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Sneak peek: Microsoft's next browser (thanks, IE Developer Channel)

Devs asked to give up-and-coming features a good kicking

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Taking a page from rival web-browser makers, Microsoft has launched a developer channel to give programmers an early taste of upcoming Internet Explorer features.

The Internet Explorer Developer Channel comes in the form of a special edition of the IE browser that receives new features and updates before they become available in mainstream IE, much like what Google and Mozilla have done with Chrome and Firefox, respectively.

"IE Developer Channel can run alongside and independently of IE11, and has all of the browser features that you love in IE11, as well as the latest platform features we're working on," the IE team's Jason Weber said in a blog post.

Among the first new features to roll out to the developer edition are enhanced tools for web developers, including an improved debugger with support for event breakpoints, and better analytics for the browser's memory and UI responsiveness profilers. Microsoft has published a blog post detailing all of the changes here.

In addition, the Developer Channel introduces support for WebDriver, an API that allows developers to automate IE to simulate users interacting with web applications. Originally developed by Selenium, the WebDriver spec is now a working draft of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Also in is the Gamepad API, another W3C standard currently in the making, which allows people to control elements in web-browser windows using controllers like the ones that ship with gaming consoles.

Microsoft has also been working on improving IE's WebGL performance, and its says its first Developer Channel release has improved the browser's score on the Khronos WebGL Conformance Test from 89 per cent to 94 per cent. (The current version of Chrome scores 99.9 per cent.)

Redmond says this is just the first IE Developer Channel release, and that much like its rivals, it plans to regularly push new features and technologies through the channel. A list of all of the APIs currently implemented or under consideration for IE – including the Developer Channel build – is available at Microsoft's Status.Modern.IE website.

The IE Developer Channel itself can be downloaded from DevChannel.Modern.IE, and Microsoft has asked developers to use the tools there to provide feedback and suggest bug fixes. ®

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