Microsoft is finally letting Windows 7 users experience Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), months after it was officially released with Windows 8 on Oct. 26, by opening up the download floodgates. The browser was released worldwide on Feb. 26 in 95 languages for both the 32- and 64-bit versions of the popular desktop OS.
Although the browser has taken a back seat to Windows 8's new tiled interface, touch-enabled features and new app store, IE10 is nonetheless one of the operating system's most critical features as it represents Microsoft's attempt to reclaim its lead in the browser wars.
Last May, Google achieved the once-daunting goal of unseating IE. According to StatCounter, a Web metrics firm, Chrome surpassed IE during that month, effectively becoming the world's most popular browser.
With IE10, Microsoft is keen to turn the tide. Last month, the company attempted to reconnect with Generation Y by releasing a nostalgia-filled YouTube video called "Child of the 90s" that became a viral hit. The 1990s-themed video has amassed more than 13 million views to date.
Today, the software maker is hoping that Windows 7's massive user base will give IE10 the momentum it needs to put some distance between it and Google Chrome—and to a lesser extent, Mozilla Firefox. The way to fend off the competition is to make big strides in browser performance.
According to the company's own tests, users should notice a snappier, faster Web experience, said Mauceri. "In measurements in our performance lab, IE loads real-world pages up to 20 percent faster in top sites for news, social, search, e-commerce and more," he stated.
To prove that IE10 is up to the rigors of today's deeply interactive, HTML5-powered Websites, Microsoft has launched a new Minesweeper online demo that tests browser performance. "The game uses standards-based mark-up for interoperability across browsers, and makes the most of fully hardware-accelerated browsers like IE10 on both Windows 7 and Windows 8, with consistent performance across a wide range of devices, including tablets like the Surface RT," noted Mauceri.
Microsoft is also eager to let Web developers know that it has turned a corner on Web standards.
Long derided for spotty Web standards support, the company said that IE10 features a "60 percent increase in supported modern Web standards." These include expanded CSS3 support, HTML5 Forms and HTML5 Sandboxing, among several other Web application enhancements.
Among the reasons to use IE10, Microsoft lists quality-of-life improvements like smarter browser tabs and built-in spell check along with privacy-enhancing features including do-not-track support, which is turned on by default.