SAN FRANCISCO - Microsoft rolled out the beta version of Internet Explorer 9 here Sept. 15, claiming that its new browser edition will provide the best performance on the Web by taking advantage of the latest computer hardware, HTML5 and Windows 7.
Microsoft is counting on the enhancements in IE 9 to stop the gradual market share loss to its main competitors Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera.
The goal of any browser should be to make Websites look and run their best so users will enjoy working with the content and keep coming back to the site for more, said Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Windows Internet Explorer at Microsoft.
"The Web is about sites; the browser should be, too. People go to the Web for sites not for the browser. Much as you go to your PC for apps, not Windows. Today, Websites are boxed in. The box is the browser," Hachamovitch said. In designing IE 9, "We asked ourselves how could we put sites at the center of the experience? How can IE make sites shine. Our approach here is to use the whole PC" so it taps into "the native power of the platform," he said.
Key features in the new browser include "pinned" Websites, which allow users to access their favorite Websites from the Windows 7 Task Bar without having to start up the browser or start it from a favorite sites list in the browser.
JumpLists are also another way to enable users to quickly get to a Website task without first launching the browser. JumpLists work with Pinned Sites to allow users to quickly create e-mail messages, check e-mail inboxes, read an updated weather forecast or virtually any other imaginable task.
Tear-off tabs and Windows Aero Snap Tabs enable users to perform tasks that require more than a single Website or Web page. Users tear off tabs and snap them together by clicking on a tab and dragging it to the end of the PC screen. Instead, users can in effect tear off a tab by dragging it away from the browser and dropping it into Windows Aero Snap tables to display the sites or pages side by side. The feature, for example, would allow a technician to read the specifications of a new piece of industrial equipment in one tab while viewing a video tutorial on installation procedures in a second tab.
The images and other content are rendered continuously as tabs and are moved and snapped into place. So videos run continuously even as users move and snap them together.
To show what IE 9 could do, Microsoft brought about 70 Website partners to the San Francisco Design Center to show off what they are doing with IE 9.
All the partners were taking advantage of the full implementation of HTLM 5 in IE 9 to add to features to their sites aimed at giving users streamlined access to high-value content - especially video.
MySpace, for example is using the enhanced HTML5 support to make it easier for users to access video content on the social networking site. "One of the things we love about IE 9 is its HTML5 standards compliance and it is extensive compliance," said Patrick Srail, the head of MySpace video. Since IE 9 now fully supports HTML5, MySpace now serves up video in HTML5 when the site detects the IE 9 user agent.
MySpace also created JumpLists to give users access to a selection of videos and other content on the site, Srail said. For example, Srail said the jump lists can make it easier for users to link to the latest movie trailers they want to see or to find their favorite music videos, he said.
"We think that the jump list is one of the underrated features," said Srail. "Initially, when we saw it we thought it was an afterthought. But after we started playing around with it we thought this actually does offer a lot of opportunity" because it encourages users to keep particular links pinned to their task bars or desktops. What MySpace can actually do is automatically feed new content to that jump list link to encourage users to click on it even if they aren't actively visiting the site to see the latest Family Guy TV episode or that new video of a dog riding a skateboard.
Meanwhile, Vectorform, a Website development agency with offices in the United States, Europe and India, has used IE 9 to develop what's called the "Timeline Reader" for the Associated Press news Website, according to Frances Calandra, new business development executive with Vectorform in New York. The reader is still experimental and hasn't been deployed to the main AP news site.
Vectorform has worked with IE 9 to give Website visitors a quick way to read their stories without a lot of processing time, without having to download Adobe Flash or without having to use some kind of specialized reader, Calandra said.
For example, with the HTML5 support in IE 9, users have greater control of what type of content they read during a browser session. "If you just want to watch entertainment you can turn off sports or U.S. news...so you can just play those feeds that you are looking for," she said. The new interface also makes it easier to view images associated with an article, she said.
Vectorform also created what Calandra called "hidden jumps" that give users the ability to instantly change the text size and font of displayed articles.