Clearing up some confusion over Internet Explorer 9

Crawling across the internets as I have a tendency to do has as usual brought plenty of ignorant comments to my attention. Today about Internet Explorer 9. It always amazes me how willing people are to spout off about something they know nothing or little about. So let's tackle some of them.

I am guessing this is on a PC that has been specially optimised by Microsoft to run its browser content as fast as possible by breaking from web standards?
Another situation where things can already be done on all other browsers perfectly well, but now web developers will be forced to tailor their sites specifically to cater for more Internet Explorer specific quirks.

And you're guessing wrong. Completely wrong. Internet Explorer 9 is just faster. Orders of magnitude faster on graphically intensive websites. How? Because it uses DirectX and the GPU to help out.

Haven't had a chance to look if this uses open web standards but, if it doesn't, it's a return to the good old days of IE6, which mucked around with what everyone else was trying to do on the web and ended with having to hack sites to work in MS browsers.

This is the sort of line trotted out by the Firefox crowd. Web standards as if there is only one gold plated standard that can never change, and to which a browser is either completely compliant or not. Internet Explorer 6 did support web standards that were finished when it was released. Such as HTML4 and CSS1. Internet Explorer was the first browser to fully support CSS1.

The standards that most of the Firefox guys refer to is CSS2.1. Between the releases of IE6 and 7. CSS2 was essentially canned because IE, Netscape, Mozilla and Opera rendered everything so inconsistently with each other.

CSS2.1 was developed to try and sort these problems out but didn't reach candidate recommendation status until 2004, and was quickly moved back to draft to work out a slew of problems with it. It only re-emerged as recommended back in 2007.

So it wasn't that Internet Explorer 6 didn't support standards - it did. It just didn't support CSS2.1, well that's no surprise since CSS2.1 was finalised 6 years after it was released. But by around 2005 the web developer crowd decided they all wanted to use CSS, even for things its really bad at such as controlling layout.

Internet Explorer 7 hit all the main CSS2.1 features that were commonly being used, and Internet Explorer 8 pretty much finished up CSS2.1 support. But even to this day, no browser on the planet supports every feature of CSS2.1, heck they don't even support all the features of HTML4.

Does that mean there aren't any standards compliant browsers? So as you see standards compliance is a sort of funny phrase in the browser world. The proper question to ask would be does it support standard X, and does it support feature Y from standard X, and is standard X even finished yet, or could it change?

Internet Explorer 9's standard support include almost complete support for HTML4, and CSS2.1. And partial support for HTML5 and CSS3. And a bunch of other stuff I don't use like SVG, DOM and all this other stuff. Which is pretty much the same as every other browser out there at the moment.

Neither HTML5 or CSS3 are finished yet, so naturally browsers have to be conservative with implementing features from them, if the standard changed before being released, you'd have one body of developers and browsers rendering things in the old draft way, essentially breaking the web again like back with CSS2. We've seen this trend happening far too much in the technology world lately, what with all the Draft N wireless devices about, all of which could have been rendered obsolete if the final N standard changed. To be completely honest implementing standards which are still under development is just asking for trouble.

Open platforms which allow you to customise and build your own methods of working are the future, and until Microsoft see that this is the way the tide is turning, rather than developing closed systems that require, say, a shiny expensive Office suite to work correctly, they will continue to be shunned by the cool kids.

Office 2010 reads and writes to Office Open XML also known as ISO/IEC 29500 Transitional. This is an international standard that anybody can implement. it also reads and writes OpenDocument also known as ISO/IEC 26300. Another open standard. Office hasn't been using closed, hard to read binary formats in years. Try and keep up.

It's a Windows only browser. Nobody developing websites is going to only include Windows users. There are so many mobile Internet users now. The future of the web is in the palm, so that's smartphones and tablets.

Err, if developers write to the standards they don't need to target IE9. That's the point of standards, remember? It's just the people using it have a better experience.

To make the IE9/Windows 7 features really shine only takes a couple of lines of code. Amazon do it, Twitter are doing it, Facebook and doing it, and I'm doing it too.

Oh and by the way Windows = >90% of my visitors across my websites. Mobile = <5%.

very surprised that your article completely missed the fact that 6 out of 10 windows users are running XP which microsoft in their wisdom have decided cannot use IE9 - if i made the decision to roll out one of my key new products to only 40 percent of my existing customer base, not sure i would make it out of the office alive....!

Correct. IE9 won't work on Windows XP, not out of simply choice. But because Windows XP doesn't support the technologies to do this well. Namely DirectX10 and Direct2D both of which were introduced with Windows Vista.

Anyway can you imagine how bad IE9 would look with the bright fisher-price style UI of Windows XP going around it? Yuck.

""Instead of using 10% of the power on your PC, we're now using 100%," says Leila Martine, who runs the Windows consumer business in the UK."

and what will happen to those of us who run other applications at the same time? will everything else slow down to a crawl?

