Microsoft is claiming its Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate has hit 2 million downloads, roughly a week after the company first made the near-final version of its next browser version available to users.
"Just a few days after its public availability, customers have already downloaded Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate two million times and taken it for a spin," Roger Capriotti, director for Internet Explorer Product Marketing, wrote in a Feb. 16 posting on The Windows Blog. "As you may have seen on our engineering blog, current Internet Explorer 9 Beta users will be prompted to download RC via Windows Update this month."
Microsoft maintains Internet Explorer 9 boasts advancements in standards compatibility and user experience. Per its usual working model for high-profile releases, the company incorporated insights from beta testers to gradually upgrade the browser's speed and abilities-the Release Candidate supports geolocation, WebM video (with the installation of a V8 code on Windows) and playback of H.264-encoded video using the HTML5 video tag. According to the SunSpider benchmark, Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate is 35 percent faster than Internet Explorer 9 Beta.
Thanks in large part to a substantial early lead in the browser market-which in turn led to years worth of antitrust fun with the federal government-Microsoft still offers the nation's most-used browser. However, that market share has eroded in recent years thanks to upstarts such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Seeking to return its browser franchise to something of a fighting trim, Microsoft has stripped Internet Explorer 9 down to its essentials: The search and address bars are consolidated into one, while a translucent frame places the Web front-and-center over the browser interface.
Microsoft has claimed over the past few months that IE 9's design allows it to leverage both HTML5 and Windows 7 to deliver rich content faster. For those using Windows 7, IE 9's new browser-centric features include the ability to drag and pin a Website tab to the Windows 7 taskbar, as well as "Aero Snap" windows onto the right or left of the screen-all the better for viewing two Web pages side-by-side.
Those Windows XP users who want to test Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate, however, will need to upgrade their operating system; the browser only supports Windows Vista and Windows 7. That may leave a significant amount of potential users in the cold, considering that, according to January data from analytics firm Net Applications, some 55 percent of PCs ran Windows XP, versus 22 percent for Windows 7 and 11 percent for Windows Vista.