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However, IE9 isn't quite up to par with other consumer internet browsers on the market

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft Corp.'s latest and greatest browser released today in finalized form.  So why should we care?

Well two stories dominated when it comes to IE9.  The first the media will be sure to talk about; the other you'll probably hear little talk of.

I. IE9 as a Consumer Browser -- Not Worth It

First the more obvious story -- Microsoft is improving, but arguably not fast enough.  IE9 looks and feels like a modern browser.  

It also looks and feels noticeably slower than ChromeOpera, or even Firefox.  While the gap is not as wide as in past versions (e.g. IE8, or esp. IE 7) it is visibly apparent.  Open a page on DailyTech in Chrome, and you see text literally seconds a second or two later.  Open the same page in IE 9 and you get a distinct pause as several seconds pass, before article text loads.

This qualitative example is indicative of our test drives of IE9 as a whole.  While the speed isn't horrible, if you've been using a modern browser like Chrome or Opera, you'll definitely get frustrated at the ever-present delay.

Standards support is a remarkably similar story. Microsoft has gained ground by implementing parts of the HTML5 and CSS3 standards, but the percentage of support for these standards is far lower than rival browsers.

We're still in the process of testing the beast, but it looks to support only about a quarter of the HTML5 standard, according to the test The HTML5 Test.  Microsoft would argue that's because the standard isn't fully defined.  But that seems a weak excuse -- that hasn't stopped Opera, Google, and Mozilla from not only taking an active part in the standard, but also support it more fully.

Microsoft finds itself in a familiar role of publicly arguing why it shouldn't have to fully standards -- but in an interesting twist it's now committing itself to a bipolar effort of quietly trying to catch up in these same standards, as well.  The results, as one might imagine, are mixed.

Aside from speed and standards, Microsoft's browser has a clean look to it.  Its sharp defined lines bring to mind Microsoft's Metro GUI style, which the company used extensively on the defunct Zune and the active Windows Phone 7.

The browser lacks, though, cutting edge features being implemented elsewhere like tab stacking/grouping.  And while ostensibly it offers "add-ons"/"extensions", its catalog is anemic to say the least.  Firefox, Opera, and Chrome users will wince at the lack of ad/JavaScript blocking. 

Yet another place where Microsoft falls behind is in the installation process.  IE 9 requires a number of Windows Updates in order be able to install.  For us, one of these updates had been failing several times in Windows Update, so this was a rather painful process.  If Google, Mozilla, and Opera can make stand-alone installers, it's inexcusable that Microsoft, the world's largest software company, can't.

II. IE9 as a Work Browser -- Not so Shabby

So, the other story here is how IE 9 fares in the business setting.  While it languished in the world of home users, Microsoft remains strong in the workplace.  

Overall Firefox and Chrome can be managed, but require a lot more IT effort than IE 9.  Internet Explorer remains the king of business browsers in terms of manageability, security, and reliability.  When you factor in that many business have built their portals' web code to run optimally in Internet Explorer, IE 9 gains yet more of an advantage -- though perhaps a bit unfair one.

At the end of the day, IE 9's improvements will really start to shine for business users.  While IE 9 may seem dated and tardy as a consumer browser, in an IT setting we're used to getting less.  If you were stuck with IE 8 before, IT department willing, you'll get a huge boost with IE 9.

Most in the media, in their rush to note IE 9's insufficiencies from a home user perspective, won't stop to recognize that it is an excellent browser from a business perspective.  We feel this is an equally compelling story and definitely worth noting.

III. Conclusions

Microsoft has two key strengths when it comes to browsers -- its strong business reputation and the fact that, for better or worse, in the U.S. it can still bundle its browser as the exclusive pre-installed browser in Windows.

The company currently owns between 55 and 65 percent of the browser market, depending on whose numbers you trust.  This dominant positions in underpinned by those aforementioned strengths.  

