Blogging IE9: A Year in Review

March 9th, 2011

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