In every release of the browser, we make many major feature investments, most of which you can read about in posts over on the IEBlog. However, we also make thousands of small improvements that are often overlooked or not broadly recognized. In this post, I will provide a partial list of some of these small improvements which I think are most interesting. Improvements in IE9 that impact issues or features previously discussed on this blog can be found by searching for the tag BetterInIE9.
Of course, because there are thousands of changes that I will not be covering, please do not mistake this for a comprehensive list, and please note that I’m deliberately skipping over the big feature improvements that will be discussed on the IEBlog over the next few months.
- WinINET/IE will now reject HTTP responses if the response body contains fewer bytes than the Content-Length response header promised. [Reverted in IE9 RC]
- WinINET/IE will now reject HTTP responses delivered with HTTP Chunked Encoding if the last chunk contained fewer bytes than the last chunk-size indicator promised. For a while, we tried to also reject HTTP responses that failed to include the final 0-size chunk indicator, but it turns out that many real-world sites omit this (in violation of RFC2616) and hence this change could not be kept.
- IE9 will no longer unconditionally change the file extension of ZIP-based formats (e.g. Office 2007 documents) to .zip if the server fails to specify the proper Content-Type header for the file type.
- IE9 no longer ignores every other Cache-Control header if a response contains more than one.
- IE9 now follows the RFC2616-specified mechanism for calculating Age, using the Date header if the Age header is not present.
- IE9 no longer penalizes the cacheability of responses where the response’s Date is in the future of the current time.
- IE9 now treats responses where (Age > max-Age) as expired instead of ignoring Max-Age and falling back to the Expires header.
- For a number of reasons, IE may not have a backing image file available in the local cache. In prior versions of IE, right-clicking on such pictures and choosing “Save Picture As” will only offer the Bitmap format to save (because IE keeps a copy of the image in memory in Bitmap format). In IE9, Trident now contains image encoders, so even if the local cache file cannot be found, the Save Picture As dialog will offer to save the image in PNG format. PNG format is also available for SVG images.
- The Save Target As context menu item now properly sends a HTTP Referer header. The bug whereby Save Target As fails to send the User-Agent header that matches the target URL’s Compatibility View setting is not yet fixed in IE9 Beta.
- IE7 introduced support for IPv6 in Proxy Automatic Configuration scripts. That support has a bug whereby the IsPlainHostname function always returns TRUE for an IPV6 literal hostname, while it should always return false. This could be worked around by the proxy configuration script author by having the script manually check for multiple colon characters within the hostname. In IE9, the IsPlainHostname function has been fixed.
- Prior to IE9, using a scheme-relative protocol as the HREF for a stylesheet could result in multiple parallel downloads of that stylesheet. This has been fixed.
- Prior to IE9, <img src=””> , an image tag that specifies a null URI for the source attribute, would trigger a download. In accordance with changes in the HTML5 specification, this will no longer trigger any downloads.
- Improvements were made to the lookahead preparser to help avoid restarts and improve performance even in the event of restarts.
- In IE9 Standards Mode, the legacy obfuscated-script engines JScript.Encode and VBScript.Encode are not available.
- In IE9 Standards Mode, the XMLHttpRequest object no longer enforces a strict list of what methods may be used. The only forbidden methods are TRACE and TRACK.
- The DataURI length limit was raised from 32kb to 4gb; longer DataURIs are important for some scenarios, particularly for the Canvas element’s toDataURL() method. However, the IE9 Beta has a known bug where DataURIs that exceed 4kb are not permitted for FONT-FACE rules in CSS.
- When the user selects “Allow popup” on the popup blocker notification bar, IE will still attempt to refresh the page to allow script in this page to run correctly and spawn a popup. However, it is possible that the page may block the refresh (e.g. with the OnBeforeUnload dialog: “Are you sure you want to leave this page? Doing so will lose some of your work…”). Previously, if you chose “No”, the page would not refresh, but subsequent popups would still be blocked. This is now fixed, and subsequent popups are allowed even if you decline to refresh the page.
- The OnBeforeUnload dialog has been changed to make it more clear what text is supplied by the web page, and what the valid options are:
- IE9 enables Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP) by default.
- IE9 is compiled with the Visual Studio 2010 compiler and benefits from the EnhancedGS stack-protection feature.
- By default, IE9 will allow insecure images on secure pages but revoke the lock icon. Insecure stylesheets, script, and other content is blocked by default, rather than resulting in a prompt. Advanced options allow the automatic blocking of insecure images if desired.
- In IE9 browser mode, IE will not sniff text/plain content to text/html. In IE8, sites would have to send the X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff header to prevent MIME-sniffing. It is, of course, still a best-practice to send the header if your site delivers content uploaded by untrusted users.
- Regardless of document mode, IE9 will not apply a cross-domain stylesheet unless the stylesheet’s HTTP headers specify Content-Type: text/css. Unlike in Firefox 4, if the Content-Type header is omitted, the stylesheet still will not be applied.
- In IE9 Standards document mode, IE9 will not apply any stylesheet unless the stylesheet’s HTTP headers specify Content-Type: text/css.
- Character-set inheritence across cross-domain subframes is fully blocked.
- The IE9 Download Manager has integrated SmartScreen Application Reputation information to reduce security prompts when downloading “known safe” programs.
- The IE9 SmartScreen Warning page now contains information about which frame on the page caused the warning. IE8 would block the same content, but IE9’s enhancement allows you to more easily understand when a site you visit is the victim of malicious advertising.
ActiveX Phoenix Bits
As explained over on the Security Research and Defense blog, a Phoenix Bit allows an ActiveX control developer to release a new version of a control which was previously killbitted to block exploit of a security vulnerability. The Phoenix Bit is a simple mechanism in which the developer specifies (via the registry) an AlternateCLSID for IE to load when web content is found with a reference to the original, killbitted CLSID.
var obj = new ActiveXObject(“clsid“);
Internet Explorer User Interface
- Inline Autocomplete has returned to the IE address bar, and it, my favorite navigation feature, is now enabled by default.
- The “Travel Log” which used to appear in response to clicking on the dropdown arrow next to the back/forward buttons is now hidden by default. To access the Travel Log, either right-click or left-click-and-hold on the back/forward buttons.
- Prior to IE9, the browser’s menus used Title Cased text, now they use Sentence cased text, to match updated user-interface guidelines.
- The CTRL+S key combination is now mapped to Save As instead of the usually-disabled Save command. This allows you to more easily save web pages to your disk.
- IE now supports CTRL+L to focus the address bar to match other browsers. The legacy ALT+D hotkey still works, and if you want the legacy open dialog, simply hit CTRL+O.
- Typing a single word into the address bar and hitting enter is interpreted as a search for that single word. You can turn off Search from the Address Bar using Manage Add-ons. Or, to visit an Intranet site (e.g. http://data) type either data/ or //data or : data. To more clearly indicate that you would like to perform a search, type a leading question mark, e.g. ? data.
You can read about other IE9 changes over in the IE9 Cookbook on MSDN.
That’s it for now… I hope you enjoy the IE9 Beta, available for download here.
Update 2/11/2011: I’ve just posted the IE9 RC Minor Changes list.