Blogging IE9: A Year in Review


With the IE9 final release just ahead, we want to recap the last year or so of blogging with an index to our posts. We’re organizing this index around the themes in the IE9 product as well as the blog posts:

  • Releases & Updates: IE9 from an Early Look to Release Candidate
  • Feedback & Voice: Engaging the Community
  • Performance and Measurement: Building a Faster Browser to Enable a Faster Web
  • The Platform, Web Standards, and Developers
  • Safety & Privacy, and the Sometimes Hostile Web
  • Consumer Experiences: A Browser for the People who Browse

Looking at the themes it’s easy to see the connection between the development of IE9 and what different people want from a browser. Enthusiasts and developers want transparency into the process and a voice in providing feedback in a way that respects their time. People want a fast browser that does an amazing job enabling great experiences with standards like HTML5. They want a browser that keeps them safe and respects their privacy, while at the same time keeping their sites at the center of their experience. The IE9 product delivers on these themes because the IE9 development process involved the community from the beginning.

Releases & Updates: IE9 from an Early Look to Release Candidate

Enthusiasts and developers want transparency into the process, so let’s start with the first update to the community about IE9, An Early Look At IE9 for Developers. It talks about performance, and standards, and using the PC’s hardware to deliver a better experience of the Web.

We showed progress on this set of topics with each IE9 Platform Preview:

The Platform Previews, described in the early blog post About the Platform Preview, are downloads for developers and enthusiasts of the browsing engine for them to see the progress we’re making and offer feedback. The Platform Previews came with a Test Drive Web site that showed what the platform could do, submissions of tests to the suites under development at standards bodies, and a way to provide feedback to the engineering team – but no back button or address bar. We updated the previews at a regular cadence, about every eight weeks, showing significant improvement with each update.

Based on the feedback and progress, we released the IE9 beta with the consumer user experience. (The beta included an update to the underlying platform, Platform Preview 5.) Maintaining the cadence, we released two more Platform Previews for developers as well as an update to the beta for stability issues that real-world usage uncovered:

We acted on the feedback we heard from Windows customers and partners during the beta and Platform Preview cycle, making the IE9 Release Candidate available for download. Microsoft also demonstrated IE9 running on Windows Phones:

People also want the software they’re already running to stay secure and get better over time. During the same time, we continued to release security updates for all Windows customers on a consistent eight week cycle. For example, you can read about the most recent one here: February 2011 Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer Now Available. There’s also a separate cadence of updates via Knowledge Base articles that address issues that large organizations (like OEMs, or large enterprise customers) encounter.

Feedback & Voice: Engaging the Community

Enthusiasts and developers want a voice in providing feedback in a way that respects their time in addition to transparency into the process.

Toward the beginning of IE9, we outlined our point of view and approach to Product Feedback Systems. Even earlier, we offered blog posts with specific guidance about providing feedback and bug reports. You can read the end results of the process, and hear the community’s voice, in the post below about IE9 feedback from Platform Preview through the beta as well as the Acting on Feedback post (above) that announced the availability of the Release Candidate.

The impact of the community on Web standards (like JavaScript) is apparent in several posts as well.

We enjoy an abundance of comments on our blog posts. In the 2010 summary post about “Connecting With You,” we offered some statistics about comments and feedback up to that point. The post became obsolete quickly; the post about the Release Candidate received almost 450 comments, more than the other posts called out in that recap.

The issue reports on Connect—over 17,000 of them through beta to Release Candidate—have been tremendously valuable. For example, in Feedback on the IE9 Platform Preview, you can see that different users had different experiences of Gmail depending on different factors, and specific issue reports helped us isolate the underlying reason and work with Google on a resolution far better than brief comments on the blog.

Performance and Measurement: Building a Faster Browser to Enable a Faster Web

People want a faster browser. IE9 focused holistically on real-world performance, not just abstract micro benchmarks. IE9 delivers significantly better performance than other browsers because it takes advantage of the hardware it runs on better than other browsers do. For example, IE is the first fully hardware accelerated browser, using the GPU for all graphics and text in Web pages. The new JavaScript engine in IE9 also takes advantage of hardware to go faster.

Understanding what to measure, and how, when looking at performance is an important start. These blog posts offer crucial context in making sense of this complex topic. More technical readers may enjoy the post describing the Windows development performance tools.

