chasing an IE specific bug, the dev tools are pretty solid. I even prefer them to Chrome's.

Webkit's debugger, not Chrome's. I've actually switched over to Webkit's debugger as my primary one though. It ironed out a lot of the nuances that irked me over the last year (inspection of styles didn't appear as code [it now does], you couldn't use command/ctrl + shift + c to inspect an element [you can now], you couldn't delete dom elements [you can now], as well as a myriad of others that were resolved). So far I've found it to be more stable than firebug and laid out/organized better. That's just me though, and to each their own - but if you haven't tried it in the last year give it another shot.

Thanks, I will check it out as it has been about a year. I think about 80% of my preference was simply familiarity.

I don't like Chrome's developer tools at all, well I do like some of it, but I almost always prefer and use firebug. Maybe I'm missing something?

I don't think it needs a debugger to be a success – among regular users.

Eager to look into the future that will bring the demise of countless of hours of patching up sites so they also work in IE (the code you write works perfectly in all browsers - just IE always needs that additional hassle), I downloaded the beta, went to a Site I was working on (it is valid HTML5) and poof


error -2147467259

right. Maybe it tells me at least where that happened.

Line 1 character 1. Yeah. Thanks.

I have a feeling that even with all the good intentions, this browser will be as buggy as all the other IE versions before this one. This time though, as it won't run under XP, it's just one more version we have to write workarounds for.


Someone has drawn a lot of inspiration from Chrome. But seriously, I love the minimalistic interface of chrome and IE9 being surprisingly similar to it is a very good reason for me switch back.

This will only be more of a pain in the ass for me. 50% of my IE users are still on IE7. I dropped support for IE6 last year because I personally couldn't handle the ridiculousness of debugging it, even though I still get hits from it. But now I'll have to test my site in IE7, IE8, and IE9, because it'll take years before IE9 replaces all previous versions completely. (And by then, IE10 and IE11 will have come out). Fuck you, Microsoft.

If IE9 can handle multiple tabs better, I am all for it.

IE8 chokes on 20-30 tabs (mostly HN...) while I've have not had the same problem in Firefox, Chrome or Opera, IE just feels sluggish.

I should clarify, that I can crash or slow down to crawl Firefox (I am looking at you Reddit), but then it is obvious something has gone wrong.

The way IE slows down is less obvious, that is you can still use it but it is slow.

IE8 is trying to degrade gracefully and failing.

I'm still trying to decide how I want to install it. Being able to test all versions of IE on a single machine is getting impossible.

I have a Windows 7 virtual machine for testing IE8, a Vista vm for IE7, and an Windows XP for testing IE6. And I only have one license of each system, and I don't really want to drop my ability to test IE7 or IE8.

Fuck you Microsoft!!

Do you know that Microsoft supplies VHD images for free that you can use to test any version of IE? YOu don't need a license or anything, just Windows and their free Virtual PC software. They're intended to work only with Windows and Virtual PC (of course!) but apparently it's possible to get them to work with other VM software on other OSs.


> YOu don't need a license or anything, just Windows and their free Virtual PC software.

Last time I checked, running "just Windows" requires "a license or something".

It's true. I meant to say a license specifically for these additional versions.

Cool, but it seems that I can use them for only 2 weeks ("Expires October 1, 2010") or 90 days ("Expires 90 days after first run.").

They supply new ones every 90 days or so.

Which is great if you want to do completely unnecessary admin work every 90 days.

All you need to do is download the new images. I mean, this entire thing is a huge PITA anyway, so as far as testing sites for IE6 and IE7, this is the least of your worries! I'm just pointing out is that it is possible to use this product continuously.

Cool, no I didn't know about these. But I'm on MacOSX and use Parallels. I'm not sure if Parallels supports these types of images.

They used to work in VMWare/etc if you converted the VHD files, but for the last several months the new ones MS has been providing are made to only work with VirtualPC on Windows.

I know the feeling, but they're stuck too--they want XP to go away and can't get rid of that either.

I still don't see a reason to switch to it. I use firefox for day to day browsing and chrome for specific work-related things.

I guess the question I need to ask is "Why?". Unless IE has some serious performance differences I can't see a reason to use it.

It's useless unless they stop supporting older IE versions...

They do, when the versions of Windows that shipped with those versions of IE lapse out of their support period. That doesn't stop people from running them. They're our computers, nobody, including Microsoft, gets to decide what we run on them. They can only strongly encourage us to upgrade.

You can't stop supporting older versions until you have newer versions.

That's not what it's dependent on. IE6 will be supported until 2014. Even with Explorer's glacial release cycle that will be about 5 newer releases than IE6, 4 for the still supported IE7 and so on.

Can we please stop bashing MS for the continued usage of IE6? For it's time IE6 was a fine browser (honest), and what exactly is so bad about supporting software long after it is obsolete?

If you're tired of supporting IE6 on your site, then stop. Foisting off the cost of transitioning everyone off IE6 onto a big company like MS is comforting but ultimately unrealistic and selfish.

What's bad about supporting software long after it is obsolete is that it encourages people who know very little to think it is perfectly legitimate to continue using it long after it is obsolete.

It's their lousy software, it IS their responsibility to transition people off of it.

I think it is perfectly okay for people to use obsolete software that does the job. You can always drop support for browser versions you don't want to support, but I think it's bad business and also a bit rude to try to dictate what software potential customers will use.

IE6 is still perfectly serviceable for the vast majority of the tasks web browsers are put to.

It's just not smart to replace a system that only works well in IE 6 because it might mess up your employees' ability to waste their time on some guy's random startup.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons why a corporation would continue to use IE6, despite its countless flaws.

In my experience, those systems are in dire need of replacement, anyway.

Security is the killer flaw, though. They're going to have to change once MS stops patching it - and who knows what 0 day (or -300 day) flaws lurk in IE6.

I hope you never have to understand the perverse inner workings of the corporate IT manager's mind. :'(

So the 'perfectly legitimate reasons' are all because of 'perverse inner workings' of some manager's mind?

It's not just IE6, it's IE7 and IE8.

MS likes to pretend to want to end IE6, but it is all talk (ie the "funeral" they held for IE). What is so bad about getting them to also walk the walk?

Agreed. Microsoft has talked about the need to end using IE 6.

It is now time to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

The real unknown is whether or not IE's release cadence (currently at about a 1.5-2 year cycle) is sustainable when every other browser is on a much shorter cycle (in some cases 1/4 that). IE9 may be the bee's knees, but if Google puts out another set of half a dozen releases as substantive as those prior between IE9 and 10 how does IE keep up and stay relevant?

the only time i've started the IE in the recent years is to download Mozilla/Firefox on new machines/reinstalls. One time tried to download Chrome instead of FF - the IE hanged on the Google's Chrome download button.

That interface looks like ass.

Last time I saw a screenshot of it, my first thought was "what do they have against tabs?" There's so little room there, it's laughable to consider using more than, say, 3 tabs.

It looks better than previous versions, but it's just a shitty knock-off of Chrome. It's hard to argue that Chrome defined the minimalist look for browsers.

Does it run on Linux? OSX?

Thought so.

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