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Microsoft finally seems to be taking advanced web standards seriously


That must be what hundreds of veteran internet developers are saying since Microsoft is finally taking interest in embracing advanced web technologies.  After all, such technologies were typically driven by browsers with scant market share like Google Chrome or Opera, while Internet Explorer, the world's most used browser lagged far behind.  That meant that it was impractical for companies to take full advantage of the latest internet technologies, as few customers could actually use them.

At its annual Mix conference Microsoft showed that would change, unveiling a demo build of Internet Explorer 9, the successor to the widely used IE 7 and IE 8.  The demo included support for a host of HTML5 features; among them were h.264 embedded video (the kind that Google is using to trial HTML5 versions of YouTube) and embedded audio (with support for MP3/AAC codecs).

Microsoft is also supporting scalable vector graphics (SVG), an XML-driven webpage technology that's another hot topic.  SVG allows rudimentary drawings of things like lines or shapes.  In that respect, it's similar to some of the capabilities of Adobe's Flash.  With both SVG and HTML5 rendering, Microsoft is actually using DirectX video acceleration via the Direct2D API.  This means that Microsoft may actually be beating Google and others when it comes to these advanced standards, in terms of performance and speed.

Another important technology that Microsoft is supporting with IE 9 is CSS3.  Cascading style sheets (CSS) allow you to tweak your webpage presentation (how pretty your fonts look) by simply tweaking style variables.  Among the CSS3 features inside IE 9 are Selectors, Namespaces, Color, Values, Backgrounds, Borders, and fonts.

Microsoft is also packing a faster Javascript engine under the hood of IE 9.  In tests, the new engine is rather respectable -- about as fast as Firefox's script engine.  It still lags behind the Opera and Webkit (Google and Apple) engines, but it's not even a release build yet, so that's pretty respectable performance nonetheless.

But the best part of Microsoft's announcement is that you can try the browser for yourself.  It's available for download in preview form here.  Beware the preview is only geared at developers and there's no address bar (you have to go to the "Page" menu for that.

And another word of warning -- IE 9 won't support Windows XP, though.  That's really not that surprising if you think about it, but it may be a bit of a shock to some.

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RE: all i want to know
By danobrega on 3/17/2010 11:15:02 AM , Rating: 2
There we go again with the "its a draft" argument. Unless I'm mistaken the proposed standards are in draft until at least some of the major players implement them. This is precisely so that the major players (where Microsoft should be included) can, in the process of implementing the standard, challenge some of the standard.

Now, if those same players say they will not implement the standard until it gets out of the draft phase, we are in a dead end, aren't we?

RE: all i want to know
By nichow on 3/17/2010 11:36:09 AM , Rating: 2
Actually it remains a draft until the working group finally agree on enough to where the release it as an official specification. I've been a member of a working group for a hardware related spec and it takes quite a bit of negotiation and NDA's to get all the members to agree. Implementation has nothing to do with the spec's draft status.

802.11n is a good example, you could buy various wireless networking gear that implement the draft of that spec for years before it was finalized.

There is some danger to implementing draft specs too soon. If those specs change significantly after implementation it will cause major problems for intranets/internet sites that code based on the draft behavior. Either thousands of sites to change or a few browser developers maintaining backwards compatibility to past behavior that is no longer in spec... Neither is a very good situation.

I'm not up to speed on the likelihood of the various draft specs changing enough to cause real problems, but it is a valid concern. The race to get 100% Acid3 results might actually end up being detrimental to the web and the ability of the spec working groups to make good changes since I'm sure they would be pressured by the various group members that have already implemented the spec according to an earlier draft.

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