A good overview of taking advantage of PC hardware to make Web pages faster is in the early post about the benefits of GPU-powered HTML5. The videos comparing side by side performance of different browsers running the same Web page, both at the IE blog and elsewhere, clearly demonstrate the power of hardware acceleration. For example, the post IE9 Includes Hardware Accelerated Canvas includes several videos as well as some technical drill down. Other posts that you might find helpful here include:

Adobe Flash has done great work to support a faster, hardware-accelerated Web. You can read more about that here: Flash Player 10.2 Beta Supports IE9’s Hardware Acceleration.

IE9 made many, many other performance improvements, for example Caching Improvements in Internet Explorer 9. We’ve also worked with the community to make it easier for developers to measure their site’s performance in a Web standards way:

Add-ons can have a huge negative impact on your browser’s performance. (This article about issues in FireFox describes some of them well.) The first post below offers a good recap of the public response to the new IE9 feature that helps you make your browser faster by identifying the add-ons that are slowing it down; the other posts in the series offer more detail:

The Platform, Web Standards, and Developers

People want a faster browser that does an amazing job enabling great experiences in Web pages, especially in an interoperable way with Web standards. HTML5 technologies are important to making Web experiences better.

Some HTML5 technologies are more ready than others. HTML5, Site-Ready and Experimental offers a good case study of premature implementation of technology. Similarly, some HTML5 technology assessments are more ready than others. Summarizing Common Browser Tests is a good overview of the different tests and charts that are often cited in discussions about HTML5. Our approach continues to focus on comprehensive tests from standards bodies like the W3C and providing clear guidance to developers about how to make the same markup – the same HTML, CSS, script, etc. – work across different browsers.

The core platforms and standards work involved an alphabet soup of technologies like CSS3, DOM, ECMAScript, XHTML, WOFF, MIME, SVG, and Canvas. Other technologies don’t fit cleanly into a particular category, such as W3C Geolocation API in IE9. Together, these technologies make it possible for developers to build Web experiences that are beautiful and interactive. We blogged about them at length; you’ll notice the Same Markup theme represented here as well:

To help developers make the most out of these technologies, IE9 includes vastly improved developer tools and diagnostics. Along with the product, we also provided comprehensive documentation and information about the platform to make working with the technology easier for developers:

Video support in HTML5 continues to be an important topic. These blog posts were some of the most commented on during the development cycle:

Safety & Privacy, and the Sometimes Hostile Web

People want a browser that keeps them safe and respects their privacy. These attributes are important for a browser in addition to being faster and doing an amazing job enabling great experiences in Web pages.

The blog post series on IE9’s Security features has just started. These posts offer a good overview of the SmartScreen technology that is so important to helping protect consumers from the real threats they face on the Web today.

Privacy and concerns about online tracking are also important topics. These blog posts cover the new functionality in IE9, and also cover foundational technologies from IE8 and Windows and the industry:

Add-ons are an important part of any discussion of security and privacy (or performance and reliability). These posts discuss the progress IE9 makes helping users stay in control of the add-ons that can affect their browsing experience:

Consumer Experiences: A Browser for the People who Browse

People want a browser that gives them a great experience with all the tasks and activities of using the Web overall. That’s beyond a browser that is faster, that does an amazing job enabling great Web site experiences, and also keeps them safe and respects their privacy.

IE9 represents a huge step forward for consumers. From the blog post about the beta:

IE9 makes what’s easy and familiar for Windows users available for Web sites and the people who browse them. Users can pin sites in the taskbar just as they pin applications, and launch Web tasks directly, the same way they launch everything else in Windows. Web sites can program jump lists for pinned sites, to make common tasks easier for their users as part of the desktop experience. Sites can also program notifications when the user pins them in the task bar. The browser has a clean new design that reinforces the site’s visuals, with a large site icon, and that icon’s colors reflected in the back and forward buttons. IE9 does far more than provide shortcuts to sites on the desktop and reduce the space used in the browser interface. The design of IE9’s frame puts the user’s focus on the site, not the browser, with fewer distractions. IE9 allows sites to shine.

In addition to detail about what was in the beta, we wrote extensively about the changes we made between the beta and Release Candidate based on the feedback we heard:

Looking Ahead

Thank you for reading this far in this post. Looking back on these posts (and many others from the last year not linked to here), thanks are also due to the many people who have read and commented and contributed feedback about the work we’ve done with the Web community and hardware partners over the last year.

Looking ahead, the next step for IE9 is finishing it. That enables consumers and businesses to deploy it freely, and will help the Web become a more beautiful place.

—Dean Hachamovitch, Corporate Vice President, Internet Explorer

Comments (39)

  1. gawicks says:

    I am sure most of us can wait.Please take more time and iron out the remaining bugs and inconsistancies . Unless you're planning to release IE10 early 2012(?)

