Internet Explorer 9 Is Looking Positively Sexy - HotHardware
Internet Explorer 9 Is Looking Positively Sexy

Internet Explorer 9 Is Looking Positively Sexy

See that headline? If you'd asked us last week if we'd ever use the word "sexy" to describe a browser—particularly a Microsoft browser—we'd have beaten you with a stack of TPS reports. This week, well, it's a different story. The actual IE9 browser isn't available for download yet, but Microsoft has made what it calls the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview available for download. Internet Explorer 9 offers a bevy of new features compared to IE8 (or anything else), but the most exciting feature is the browser's built-in GPU hardware acceleration.

As it turns out, there's quite a bit Microsoft can do, even with a modest integrated GPU. AMD's Robin Maffeo has put together a blog post that summarizes several key differences between IE9 and its predecessors.
  • The MSHTML rendering layer has been enhanced to use Direct2D and DirectWrite instead of GDI. Direct2D enables GPU accelerated 2D graphics and text, and allows sub-pixel positioning. In addition, the GPU is used for scaling (bitmaps are mapped to textures), which is ideal for zooming and moving images around the screen. This GPU support translates directly into improved readability of pages, more precise placement of text and images, and smooth scrolling and zooming.

  • JavaScript performance is greatly improved from older versions of Internet Explorer, and should be competitive if not better than competing browsers. In the past, JavaScript in IE was interpreted and not compiled into native processor instructions. The JavaScript engine now includes a JIT compiler which emits x86 instructions and compiles the code before it runs, resulting in a dramatic performance uplift. Instruction generation can also be tailored to the underlying processor to take full advantage of the underlying platform.

  • IE9 is more standards compliant than previous versions, with new support for HTML5 elements such as <video> and <canvas> CSS3 support, and SVG support.  The <canvas> element will be accelerated on the GPU via Direct2D and will enable hardware accelerated rendering contexts for application development, improving visual display, reducing CPU usage, and improving power usage.
The Javascript performance improvement is still a bit murky; let's unpack it with some help from the official IE9 blog. "To improve JavaScript performance even more, Chakra [IE9's Javascript engine] does something quite different from other script engines today. It has a separate background thread for compiling JavaScript. Windows runs that thread in parallel on a separate core when one is available. Compiling in the background enables users to keep interacting with webpages while IE generates even faster code. By running separately in the background, this process can take advantage of today’s multi-core machines – so, users with a Core2Duo or QuadCore or i7 can apply that power to making webpages faster without any additional effort. "


Still shots don't do the rendering engine justice. Picture 256 icons spinning at 60 frames a second, without slowing anything else down.

IE9 isn't expected to drop until 2011 and its GPU-accelerated rendering engine isn't compatible with Windows XP due to fundamental differences between Windows XP's software rendering style and the Desktop Window Manager that ships with both Windows 7 and Windows Vista; it's not clear if Microsoft will release IE9 for XP or simply continue to maintain IE8's security patches. It's hard to capture some of the coolest things the IE9 Platform can do in a static screenshot; head over to Microsoft's website and take a look yourself if you're curious. When you consider how much of our time is spent within a browser, this is the sort of innovation that could genuinely be called a game-changer. We'll undoubtedly see announcements and demonstrations from Chrome, Firefox, and Opera in the days ahead—the sooner this tech hits the desktop (without being buggy) the better.
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Meh. Are they finally going to let the user determine font specifications, like Firefox? If they don't, not all the GPU acceleration in the world could make me switch.

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Can there even be a rebirth for IE?

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Hmmm. Interesting.

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No idea regarding font specifications; I've never seen the need to specify any. What fonts are you trying to avoid? Are you visually impaired? (I'm thinking maybe some are more legible than others).

Ironic that you say nothing could save it though--the vector-scaled graphics are impressive.

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I am, indeed, visually impaired, with a condition called "low vision." Small and narrow-stroke fonts are practically illegible for me-- and for a significant portion of older adults too, for other reasons.

Microsoft has spotty universal accessibility. On the one hand, Windows Vista and 7 allow you to change the DPI scale, which can help enlarge fonts (though it makes some dialog boxes look weird), but most alerts and dialogs are rendered in 9-point Geneva which can't be altered by system preferences-- such as you can get with the Window Color and Appearance control panel. (Which does a good job on what it DOES affect.)

Internet Explorer, as well as the Help system, allows four named font sizes, the larges of which I would classify as "small." (ITunes is even worse, but that's a different company.) This is one of the reasons I love Firefox; its ability to enforce the user's font choices (except in things like graphical text and Flash animations) is superb.

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Is that with the basic version of FF or an add-on feature?

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@gibbersome: No AddOn; the standard version of Mozilla Firefox allows overriding font size settings through the Tools:Options...:Content pane. Unfortunately web designers have found ways around this, and every so often (like when I took the FCC's broadband test) I have to temporarily set the minimum font size down to 12. Additionally, there seems to be some trouble with baselines; the World of Warcraft home page, for example, is populated on the left side with a list of options that are illegible, as the 24-point type is chopped off after 12 points worth of space. (The same effect is on the poll sidebar here at HH.) On top of that, sites like Harrah's reservation page have a block of text and edit fields that doesn't flow right, so it overlaps the information elsewhere on the page.

But it's still better than the alternative, which would be to use a magnifying glass for web browsing and not just when running an installer or trying to read an error alert.

