Internet Explorer 11 Release Preview now available for Windows 7

Microsoft claims IE11 is more standards-compliant and 30 percent faster than other browsers

Microsoft announced on Wednesday its release of the public preview version of Internet Explorer 11 -- but for Windows 7, rather than Windows 8.

IE11 for Windows 7 has been available since July 25 only in a developer preview, which Microsoft says was a source of feedback for further changes to be made to the browser.

In its blog post, Microsoft outlined three kinds of improvements made to IE11: speed, standards compliance, and developer's tools.

For speed improvements, IE11 includes more optimizations to Internet Explorer's JavaScript engine; Microsoft claims a WebKit SunSpider 1.0.0 benchmark total of 137 milliseconds for the current build of IE11, compared to Firefox 23 at 199ms and Chrome 29 at 218ms on the same hardware. (Microsoft identified its test rig as a Dell OptiPlex with a 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo Intel processor, 4GB of RAM, and Intel Integrated Video.)

The list of standards that IE11 is newly compliant with reflect mostly bleeding-edge features, such as Pointer Events and the Standard Delivery Profile for Closed Captioning. The latter is one of a suite of features Microsoft has been adding to IE for the sake of delivering video without plug-ins, although many (like InfoWorld's Robert X. Cringely) are worried that such features will only gain full acceptance by content providers by adding content protection functionality to the HTML5 standard. Given that Microsoft helped draft those very proposed content protection systems, it's inevitable IE11 will be a major delivery mechanism for them if they're ratified.

IE11 also adds support for the current version of the Tracking Preference Expression (TPE, aka "Do Not Track") feature, co-authored by members of Apple and Adobe. Preferences for TPE are retained after a browser upgrade as well, and Microsoft provides its own test page for those curious to see if their browser supports the standard in some detectable incarnation.

IE11's developer tools, the third category, sport a number of improvements that further bring IE11's toolsets into line with those found on other browsers. Two features added to IE11 -- the ability to edit CSS property values "live" in a page's DOM and the ability to force all Web traffic to be always refreshed from the server without caching -- are reminiscent of features that have been in Google Chrome for some time now.

The last three versions of Internet Explorer -- IE8, IE9, and IE10 -- combined made up about 25 percent of the entire browser share worldwide as of July. That number has dropped from around 33 percent as of October 2012, and IE's overall share has been plunging as both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have gained.

That said, in the last couple months, Chrome's share has dipped slightly (40 percent), and IE's has rebounded somewhat (28.5 percent). The numbers will be worth another look at the end of the year, once IE11 has been formally released, although a firm date has not been set yet.

Microsoft is also preparing to refresh its line of virtual machine images that contain every edition of IE since version 6, along with a self-contained copy of Windows to run it on. The preview of IE11 runs on Windows 8.1 Preview, but a Windows 7 edition will be added later this week.

All IE test VMs are only licensed to run for 90 days, but since IE6 and IE8 are deployed on Windows XP, some have used those VMs to provisionally run software that only runs in XP or that only works with the IE6/IE8 rendering engines.

This story, "Internet Explorer 11 Release Preview now available for Windows 7," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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