  2. Scott says:

    Now, with IE9 and the incredible support to emerging standarts, I'm waiting a big announce at MIX11: smaller releases, just like other browsers. IE8 was released almost 2 years ago. Two years to release a new version? I know that is good for marketing, but it's bad for customers.

    Come on guys, I know you can. Release early, release often. 😉

    (p.s.: english isn't my mother tongue, sorry for my mistakes)

  3. Chris says:

    Well done for the work you've put in to IE 9!

  4. Saman says:

    Congrats … can't wait to check it out 😀 could you give a change log from the RC … ?

  5. Tim says:

    As a web developer, I would like to give a big "Thank you" to the IE team for your hard work on IE9. For the past several years, IE has been the "least common denominator" — that is, the browser that supports the least technology and that must still be supported because of its user base. Now that IE is getting up to speed, web sites and applications will be unburdened from supporting legacy browsers. (… as soon as we no longer have to support IE8, which may be years from now, but there is hope!) I also really appreciate the time and effort you've taken to communicate and dialog with the web developer community.

    May I add one thing and echo posts above this one: other browsers have been able to innovate and iterate rapidly because of short release cycles. May I suggest the same for IE 10+?

    Cheers,

    Tim

  6. mvadu says:

    Congratulations guys!! can't wait to upgrade from RC to final version (not that RC is any bad). Are you guys pushing final version via Windows Updates too? like you did for RC?

    Also I see that some of the Anti Virus providers (Kaspersky lab in my case) are not yet ready for IE9, are you (Microsoft) working with that ecosystem to bring out updates to their products too?

  7. Stilgar says:

    One question – FONT RENDERING?!?!?

  8. alvatrus says:

    I agree with Scott (about the more frequent updates, that is.)

    IE has come a long way since version six. It feels like 7 and 8 were underrated by the public for the tremendous groundwork that went into those releases to make IE9 happen where it all came together and expose the new infrastructure to the features. (Athough IE9 is a major step in its own right, of course.)

    As the structures are now more in line with the Web-standards, it *should* (famous last words) be easier to add extensions to the existing code base.

    This release of IE9 could be the "base" platform for businesses and consumers, with "fun" functionality (text-shadow, anyone?) added in an IE9.1 release.

    That is what people expect nowadays from a modern browser. I'm looking at Chrome here. Just don't copy those silly version numbers rocketing off into the stratosphere….

  9. IEFan says:

    Congrat! IE Team for IE9. As a web developer, do you guys implemented scrollable tbody yet on IE9?

  10. Javier says:

    This post is great. I'm writing a paper about IE9 and this sort of index will save me a lot of browsing time throught the blog.

    Thanks guys and go on doing the great job you have done with IE9 until now (best browser ever).

  11. Arieta says:

    Congrats, even though IE9 really feels like a beta. The same way IE7 and IE8 had their own, major bugs (png gamma comes to mind). You guys REALLY need to switch to more frequent, less major releases… IE9.1, or 9.5, and so on. And, please listen to the feedback and make the IE9 gui more customizable, eventually. Having a fixed layout will make the browser comfortable to only the people who like that layout. But having a customizable layout will make the browser comfortable for anyone.

    I'd like to ask one thing though: is there a place where I can check what bugs were fixed between RC and Final? I doubt you added things like aero translucent favorites bar, or optional subpixel font rendering, but in the RC I had some issues where, after longer browsing sessions, IE9 just refused to start connections to anything.

  12. pmbAustin says:

    Contratulations on IE9!

    Now, I really, really hope you ship IE9.1 in four months (six at the outside) with additional standards support, bug fixes, and more customization in the UI (like bringing back the separate search box as an option, and allowing people to move the home button over to the left, etc).  You don't need to CHANGE existing functionality (i.e. breaking anything), just add new standards support, fix bugs, and make the UI more flexible for power users.  Eliminate concerns about backwards compatibility, but get support for new features of HTML5 that IE9 doesn't yet have out there sooner!

    And then ship IE9.2 4 months (six at the outside) after that.  Then IE9.3, IE9.4… keep it up to date with the firming HTML5 standard as new parts become stable.

  13. L. says:

    Thank you for the release.  IE9 has turned out very well IMHO.

    Can you tell us about what comes next?  Specifically:

    * Should we expect a "silent" (except for marketing) period on this blog while you do planning/internals work for the next version?

    * Will you keep refreshing the Platform Preview as often?  Will you provide a preview of the work being done?