Are people really to lazy to go out and download a third party browser?  In many cases the answer is "yes" (though obviously not for most of our readers).  Thus IE 9 will eventually roll out to these users through the Windows Update process and Microsoft will hang on to its lead.

On the other hand, Microsoft likely recognizes the writing on the wall.  Home users are becoming increasingly educated with each passing decade, and it can't hope to keep relying on its pre-packaged approach to be able to push a sub-par product indefinitely.

In that regard IE 9 is perhaps a sign that Microsoft is getting serious about performance and standards.  And while it’s still far behind in these categories, its large market share arguably buys it the time it needs to catch up.

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By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 11:34:56 AM , Rating: 2
While I would tend to agree with your consumer usage standpoint, care to give some benchmarks to backup these slow statements?

As real life usage does not seem to backup this theory.

Acid and one dimensional JS benchmarks are hardly a good reflection of real life performance.

RE: Slow
By bug77 on 3/15/2011 12:51:07 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe IE9 is just bad in benchmarks and awesome in real life then.

Seriously, benchmarks is as good as it gets. Real-life depends on too many variables. From hardware to the reliability of the connection. So different users will have different stories.

RE: Slow
By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 1:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
Pick 4 setups (netbook/nettop to a full fledged desktop)

Pick 10 major websites, and show us some load time results.

I've seen this done with a single desktop and it showed that while Chrome/FF are still faster, IE9 is very close, and certainly not 'noticeably slower'.

Benchmarks are becoming increasingly more useless as dev's continue to optimize their browsers to better handle the tests. This is a terrible reflection of real life usage, and it shows.

RE: Slow
By semiconshawn on 3/18/2011 3:19:22 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed on my system. 6core, 8 gig, ssd , blah blah, a switch from browser to browser offers no perceivalble speed change (FF and Chrome). Ill take the security, stability and anonymous browsing over a millisecond difference in a page coming up.

RE: Slow
By Aloonatic on 3/15/2011 12:52:06 PM , Rating: 2
I've been using IE9, FF4 and Chrome9/10 (in all their beta forms) for a while now, and it's pretty clear that Chrome is a lot faster than the others, but that's on the sub notebook (Celeron 743, Intel 4 series) that I use.

On desktops, however, there's not so much difference, but I'd still say that chrome was faster.

I know that benchmarks aren't great, but I thought you might find these interesting.

(Benchmarks all carried out on my lil notebook using peacekeeper. They are ranked in descending order, and the "---" are just there for spacing, to make the numbers easier to compare. It's not a horizontal bar chart or anything)

Chrome 10.0.648.119 - 3923
Chrome 9.0.597.83 ---- 3820
Opera 11.01 ------------ 3569
Chrome 9.0.597.19 ---- 3539
Opera 11.00 ------------- 3380
Firefox 4.0 --------------- 2089
Firefox 4.0b12 -----------2051
Safari 5.0.3 -------------- 2018
Firefox 4.0b10 ---------- 1973
Firefox 4.0b8 ------------ 1899
Firefox 4.0b7 ------------ 1600
Internet Explorer 9.0 -- 1543
Firefox 3.6.13 ----------- 1268

Yeah, OK, so maybe not that interesting, but you can see how the betas have progressed. The IE9 beta did too (although it only ever reported as IE9, no matter which version it was, so it never retained individual scores) apart from the release just before it was finalised, which was slower than its predecessor, but the final release got its highest score so all's well.

One other point of note is that when looking at the individual scores for each test for each browser, it seems that Chrome scores really well in some tests, but not as highly in others. The chart has a couple of very high peaks in complex graphics and text parsing.

Rendering - 2109
Social networking - 2182
Complex graphics - 6787
Data1 - 1498
DOM operations - 2509
Text parsing - 7003

As does IE9, which never beats Chrome in any area.

Rendering - 565
Social networking - 690
Complex graphics - 1875
Data - 3871
DOM operations - 1232
Text parsing - 4714

Opera and Fire Fox (listed bellow respectively) achieve a more evenly spread set of results however.

