Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 9 – streamlined & quicker [Updated]

Microsoft released the latest version of its ubiquitous web browser Internet Explorer yesterday after a months-long beta process. IE9 boasts a host of improvements, including speedier browsing, enhanced HTML 5 support and increased security features.

The company is no doubt well aware of the impact Firefox and Chrome had on the browsing landscape; those rowdy new kids took over the block. Think of IE9, then, as Microsoft’s attempt to fit in. But that’s not to say it’s so simple. And some early criticism proves the old codger still has a little work to do.

Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 9 - streamlined & quicker [Updated]

IE9 was first mentioned back in 2009. Back then, Microsoft had specific goals for its next browser – HTML 5 support and a better JavaScript engine chief among them. But anyone who’s surfed the web since then can tell you things have changed, specifically in regard to competition.

Upstart browsers such as Firefox and Chrome made their mark on a field which Internet Explorer formerly owned. According to statistics that measure browser usage, IE has been running neck-and-neck with Google’s Chrome during the first two months of this year, with the former edging out the latter by only 2-3%.

Chrome, since being introduced in September 2008, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity – even as IEs numbers buckled under competitive pressure. Mozilla’s Firefox browser currently holds the crown by a healthy margin, garnering just over 40%.

Perhaps ironically, Microsoft’s latest offering borrows elements from both.

IE9 provides a helpful service Chrome users are likely familiar with: a search engine built right into the web address bar. It also offers an overall cleaner, simpler look to bring out the web content – something Microsoft feels is very important. If Firefox’s popularity is any indication, they may be on to something.

One hurdle may be the fact that the new browser only runs with Windows 7 and Vista. Windows XP users are out of luck – surprising, given XPs popularity.

A feature Microsoft touted prior to IE9s release was its anti-tracking abilities. Built-in to provide more security for users, the service intends to block content that could compromise privacy. However, many are pointing to research compiled by UK-based consumer rights site Which? as evidence it already needs improving. The advocacy group describes “a potential flaw” with the browser’s anti-tracking tool that would render ‘blocks’ useless.

You can download IE9 from its new website, BeautyOfTheWeb.com.

[UPDATE: We mistakenly reported that Firefox is the most popular browser based on statistics linked to above while failing to mention conflicting reports that place Internet Explorer in the #1 spot. We apologize for the oversight.]