    * How should we file suggestions or re-activate closed/postponed ones?  Currently the tracker for IE on Connect is geared towards bugs only.

    * Do you have early/tentative plans for the next version, that can be discussed publicly?

    Completely unrelated question: how will IE9 final handle installations on Windows Server?  Will you require the Desktop Experience components, or will it be possible to install IE9 without them (and thus without <video> support, I guess, but it's likely unnecessary on a server)?

  14. Anonymous says:

    @Stilgar

    DirectWrite was updated yesterday. Run windows update if you're computer hasn't already done so automaticly.

  15. hAl says:

    Mayby add support for new CSS/HTML specifications in 9.1 or 9.5 versions because adding new features normally does not break compatibility with existing sites.

  16. 6205 says:

    OK… now hurry onto IE10 as default browser for Windows 8.

    I dont wanna intall it on top of IE9 🙂

  17. Stilgar says:

    @Anonymous I just checked. The update is downloaded but I have not restarted yet. However it seems like the update is just performance update and will not affect the rendering BUG – support.microsoft.com/…/2505438

  18. Nelson says:

    Congrats on all the work accomplished!

    Now what is happening about browser testing options since you killed Spoon and have refused to make useful un-time bombed VMs for testing IE.

    The dev tools in IE9 are much better than previous versions but still lightyears behind the easy to use… Tools available in Firefox or Chrome.

    Most importantly… Has innerHTML FINALLY been fixed in IE9… Because it is seriously annoying that this has seen NO improvements during the betas!!!!!!!

    Tx

  19. Bill says:

    IE is still very slow.

    What the engineers of IE will do about it?

    http://www.freeimagehosting.net/…/2c4456215d.png

  20. asdf says:

    Mozilla is going to copy Google Chrome's release schedule (new release once every 6 weeks) for future versions of Firefox. Are you guys going to do something similar for IE?

  21. Marcos says:

    You know why IE 9 will fail if it Microsoft doesn't change it's manners?

    It's not because of all problems of IE 6, but because Microsoft has a horrible relationship with addon developers. Users dont't just browse the web, i.e., the browser it's not just a client rendering engine, if that was the case we could just use webkit. Again, using the web today is all about addons. I don't care if browser X or Y renders CSS 1 second faster, I care about my experience on the web which today is heavily influenced about extensions/addons.

    There are tons of addons for the other browser, such as Mozilla Firefox and Chrom(e/ium). Developers are very motivated to create plugin for Open Source browsers or browsers that Respect standards (Opera). How can IE approach addons developers? I think this is the MAIN question, why should I care to develop a addon for IE? IE neither is Open Source nor respect standards (in the past).

    So, in conclusion,

    Microsoft P&R and IE team needs to solve THIS problem, if it doesn't want to fail.

    PS: Sorry for my flame comment in the other post.

  22. alvatrus says:

    @marcos: Do you have data that supports your assumption?

    Because everyone I meet that is a non-technical person using the web, doesn't even know what an add-on is. (Ever watched your mother in law mixing up the search bar, the address bar and search box on the google web-site?) They just want a browser that works, with the least possible number of controls, buttons, choices and other distractions in sight. The word "installing" breaks out a sweat in them. For them, a computer is this magical thing that they really don't understand at all, and all they (want to) know is googling and clicking links. And there are hundreds of millions of them. They get by on a strict need-to-know basis.

    Don't confuse your needs with the needs of the target public of IE, or the general public at large. Microsoft has tons and tons of user data to make their decisions, and I predict a sigh of relief from all those non-techies when they see the new IE.

  23. Saman says:

    @alvatrus

    My mother who can't run an application if it doesn't have a shortcut on the desktop is using firefox 3.6 and google chrome just fine … so what exactly in firefox/chrome does make it unsuitable for non-technical people ? i think u're confusing general public with non-technical users !! general public includes both technical and non-technical and as long as IE is going to target only one half of this assortment it's going to be hated by the other . . .

    a browser can have both advanced features and be so easy to use for non-technical users that they wouldn't even become aware of those features.

    so this kind of excuse is unsatisfactory and the same goes for Windows Phone 7 . . . . . . . 😉 😀

  24. alvatrus says:

    @Saman: And how many add-ons/plug-ins did your mother install *herself*? (Which was the heart of the original post of marcos.)

    Do you have any data on the technical / non-techie ratio of the browsing public at large?

    I'm not saying that the advanced features are unimportant, I just want to place the need for it in a broader perspective than only from the "enthusiast" point of view that generally post here.

