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IE9 Finally Ready to Join the HTML5 Party

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For the past few years it seems like Microsoft's Internet Explorer has let web standards and competing browsers pass it by.  Internet users with even a hint of technical-savvy were more likely to have tried, and preferred, an alternative to IE.  It wouldn't be a such an issue if Microsoft didn't have over 50% of the world's browser market share.  This fact has given web developers countless headaches when they face browser compatibility issues working with new web standards like SVG, CSS3, and HTML5.  But the dawn is finally coming for IE users and web developers that have been putting up with Microsoft's browsing dark ages.   At the MIX 10 conference today, Microsoft announced the release of a IE9 developer preview.  Microsoft's new browser will add support for the latest web technologies including SVG and HTML5.  The company also announced that they would become a committer for the jQuery project.  

The current software is just a framework right now, and it's in such an early stage that it doesn't even have a back button yet, but more preview versions will arrive in eight week intervals.  The preview of IE9 showcases new support for SVG 1.1 imagery inline, CSS3, and of course HTML5.  It also has an Acid3 score of 55 currently and its CSS3 Selectors all pass the Selector test.  Microsoft also showed its commitment to developing industry standard test suites by submitting over 100 additional HTML5, CSS3, DOM, and SVG tests to the W3C.

Following in the footsteps of Chrome's V8, Opera's Carakan, and Firefox's SpiderMonkey, IE9 has a creatively-named JavaScript powerhouse of its own.  The "Chakra" JS engine in the IE9 developer preview was tested against against competitors using the WebKit SunSpider JavaScript benchmark (see results below).  I'm sure we'll see some benchmarks from other sources very soon.

IE9 will be able to take advantage of dual- and quad-core machines as well.  Chakra has multicore support that manifests when a web page is loaded and Chakra uses a processing core to compile JavaScript in the background into the computer's native language.  Microsoft says this method is different from the JIT (just-in-time) compilation approach of many browsers.  IE9 will also move some graphics processing to the GPU instead of the CPU.  The new Microsoft browser will support H.264 in HTML5 video instead of Ogg Theora, which is a blow to Mozilla and Opera.

There are plenty of fun test drive demoes on the IE9 download page including demos for all of the technologies supported by Microsoft's new browser.  The page contains links to SVG charts, maps, and animations (pulsating bubbles!).  There's even an SVG Asteroids game to play with.  For HTML5, there's a simple HTML5 T-shirt designer, but no HTML5 video demos.  For speed tests, you have to see the 3-D spinning block of browser logos, which includes image counts and Frame Rate.

Microsoft is looking for plenty of feedback on the developer preview and how it handles HTML5, CSS3, DOM, and SVG.  Specifically they want people to test their HTML5 parsing rules, XHTML support, Selection APIs, and SVG.  CSS3 support for Selectors, Namespaces, Colors, Values, Backgrounds, Borders, and Fonts should also be tested, says Microsoft.  

At the conference, Microsoft also said it would contribute code to the jQuery open source project along with testing resources.

Image Credits: Microsoft

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