Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 embraces - yes - HTML5
Browser preview powers web standards with GPU
Microsoft is focusing on performance and HTML 5 standards support in Internet Explorer 9, the next version of its web browser.
IE is the most widely-used web browser, though its market share is in decline thanks to strong competition from Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and others.
At the Mix conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Microsoft announced a new platform preview, available for download here.
On the standards front, it includes CSS3 features such as opacity, rounded corners, and selector APIs. SVG is now supported, something of a surprise given the company's efforts to promote its Silverlight plug-in for rich graphics in the browser. It is not yet clear, however, whether the Canvas element is supported.
Support for the audio and video tags is also promised, though it is not in the current preview. Microsoft showed H.264 720p video running directly in the browser.
More significantly, it is at least six times better than IE8. Microsoft argues that these benchmark differences are now "approaching the duration of an eye-blink", implying that other factors become more important to real-world performance.
IE9 also makes full use of hardware acceleration, speeding up HTML and graphics rendering, including that for the new SVG support. The company calls this "GPU-powered HTML5", which improves actions such as scrolling or viewing 3D graphics by handing over processing to the graphics card. The preview uses Direct2D for this support, which means it requires Vista SP2, Windows 2008, or Windows 7.
Despite its standards efforts, the current IE9 preview is still not able to complete the Acid3 markup test, scoring 55 out of 100. While not promising full 100 per cent support, Microsoft says it will continue to improve, though several rival browsers already pass the complete test.
Microsoft's efforts to improve Internet Explorer received support from web standards advocate Molly Holzschlag, who works for Opera. The forthcoming IE "will kick butt", she told Mix attendees at a workshop on Sunday. In her view, it is now Apple, Adobe and Google who have less open processes than Microsoft, Opera and Mozilla with respect to web standards ®
Update: This story has been updated to better reflect comments made by Opera's Molly Holzschlag about the major browser vendors.
It's difficult to be humble once you've thrown a toddler tantrum
The problem is this... so many nerds have spent a third of their entire lifetime slagging off IE and bashing it over security and web standards that they simply can't swallow their pride and accept that it's changed and continues to change.
The fact is, IE8 is a good browser. It may not be as good as Opera 10.5 or Webkit when it comes to cutting edge stuff (but then neither is Firefox), but it handles real-world pages very well. The last few websites I've made have not had a *single* glitch in IE8 after the first attempt. IE7 still always has a couple of minor quirks that need fixing and IE6 needs help. But IE8 is fine.
Frankly, IE probably needs rounded corners more than it needs HTML5 video. Web designers will be happy to stick to Flash as long as old browsers are a consideration and the end users will never have a clue about how or why the video they see is there, whereas eye candy like rounded corners, CSS3 transformations and shadows most definitely will make the end user think that a supporting browser is superior to one which renders flat, square boxes that don't swirl around when you hover over them. Even then, a lot of what CSS3 transformations offer can already be done (and much better) in Flash - which works just fine in all existing browsers, including IE6. End users and (to not quite the same extent) web designers couldn't give a stuff that the HTML methods are open and don't require commercial proprietary plugins. They just want it to work, and in the case of web designers, Flash also gives them a superficial reassurance that their code can't easily be nicked.
So, while IE8 is still behind the others, it's still closer to Firefox than IE7, and closer than Firefox is to Webkit or Opera 10.5. Some people are going to find it very hard to stop bashing IE, no matter how good it gets or how many more security holes Firefox racks up compared to it.
Yes, IE8 is what IE6 should have been, and MS deserve to be reminded of what they did to the web over the last 10 years, but that doesn't mean every effort they now make should be spat upon. That says as much about you as the IE6 situation says about them. You're just a playground bully, with internet forums being your playground.
I'm really looking forward to IE9, and hope between that and support for W2K expiring, IE6 will disappear over the next three years. The world is moving on and, as ever, leaving bitter people behind in its wake.
"When IE9 lands in a year or so, it will have the features similar to those that current browsers have already had for about a year".
i.e. "IE9 will be two years behind the curve"
Where's the real XHTML support.
Microsoft and Apple being so pally lately is really starting to grate.
Nobody who does webdev professionally gives a damn about HTML5. Because it's useless.
Go away Apple, go away Microsoft, would you please. You're both damaging the internet like you both have been doing for decades.