  25. Jon says:

    Congratulations on all your hard work! I was mostly hoping for border-radius and box-shadow, and you've implemented them flawlessly and so much more.

    Does this mean that Mozilla has to send *you* a cake? Or maybe a pie since you're releasing it on pi day.

  26. Dennis Jakobsen - Innomate a/s says:

    Hello Microsoft,

    As a web application developer hosting 100+ customers websites using 3rd party controls (Telerik in this case). I emplore you not to rush this release. All your control developers have been caught off guard. You've warned them for years, but apparently they were unaware of the imminent release. Our websites will break for all our customers if they upgrade to IE9. I'm assuming it'll end up on Windows Update as a critical update?

    This will obviously fall on deaf ears, because the marketing machine has spoken and sadly technical merit and software quality has always had lower priority at Microsoft. Releasing another intermediate step towards "catching up" to competition, will just make the whole IE nightmare worse. We already have 3 old IE browsers + 2 of them have compat. views that are inconsistent. We really don't need more of these. We need an Internet Explorer browser that has already "caught up" and stays that way.

    About control compatability, you could learn alot from Mozilla's determination not to release a browser when their web developers favorite addon (firebug) isn't working. You can have a look at how many times firebug/firefox incompatabilities were blocking beta releases. Go ahead, all their bugs are out in the open.

    Internet Explorer 9 has obviously come along way, please don't release it before it's ready. Not when you're so close.

    regards,

    Dennis Jakosen – Innomate a/s

  27. sternr says:

    @Dennis Jakobsen  – You can force IE9 to render as IE87 using the meta tags, this should do for a quick n' dirty solution

  28. S_KellyTT says:

    It would be extreemely useful for IE9 to have Font Rendering. If this made available, I am certain that a number of developers would apreciate it.

  29. Tim Acheson says:

    Hi guys, please listen. It's essential that you provide an IE9 installer for Windows XP. If necessary make it dependent on a new service pack! People aren't buying the excuses about the OS. Many of us remember IE4 which completely overhauled the OS. The executives behind this strategy must sit in an ivory tower, where everybody in the organisation uses Windows 7. It's not like that in the outside world. This will be a momentous missed opportunity.

  30. Jane says:

    @Tim Windows XP is like IE6 — a decade old system that should have been left behind a long time ago, both for features and security. Besides, the "service pack" you are talking about would have to change the whole graphics subsystem, requiering new drivers, and in effect be almost like upgrading halfway to Vista.. If an org would be willing to go through that, why not rather upgrade directly to Win7?

  31. hannsg says:

    Too bad you guys didn't do all of this right after IE 6 instead of declaring victory, closing up shop and stopping development on what is currently the most important type of program in the World.  But hey, I guess the Xbox is doing ok, so it was worth it.

  32. meni says:

    hannsg, exactly! Imagine the web today had MS adopted SVG instead of VML back in 2000. VML went nowhere, waste of everyone's time. Also imagine had Microsoft declared "we love and support standards" back then. In any case this is over (it will take a year or so to flush out all traces of that period…).

    The problem is today! Microsoft should unambiguously say "we love open standards and we want to inter-operate", even if conflicts with other technology they have. Push now for a quick microphone and webcam standards. Support WebGL and all the specs that do what Flash and Silverlight do. Declare SL really dead (as a Flash competitor), so all the fanboys will agree and see the light.

  33. Aethec says:

    @meni >> I (and many other people) will bet whatever you want that Silverlight (or Flash) is far more productive than HTML/CSS/JS and allows for waaaaay more things.

    I still don't understand why you like WebGL. It's a layer on top of OpenGL. Why on Earth would a standard need a specific implementation? That's like saying everyone should adopt MS's DirectX filters.

  34. Stilgar says:

    If Microsoft declares SL dead because of some bullshit Google propaganda I will switch from .NET to another technology and from Windows to another OS despite not having any investment in SL. This is no way to treat developers and customers. What is more SL kicks web tech's (html + js) butt. The only problem is that competitors won't adopt it.

  35. Daniel says:

    This sites that checks features are bogus… run them in sequence and you will see that some say that IE9 does not have feature X and others say thar IE9 have the feature X….

  36. Zoom Bug says:

    when zooming on this page en.wikipedia.org/…/Tsunami no horizontal scrollbar appears and images (formulas) are not shown completely ….

    also when i zoom back using Ctrl + 0 or Ctrl + – the position of the page changes which is very annoying ….

    please fix them before the release and thanks for the IE9 …

  37. yao says:

    instalation