Testing the Internet Explorer Platform Preview (IE9) – reviewing the good, the bad and the main letdown

At MIX10 yesterday, Microsoft announced IE9 and spoke about its upcoming features. And, lo and behold, they released a Internet Explorer Platform Preview for anyone to download and play around with!

I’ve tried to read up about it and play around with the preview as much as possible to get any indication of what to expect from IE 9, and here’s my take:

The good

I thought I’d first browse through the things I find good or at least promising.

Performance

One of the most exciting features in IE9 so far is the hardware accelerated rendering, which so far seems to give tremendously good results. IE9 also has a new JavaScript engine, Chakra, which has given a huge boost to JavaScript performance where it is on par with competing web browsers with a good result in the SunSpider test.

A picture of the SunSpider results including IE9

Picture taken from HTML5, Hardware Accelerated: First IE9 Platform Preview Available for Developers

I’m very glad to see this, and I hope it will drastically improve speed in IE9, and in turn in other web browsers as well – all for the gain of the end users.

CSS3 selectors support

Impressingly, IE9 has almost complete CSS3 selector support (many other web browsers already do), passing 576 out of 578 tests in the CSS3 Selectors Test. It also supports rgba colors, and border-radius, so in about ten years we don’t need images to have rounded corners on the web… :-)

Support for real DOM Level 2 Events

About ten years after its competitors, Microsoft has finally implemented proper event support in IE). That means that code like this will actually work as expected:

	document.addEventListener("click", function () {
		alert("Hello!");
	}, false);

This is something I thought IE8 should not have been released without.

Support for the <video> element.

Not available in the platform preview that is now publicly available, but showed at MIX, was support for the video element, which is great news!

Styling of HTML5 elements

As I mentioned in my post An Introduction to HTML5, in previous versions of Internet Explorer you needed a HTML5 Shiv, i.e. a JavaScript, to trigger it into applying CSS styles to new elements, such as article, header, aside etc. This is no longer needed, and works as expected in IE9.

SVG support

Again, LONG after competitors (blah, blah, blah), IE9 finally has a SVG implementation. Remains to be tested how good it is, what parts are covered etc, but a move in the right direction.

XHTML. Yes, real XHTML.

Again, almost a decade after web browsers, IE9 finally supports the application/xhtml+xml MIME type! Meaning, for those who need to use true XML/XHTML, this will now become an option.

Daring to speak of others

One thing that made me happy is that they dare to mention competing web browser both in their diagrams and have logos of them in their demos. Before it seemed like something like this was forbidden, so this new breeze of openness makes me happy.

The bad

No <canvas> element support

One of the most exciting technologies to create exciting content on the web is the canvas element. Unfortunately, there is, so far, no support for canvas in IE9 and no mention of it whatsoever. From reading the blog post Working with the HTML5 Community, however, Microsoft state:

…Together, we’re working on <canvas> HTML prototypes to use as ‘proof of concepts’ to ensure the feature is well-designed…

If that actually means anything at all, I have no idea, but let’s hope it’s an indication of canvas support to come. Till then, its omission is a letdown.

Acid3 support

At this time, IE9 scores 55 out of a 100, whereas most other web browser have scored 100/100, or are very close. There are many more things than an Acid3 score, but it’s still a hint about on what level IE9 is playing on.

A picture of the Acid3 test score for IE9

Picture taken from HTML5, Hardware Accelerated: First IE9 Platform Preview Available for Developers

Lack of support for exciting CSS

Albeit the above-mentioned CSS3 support is good, unfortunately IE9 lacks support for box-shadow, transform, CSS gradients, CSS animations and similar. Also, interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem to render any of its proprietary CSS filter styles – but, this is just a developer preview and probably doesn’t imply anything.

No support for Windows XP

Interestingly, Microsoft has decided not to offer IE9 for Windows XP. While I understand their motive with people upgrading OSes, not wanting to support an old operating system version etc, it’s a bold (or annoying) move when 65% of the market has Windows XP. It’s also a pain for developers who virtualize Windows (and yes, there are tons of them) who only want a light-weight OS and don’t want to buy and install Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Extension model?

Looking at the immense success of add-ons for Firefox and also the good things Google have achieved for extension developers with Google Chrome, Microsoft sincerely need to look into simple extensibility of Internet Explorer with web technologies.

The true letdown

One thing really stands out in comparison to the bad parts.

Choice of video codec

IE9 has chosen to use the H.264 codec, and if that remains their only choice and no support for Ogg Theora it is a sad, sad day for open video on the web, and something which will severely cripple the usage of the video element. Read more about this in The video element in HTML5 – great possibilities, but also codec and licensing problems.

This is a huge letdown for me.

