Here, Microsoft attempted to cut down on available options, but mostly managed to make the list more complex. Under the 'File' menu, for example, are multiple commands that, when accessed via MS's long-familiar Menu bar, are spread variously between File, Edit, View, and Tools. The Safety submenu (shown above) is similarly confusing. "InPrivate" Browsing isn't as intuitively clear as "Anonymous Browsing" or a similar term might be, while users almost certainly have no idea whether or not they need tracking protection. It's not clear what it means to "Check this website," and very few users actually understand ActiveX enough to know whether or not they want to filter it. All of these options are completely valid, but MS hasn't yet learned to get out of its own way when it comes to building intuitive UIs and logically grouping information.
IE9's 'Downloads' information box (opened via Ctrl-J) is another example of this problem. Chrome and Firefox (both 4.0 and 3.6) use this space to display all
file downloads, including the list of files users' chose to save via right-click. Opera is a bit more limited and only logs information in the download manager if you specifically choose to "Save to Download" folder.
Internet Explorer 9, however, doesn't appear to enable this functionality at all. It'll tell you if you downloaded your latest video drivers but not where you saved the interesting photos you found on Flickr. Another feature IE9 incredibly still lacks is the ability to right-click on an image and choose "Copy Image URL." In every other browser, copying and forwarding an image URL is a three-step process. Step 1: Right-click. Step 2: Copy URL. Step 3: Paste. In IE9, one must still right-click, select Properties, highlight the URL, right-click, choose Copy, hit Cancel (to return to the browser window) and then paste. That's seven steps, assuming that the user manages to highlight the entire URL the first time around.
Let's switch gears, and talk performance. We ran both the Java SunSpider test and Google's own V8 benchmarks (v.6).
Note: Minefield is the early Firefox 4.0 candidate we tested.
The scores here trend similarly. Internet Explorer 8 does its best impression of Custer's Last Stand, while FireFox 3.6 manages to stomp it--but is, in turn, stomped by everything else. IE9 wins SunSpider outright, and places just behind Opera, with Minefield 4.0b surpassing both. We're unsure what to make of Chrome's screaming fast score in V8, but the fact that the benchmark is written by Google leaves us unsure what Chrome's supposed incredible performance means in a real-world environment.
After a few days of serious years, we like IE9's performance, its additional features, and the way it integrates itself with Windows 7's taskbar. The UI issues leave us less than perfectly enthused, but MS could address them if it bothers to do so. Performance-wise, it's still an open field. We expect MS will release a few patches in the not-too-distant future that'll improve benchmark performance, while the final version of Firefox 4.0 will ratchet up the competition in its own right.
When IE7 and IE8 debuted, the greatest argument for using them boiled down to "They aren't Internet Explorer 6." IE9, in contrast, is a major refresh and a decent product in its own right. We're still skeptical, however, that it'll change browser usage trends all that much. There's plenty of improvements, but no 'must-have' capability that's likely to bring users back to the fold.