Don't be daft. She's not talking about using 100% of your CPU, she's talking about making use of the hardware in your machine. It uses less CPU than other browsers because it dumps more of the work onto the GPU, which normally is sat there idling away.

What's IE9's Acid3 score? :) IE7 manages a piddling 12%, IE8 20% (according to the screenshot on Wikipedia), FF 3.6.10 manages 94% and most WebKit browsers 100%...

It's 95, you know it really isn't hard to find out. It won't support the remaining features that Acid3 uses because they're not going to be part of a standard.


Comment from: vernon moore [Visitor]  
vernon moore
3 stars

What I would like to know is I use windows7 64 bit so does ie9 download have both 32 bit and 64 bit like ie8 has and if not can I download and install both versions so I can have a short cut on the desktop of both 32 bit and 64 bit because currently adobe flash does not have a 64 bit support available

6th April 2011 @ 06:47
Comment from: [Member]

If you're running 64-bit Windows you should download the 64-bit installer. 32-bit Internet Explorer will remain the default.

6th April 2011 @ 13:33
Comment from: Palmer Lovett [Visitor]
Palmer Lovett
2 stars

If Internet Explorer needs to use other components to run fast, why wouldn't I just use Chrome? Chrome requires no other program, its almost standalone. There are versions which you can run off of nothing but a flash drive. This also makes for a browser that cannot be run on multiple platforms, a huge annoyance. I'm a Mac user, and I have to find a PC to test my website in IE, which is very annoying to have to upload it to the servers and switch back and forth between computers. Why should IE do it if it doesn't have to? I think its because Microsoft doesn't care about the product their producing.

As for the web standards. Internet Explorer may support much of CSS 2, but the web standards are improving so rapidly that in a year something new needs to be supported. Most browsers do not fully support HTML 4 or CSS 2. The reason being is there are some things that no one will ever use or is already outdated. For example the horizontal rule. No one uses that anymore simply because CSS can do that for us much better. These types of standards in HTML 4 are the ones that most other browsers don't support. It doesn't really matter if Internet Explorer supports every single HTML 4 and CSS 2 standard. Because if every other browser doesn't, theres no point. Why not start focusing on the new stuff that people want and what other browsers support? Like HTML 5 and CSS 3. Internet Explorer 9 only supports a very very small amount of these new standards.

True, most people are windows users, the "ignorant comment" which you quoted was indeed ignorant. But the statement you made about standards doesn't line up. If web developers coded for the old standards than yes, IE 9 would display it much better. (still not perfect though, I've coded websites with simple HTML 4 and CSS 2 and Internet Explorer has problems while FireFox, Google Chrome and Safari did just fine) And why should we have to code specifically for IE 9? Why doesn't Microsoft just use the same standards and the same code that all other browsers use? The point is that we may be able to do a couple hacks to make it look nicer in IE than before, but we shouldn't have to make those hacks, the regular standards should be implemented, just like all other browsers.

It is incredibly insane that Microsoft did not make IE 9 compatible with XP. Vista was a failure. People who were smart enough to not update to Vista, and haven't updated to 7 yet (40%) don't get IE 9. This creates an incredible problem. IE 9 is a better browser than IE 8 was, no doubt. But you can't code exclusively for IE 9, your still going to have to code for IE 7 and IE 8. This is the problem with all web browsers. (Except Chrome because it automatically updates for you under the hood) To now say that only 40% of customers (currently) can use it almost destroys the purpose of creating a new browser. You said that it required certain functions of 7 that XP doesn't have. Why did Microsoft do that? Chrome is completely cross OS compatible, and its super fast without the stuff that Microsoft uses for IE. (not an exaggeration I say that having tested Chrome against the other browsers, others have too and have come up with the same results) Microsoft didn't want to put the time and energy into making it cross OS compatible. They did a shoddy job again. And it made the web developers job much harder. Also, It doesn't matter what it looks like against XP, who cares? Its a better web browser than the one they've got, and it would probably make XP look a little nicer.

It may not be using 100% of the CPU, but it still does slow down the computer more than Chrome does. When Chrome is running, you can hardly tell its there.

Why should we use a slower, less supported, in-compliant browser (compared to others) when there are other browsers that do all the things that IE doesn't, and which update much more frequently. There's no reason to. If it were not for IE, I could build websites 3 times faster. I always have to thinking, "Does IE allow this?" "Do I have to something different for IE?" Other major browsers, Chrome, Safari, and FireFox, make it much easier to build sites, IE makes it more difficult. On top of that, it lessens the user experience.

I hope I didn't get too intense, I just don't like IE so much as you probable know by now.

11th August 2011 @ 01:16
Comment from: Gemma W. [Visitor]
Gemma W.
4 stars

Great article.

I find it very funny how the IE-haters will ALWAYS find an excuse to hate IE, no matter what. And how funny most of them often don't have their facts correct.

9th June 2012 @ 17:55

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