Internet Explorer 9 Beta Launch - A New Accelerated Web Experience


Industry Standards & Performance Matters

Designed to Support Industry Standards

Most prominently, the existing and previous iterations of Internet Explorer were well behind the curve in supporting full HTML spec and other elements required for a modern rich web media experience. Thankfully this time round, Internet Explorer 9 is much more updated with extensive support for HTML5, CSS3, SVG, new DOM levels and ECMAScript 5.

With Internet Explorer still holding the lion's share of the browser market and for obvious reasons, Microsoft's new browser supporting the latest standards extensively will be very well received by developers. For developers, this means coding their web apps or websites to support the next wave of internet experience is one-time effort as it will work across all browsers that conform to these markup standards.

With far better support for HTML5, Internet Explorer 9 now supports some of the more notable multimedia aspects natively with audio and video elements now recognized. This means developers can insert and manipulate such elements easily without relying on browser plug-ins. For users, expect a more seamless website design as well as lower processing needs. Translate this to mobile devices and enabling such content without plug-ins is a big bonus on many levels from processing, power consumption and ease of use. Think about the iPhone and iPad that won't have to rely on plug-ins or the inability to view Flash enabled content for example.

Adding on, IE9 supports Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and the canvas element of HTML5 which enables dynamic graphics rendering. Again, all of these don't require plug-ins. Plus, Internet Explorer 9 supports hardware accelerated graphics to greatly speed up processing and enable a much better experience. We'll touch more on this in the next section.

 

The Performance Edge

Some of the most notable aspects readily apparent in Internet Explorer 9 are its performance improvements. The browser uses a new layout system that is optimized for reduced memory footprint and more so for sites designed with HTML5 that may have more graphical elements than usual. This gives rise for a snappier system.

In fact, even simple things like opening new tabs is now an instant process with little to no wait times involved. Microsoft spent much time researching on user needs and to improve these areas. In the context of opening new tabs, it was found that users expected much better response times. Microsoft also studied thousands of websites on how they are designed and what portions of processing constitutes to the most wait time. Averaging their findings, three aspects of processing ate up most time in most sites:- JavaScript, Marshalling and Rendering.

This led to Microsoft tackling these aspects directly with the new Internet Explorer 9. First off, the browser incorporates a new JavaScript engine, Chakra, that's now multi-core friendly. With the average PC system having at least a dual-core processor these days, Chakra helps to compile JavaScript in the background and utilizes available processing cores to speed up the task.


According to Microsoft, this helps IE9 score very well in benchmarks like Sunspider's JavaScript benchmark. Well we managed a brief test on one of the notebooks equipped with multiple browsers and here's how Internet Explorer 9 stacks up to the rest:-

  • Opera 10.04 - 406.2ms
  • Safari 5.02 - 470.0ms
  • Chrome 6.04 - 356.0ms
  • Firefox Beta 4 - 610.6ms
  • Internet Explorer 9 - 494.0ms

Well, it turns out it isn't on top, but it is very competitive. Still these are rather preliminary results which are at the mercy of the event site's internet connection. So take the numbers with a pinch of salt till we test it back in our lab.

Moving on, Marshalling is the interface/interpretation layer in IE8 between JavaScript and the Document Object Model (DOM) for a page. Since IE9 now has Chakra which understands the DOM directly, the Marshalling layer is effectively eradicated.

To improve rendering performance, Internet Explore 9 is the first browser to really take advantage of your modern PC system's hardware and OS. Supporting hardware accelerated graphics using DirectX, Direct2D and DirectWrite application programming interfaces (APIs), it renders graphics and text with the assistance of the GPU instead of relying only on the CPU in the past. For sites and web apps that are heavy on the graphics component, such support means that these sites/apps perform fluently as if they were native apps running from the system directly. Furthermore with extensive HTML5 feature support like audio, video and canvas elements, hardware acceleration with the assistance of the OS and GPU ensures much better performance as well as tackling more advanced implementations.

A further note on hardware accelerated graphics processing is the possibility of varied experience of site contents with different system configurations. Microsoft commented that this is an inevitable side effect that is difficult to curb now, but as systems progress, it's likely that many users will have better overall experience in time to come. After all, a lot of the web content currently isn't HTML5 yet.