Microsoft launched the highly-anticipated beta version of Internet Explorer 9 on Wednesday, with some new features designed to help it better compete against popular rivals Firefox and Chrome.
This new version of IE is not merely an updated version, but rather a major overhaul of the interface and back-end coding to improve usability, security, and speed.
In addition to offering support for HTML5 and CSS3, IE9 also includes full hardware acceleration to largely improve speed and overall performance. A new Add-On Performance Advisor monitors the load time of add-ons and warns if any particular one is slowing browsing time by a specified time, which is a setting that can be adjusted by the user.
The user interface now has a much cleaner minimalist look, which gives the browser a more modern feel. IE9 borrows from Google’s Chrome browser the tiled view of the user’s most visited sites when a new tab is opened, and mimics Mozilla’s Firefox with a back button that is larger than the forward button.
IE9 also has some special operating system integration available for Windows 7 users. Favorite sites can be pinned to the OS taskbar simply by dragging and dropping the open tabs. Website developers can create customized jump list links or integrate API to feed updated information to the pinned site icons.
The Download Manager has also been redesigned to include reputation-based security which will eliminate security warning pop-up boxes for downloads of popular files and those from trusted vendors.
While the IE9 beta seems to be getting positive reviews so far, some performance issues have been reported. Frequent crashing and freezing while switching among tabs or opening new tabs seems to be a current issue. Such things are to be expected with beta software however, and the point is to get these issues identified and fixed before the final release of the software.
If you’d like to check out the IE9 beta for yourself, Microsoft has it available for download at their website now.