First look: Internet Explorer 9 beta makes waves
This balance is also good for the open Web because it seeks to establish HTML5 as the premier vehicle for content developers. The open Web and the desktop platform are no longer as dominant as they once were, as the alluring world of smartphones and tablets steal mind share. When people can answer their email, read books, and watch television through the new generation of mobile devices, no one needs their desktops for anything but homework and those dreadful, long-form memos that the boss forgets to read. Goodbye Web, hello app store.
Microsoft is no longer in the driver's seat, and it shows in other aspects of IE9. Many of the more visible features are also catching up to the lead of Firefox, Chrome, and to a lesser extent Opera. The buttons and menus are now much more like Chrome. The plug-in environment wants to emulate Firefox.
Web developers will like F12, a built-in debugging tool for watching the Web pages unfold. I used it to figure out what was working and not working in the different browsers. This should help IE9 recover some of its momentum. I, like many developers, started shifting to Firefox when the Firebug plug-in made it that much easier to start a project by creating pages for Firefox and then testing them on IE9.
HTML5 compatibility, security, and speed
It's also important to look at Microsoft's claims of HTML5 compatibility carefully. The HTML5Test.com site, for instance, gives IE9 a score of 96 out of 300, a big boost from previous versions of IE, which barely scored any points at all. IE9 scores well on the multimedia features like the video and audio tags, but gets scores of zero on less eye-catching features like microdata. Are these features important to you?
Microsoft is also promising to do a better job on security and the provenance of data, recognizing that it's becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to trust some of the information coming over the wire. Between the phishers, the malware, and the outright fraudulent sites, browsing is a dangerous game. I tried testing IE9's filters with several sites that were reported as evil by Google, and I couldn't find any that would set off Microsoft's alarm. Some like gumblar.cn are long gone and Microsoft knows it. But others like spykeeworld.com continue to raise flags with Chrome but not with IE9. This service may take some time to gel. IE9's database may not be as comprehensive as Google's, and it may not get to where it needs to be without actively crawling the web.