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ClemSnide:
I am, indeed, visually impaired, with a condition called "low vision."

Didn't your momma warn you about looking at Internet porn?

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Guess we're going to have to test it to see Joel :D, it sounds impressive in ways but we got to test it our self first :P

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This sounds interesting I guess. They are going to have to do a lot to get me away from FF though.

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"this process can take advantage of today’s multi-core machines – so, users with a Core2Duo or QuadCore or i7 can apply that power to making webpages faster without any additional effort"

Funny how they don't mention any AMD processors, isn't it? (Smells conspiracy) :P

Like rapid1 said, it will take a lot to get me away from Firefox as well (and occasionally Opera, actually), but from what I've seen IE might be improving. From what I've SEEN, mind you: for the time being I don't have enough assurance to touch it with anything less than a ten-foot pole.

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Testing out the new comments capabilities with the HH Twitter account. Shamless, off-topic plug, follow us @HotHardware! :D

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>> The MSHTML rendering layer has been enhanced to use Direct2D and DirectWrite

This has been in the Firefox 3.7 builds since last November.

>> IE9 is more standards compliant than previous versions, with new support for HTML5 elements such as and CSS3 support...

I knew this was coming, but it's still scary because MS historically implements purposely "extended"/broken versions of standards in order to eliminate them. This is where we'll get to see their hand - i.e. what they did to make sure that apps written in HTML5 on Windows don't render properly on other platforms.

I simply can't see them doing a "good" or complete job implementing HTML5, when it's going to make a large portion of SilverLight and its OS lock-in redundant.

>> SVG support. The element will be accelerated on the GPU via Direct2D and will enable hardware accelerated rendering contexts for application development, improving visual display, reducing CPU usage, and improving power usage.

And only two years after every other browser implemented it. Innovation! Smile

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"Once Bitten Twice Shy" That's my take on IE throughout the years. Every time they announce the latest 'New and Improved' IE, people try it out and wind up getting bitten. Every two bit hacker on the planet is looking to establish his 'creds' (credentials) by hacking the latest Microsoft offerings. This new IE WILL be hacked, you can count on it happening. After many times of reloading windows due to some IE based exploit trashing my systems, I quit using it and haven't looked back.

For Me, Using Internet Explorer Is Like Being Slowly Pecked To Death By Chickens.

PS: I like to use FireFox and sometimes Chrome too. Both can be customized and are stable to use.

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Yeah realneil those are some very valid assumptions. I went to the try out page for it. It looks nice, but will not do anything. I could not even get it to load a web page other than the try out one.

This is definitely a we will see, with sub-par expectations from me.

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So does that mean JS in IE9 won't be as hard to work with as before? It'll definitely be a plus if it is =]

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3vi1,

Did some digging. Full SVG hardware acceleration isn't yet implemented in any released browser. Furthermore, a developer did do some experiments with Direct2D in Firefox (link is here: http://www.basschouten.com/blog1.php/2009/11/25/firefox-and-direct2d-performance-analysi but the performance gain was on the order of 5%. Clearly that particular implementation wasn't quite working right.

The argument that Silverlight requires vendor lock-in is spurious in the long-term thanks to Moonlight. It's doubly silly since no one is using Silverlight anyway :p, and while Flash does technically run on Linux I'm told its performance and stability are even worse than the Windows flavor.

If we're going to discuss browser security I'm all ears, but I've not seen any studies claiming that IE7/IE8 (as opposed to IE6) are inherently less secure than their counterparts.

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>> id some digging. Full SVG hardware acceleration isn't yet implemented in any released browser.

I wasn't talking about acceleration, I was talking about support for the standard *at all*. By the time IE9 is released, I'm sure the Cairo/DX2D stuff will have settled and acceleration will already be in FF.

>> The argument that Silverlight requires vendor lock-in is spurious in the long-term thanks to Moonlight.

No, no it's not. 1) It's always missing/behind Silverlight features. 2) Microsoft has the licensing so jacked up that you're most likely violating it if you don't run Suse or own a Windows license. I personally won't use a player that makes me agree to codec licensing agreements just to view an advertisement for another piece of MS software.

>> It's doubly silly since no one is using Silverlight anyway

Hmmm... checked out the new Bing Maps, or the olympic coverage? No one was using it *yet*. First MS is tying all of their own services to it. Everyone else will come along once they include the client in the OS and start giving away free server licensing with IIS.

 

>> while Flash does technically run on Linux I'm told its performance and stability are even worse than the Windows flavor.

Someone exaggerated to you. Flash runs fine here - my kids use it to play most all of their game sites on Linux, and I use it to watch high quality streams from Hulu and YouTube. I've had to report the occasional bug, but it runs full speed on a normal system.

As far as security goes, I did not start that conversation, but I can point you to the answer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_browsers#Vulnerabilities. Look at the total unpatched vulnerabilities in IE7 and IE8 vs. Firefox and Opera, and the age of the oldest vulnerabilities. That's *horrible* security on MS's part.

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I switched to Chrome about 4 months ago being that Internet Explorer was not to secure as a browser. Chrome took a little getting used to but I like it alot now. Might be hard to convert me back, I will wait and see how much resources it uses and how secure they make this new browser.

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Appreciating the feedback, and keep in mine this is just the test platform, not even a beta version. If anyone is interested in staying up on the latest IE9 happenings, they might want to check out

www.twitter.com/iE

www.facebook.com/internetExplorer

Cheers,

Kyler

IE Team

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