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Internet Explorer 9 Beta pre-build  (Source: Microsoft Russia)
Microsoft Russia really let the cat out of the bag this time

With its browser market share at a decade-low, Microsoft has a tall task awaiting it with the release of Internet Explorer 9.  The good news is that Microsoft appears to be rising to the occasion.  It's currently four developer previews in, and our early testing indicates that it's in a dead heat speedwise with Mozilla's Firefox 4 betas (thanks to its new Javascript engine "Chakra").

In a month where Apple looks to release new iPods and potentially other products, Microsoft's Internet Explorer event on September 15 will likely go largely overlooked.  But that event should prove a critical step for the company, as it is anticipated to formerly unveil the first beta of IE 9.

What no one knew -- until now – was what that beta would look like.  Mary-Jo Foley of 
ZDNet was cleverly poking around on Microsoft's foreign webpages and came across screenshots of what may be the new IE 9 beta, accidentally leaked by Microsoft Russia.

If this is indeed the look of the beta, Microsoft is going for an even more aggressively minimalist look than Mozilla's Firefox 4.  The URL bar, forward/backward buttons, and tabs have all been merged into a single row (this occupies two rows in Firefox 4) and multiple page elements have "been consolidated into one" (according to the translated Russian text corresponding to the image).

"Favorites", "Suggested Sites", and "Get More Add-ons" – features found in IE 8 -- have all been presumably moved to subtler locations.  All this reorganization is geared at providing "more room for the (Web) site itself", according to Microsoft.

Like Opera, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, Microsoft appears to finally be preparing a "tear-off tabs" feature.  For those who haven't experienced this feature, it allows the user to drag a tab out of the window to create a separate browser window.  While Microsoft may be late to this game, it intends to have perhaps the most stylish implementation yet, integrating the tear-off features with Windows 7's popular Aero Snap functionality to allow you to snap tabs to portions of the screen.

Microsoft Russia indicates the transition will look seamless, thanks to the onboard Direct2D GPU rendering.  The page roughly translates to, "Simply drag the page in different screen and will appear next to each other.  Reproduction of content sites and video are not violated."

Another new feature is the ability to turn "recognized," or "protected," sites into pinned taskbar icons.  This gives one-click access to websites not available currently in Windows 7 from Microsoft's browser rivals.

Between these new features, the slick new look, the speed increase, and the new support for advance web standards (HTML5, CSS3, and SVG2), IE 9 could well stop Microsoft's slide in the browser market and get it back on track.  The browser is expected to air in 2011 for Windows Vista and Windows 7.  The bad news?  Microsoft has said it will not support Windows XP, an OS still used by approximately 60 percent of the market.

When asked for comment on the screenshots and features leak, a Microsoft spokesperson coyly remarked, "Microsoft is encouraged by the early enthusiasm around Internet Explorer 9; we have nothing further to share about Internet Explorer 9 at this time."

The image has since been pulled and replaced with a less glamorous screenshot of what appears to be Internet Explorer 8 parked on a IE 9 teaser webpage.

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RE: IE9 Speed
By inighthawki on 8/26/2010 9:49:43 AM , Rating: 5
Agreed, IE9 is looking better and better every time I hear about it. Microsoft also has a track record of doing quite a few optimizations later in the game, so with how early of a beta build this still is, I wouldn't doubt if it got a significant speed increase closer to the final build, which might pull it into that number 1/2 spot you you say.

The only thing that still keeps me from switching (to any browser, for that matter) is addons. Firefox is undoubtedly the best when it comes to addons (at least the sheer number of them), and I simply cannot live without mouse gestures and adblock (Flashblock/noscript I could probably live without). We'll see what IE9 does with this. Unlike IE7/8, I think 9 is really earning a good rep as a browser, and if enough devs switch we might see a large spike in addons like that

RE: IE9 Speed
By B3an on 8/26/2010 11:24:56 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah the addons might be the only thing that stop me completely switching to IE9. I recently went from FF to Chrome 6.x lately though because FF is looking pretty dated and it's slow (FF4 is an improvement though). Chrome now supports proper addons too, and all the best addons (like the ones you mention) are now on Chrome, so browsing is just like FF 3.6, but faster.

RE: IE9 Speed
By inighthawki on 8/26/2010 12:54:07 PM , Rating: 3
The problem I had with Chrome (rather, Iron) when I tried it was the best mouse gestures addons had major bugs with the rocker gestures and refused to work properly. This hasn't been an issue with firefox for me. Granted it's been probably a half-year since I've tried chrome, though.

RE: IE9 Speed
By neihrick1 on 8/26/2010 1:44:46 PM , Rating: 2
FF 4 beta 4 easily beats chrome in speed, on my system anyhow, memory usage is still high though, maybe because of my addons, although i've trimmed that down to only 11

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