Rendering - 3004
Social networking - 2761
Complex graphics - 6741
Data - 3130
DOM operations - 3440
Text parsing - 6488

Rendering - 1291
Social networking - 2052
Complex graphics - 3934
Data - 3102
DOM operations - 1784
Text parsing - 2714

Safari had the most even scoring across the tests.

Rendering - 939
Social networking - 2059
Complex graphics - 2340
Data - 2570
DOM operations - 2291
Text parsing - 2942

So I guess what you use a browser for might affect how it feels to you, or whether it "feels" fast or not.

Anyway, all I knows is that Chrome is the only browser that I can use, performance wise, on my lil note book, most of the time. However,it still fails to work on some websites, and I have to go use Fire Fox or IE. So then it's speed is a moot point :o)

RE: Slow
By Aloonatic on 3/15/2011 12:56:14 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, to be able to edit :o) There's a few mistakes in what I wrote there, like the data score for Chrome, putting the " - " in the wrong place, so losing the "1" at the start of the score and labeling it Data1.

My eyes are just starting to uncross again after writing that, so pleas forgive me. XD

RE: Slow
By arthur449 on 3/15/2011 1:12:28 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for that comparison. It helps illustrate the performance delta between the various browsers.

RE: Slow
By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 1:32:31 PM , Rating: 2
Can't disagree, with most of your statements.

That said, the author is making it out as though IE9 is dramatically slower in real life usage and from my limited desktop experience, that does not seem to be the case.

I'm a Chrome user, and have been since it was released, but I am quite impressed by this release of IE..

I just don't think people understand that MS is targeting two markets, while for better or worse, Chrome's/FF's increasingly busy release schedule is hardly pushing them outside of the consumer market.

Its much easier to constantly push updates when you don't have a large portion of the business market relying on your browser.

RE: Slow
By Aloonatic on 3/15/2011 1:44:11 PM , Rating: 2
I guess you're right, and it's all good I suppose. We live in the "horses for courses" era of browsers.

I think that your choice of browser, in terms of pure speed, is probably only ever really an issue when using a rather low powered CPU and integrated GPU as I am with my notebook. If you have plenty of horsepower in your case (or on your lap) then the other factors like extension and add-ons are probably far more important anyway, unless you really are super impatient and a few milliseconds to open a tab really matters to you.

It's good to see IE9 go with a much more low-profile interface too. One of the other reasons why I use Chrome on my notebook is that it has a rather small 11.6" 1336x768 screen, so the less space taken up with buttons and tabs etc, the better.

RE: Slow
By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 2:29:29 PM , Rating: 2
++ on the minimalist approach..

Its the reason that I too use Chrome.

RE: Slow
By Shadowmaster625 on 3/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: Slow
By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 2:27:53 PM , Rating: 3
Opening tabs is pretty much instant for me, so not too sure what you are seeing. (and I'm doing it over RDP)

Almost on par with Chrome in my opinion (which is a better comparison considering each tab on both browsers are sandboxed, which does not occur with FF/Opera)

RE: Slow
By Dr of crap on 3/15/2011 3:29:12 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're joking right?

Remember Windows 95? Or Windows 3.1? Now that's slow.

If I have to wait 3 seconds - man, think what I could do with the extra seconds during the day I would have saved!!!

And by the way if you've not had anything faster, I have nothing to compare to so I don't know there is a wait!

RE: Slow
By spread on 3/15/2011 5:19:12 PM , Rating: 3
It takes about 3 seconds to open a new, empty tab on IE9, with a 3.3GHz cpu, and a OCZ vertex SSD.

I've used IE9 on an old crappy laptop. It opens a new tab instantly. It's not IE9 that's the problem.

FYI it doesn't matter how many GHz a processor has. A 1Ghz Core 2 Duo will destroy a 4Ghz Pentium 4.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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