Microsoft VP Dean Hachamovitch, announces the launch of Internet Explorer 9, at SXSW March 14, 2011 in Austin, Texas.
Internet Explorer 9 is surprisingly competitive across the board. Zippy browsing speeds, minimalist layout, and innovative features make this not only the best version of IE to date, but catapult Internet Explorer back into the browser wars. The one big drawback? You must have Windows 7 or Vista to use it. XP users are stuck on IE8. Forever.
The soundbite on Internet Explorer 9 will be a variation of “it doesn’t suck”, yet the changes to the browser go far deeper than that glib comment can reflect. Microsoft engineered a campaign, starting last year, to change the browser’s image with both developers and casual users that was similar to the way that it got people on board with Windows 7. Frequent developer previews, devoid of features showed Web developers what the browser could do. It was only with the launch of the first beta that Microsoft added the interface. By then, the browser had already made an impact with developers because of its standards support and in-page rendering speeds, and much of the buzz coming from them was positive.
Windows XP uses will not be able to install IE9. The last compatible version of IE for XP is .
3Microsoft has split the installer for IE9 into four versions, depending on your operating system, so be sure that you download the correct one. Different versions are available for Windows 7 x86, Windows 7 x64, Windows Vista x86, and Windows Vista x64, and Microsoft’s site ought to auto-detect your OS. While not the most convenient download, it’s not the kind of thing for which we would dock the score.
What is a major problem with the IE9 installation process is that the browser will not work on Windows XP, which still has about 40 percent of the worldwide computer market a year and a half after Windows 7’s release. There is no version of IE9 for Windows XP, and there never will be one.
One interesting publicly available benchmark is the new JSGameBench from Facebook, which looks to test HTML5 in real-world gaming situations. While not the fastest in the group, even without WebGL implemented IE9 was performing towards the faster end of the chart.
The browser also appears to be eminently stable, and over multiple days worth of real-world browsing did not crash once. For Internet Explorer, that is an amazing accomplishment.
Internet Explorer spent years languishing, and the developments in this version are more like a ringing denouement of the process that began in IE7 to return the browser to respectability. There’s no doubt that this is the best version to date of Microsoft’s browser, which makes it almost shameful that the company couldn’t find a way to extend support for it to legacy Windows XP users.
All that being said, the browser is fast and highly usable, and even enjoyable to use. It might not be enough for die-hard fans of other browsers to switch, but IE is now a respectable choice on the browser market.
This article originally appeared on our sister site CNET
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