The verdict

For me, jaded from experience, I have heard lots of promises from Microsoft over the years what they will deliver and have consistently been disappointed. However, many of the above things are exciting if they make it all the way, and addressing the bad parts and the letdown could actually make this into a good release.

However, except for performance, I see no real exciter above where they will be ahead their competitors in any way, and I think Microsoft really need that to compete. SO I guess we have to wait and see what will actually be released, And as alway with Microsoft and Internet Explorer:

I believe it when I see it.

32 Comments

  • Sami says:

    Great review! Thanks!

  • Rizo says:

    Still, it's promising. Atleast a step in the right direction :)

  • Pete B says:

    Other positives are the inclusion of getComputedStyle, and real css opacity.

    I can hardly believe they're implementing addEventListener after all these years. It's like they finally admitted they're wrong without actually saying it.

  • Thanks for summing up your tests, Rob. Stellar insight, as usual.

    What I'm really looking forward to, apart from extensions and standards support, is whether they'll give the final version the ability to keep itself updated.

    It's just as important as standards support that their users be kept updated with a minimum effort.

    Oh… and I want a build for MacOS X.

    What? ;) This is the time to ask crazy shit. It would help them protect their market share AND make it a lot easier for all the developers and designers.

  • In 10 years, rounded corners will look so 2010.

    I'm not so keen on the idea of border-radius and box-shadow, even though they are useful. I would prefer access to some lower-level technology that would be flexible enough to implement both of them and much more. Pixel shaders perhaps.

  • “Support for the <code><video></code> element” is great news indeed, but it should be added that Microsoft plans to support only the H.264 codec. :(

  • Andreas says:

    I believe it, when I see it.

  • Rob says:

    Absolutely agree with everything you said. Looking 'round the net, you'd think IE9 was the second coming when it's really just playing catch up to where everyone else was years ago.

  • Henrik Ekelöf says:

    It seems like they have improved PNG support. In IE8 and earlier you'd get a black background when fading in or out an element with a transparent PNG 24 background. Not in IE9.

  • David Naylor says:

    "Impressingly, IE9 has almost complete CSS3 support"

    Did you mean that, or did you mean "almost complete CSS3 selectors support"?

  • Andy L says:

    This is incorrect:

    "IE9 has almost complete CSS3 support"

    You probably mean:

    "IE9 has almost complete CSS3 Selectors support"

  • Andy L says:

    Ah, David Naylor beat me to it! ;)

  • Andy L says:

    Martin Vilcans:

    Why don't you submit a proposal?

    Go for WHATWG first, they seem the most flexible/innovative guys…

  • Andy L says:

    > Not available in the platform preview that is now publicly available, but

    > showed at MIX, was support for the video element, which is great

    > news!

    This *would* be great news if Microsoft supported a format which wouldn't make everyone pay to put videos online.

    Yes, you heard well, with H.264 you'll have to pay *starting next year* to put videos encoded in that format online.

    This is ridiculous!

    Why is Microsoft not supporting Theora?

    Are they are greedy as Apple, wanting to make money from webmasters who simply want to put a video online?

    Totally insane.

    (BTW, I'm a Mac fan, but I really despise Apple's decision in this matter.)

  • Bramus! says:

    Next to that there's lots of ((very) basic) JS functionality missing. Check @kangax' tweets for more info (one such tweet is this one here: http://twitter.com/kangax/status/10580270817) #sad

  • Andy L says:

    For more info on the H.264 video format issue:

    http://bemasc.net/wordpress/2010/02/02/no-you-can

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Sami,

    Thanks!

    Rizo,

    Moving forward at least. :-)

    Pete B,

    Absolutely, good point!

    André,

    Thanks! And yes, updating sounds very promising. With OS X, I'm not sure. I know what you're going for, but I'm guessing it would just be another version to fix for, as opposed to an asset.

    Martin Vilcans,

    Maybe it's so. :-)

    It's a good idea, though!

    Mathias,

    Absolutely, and I mentioned it as the huge letdown.

    Andreas,

    Yep. :-)

    Rob,

    Glad we agree!

    Henrik,

    Interesting! That's good!

    David,

    Absolutely right, I've updated that.

    Andy L,

    Completely agree.

    Bramus!

    Thanks for the tip! And yes, it's "interesting" with those omissions…

  • […] Robert Nyman: Testing the Internet Explorer Platform Preview (IE9) – reviewing the good, the bad a… […]

  • Brad says:

    @Andy L – That's not actually true, there are no royalties for video that is free to end users until the end of 2015.

    http://www.mpegla.com/Lists/MPEG%20LA%20News%20Li

  • Dave says:

    They should buy Opera and be done with it. Overnight they'd become the fastest and most-compliant browser out there … and re-enter the browser battle.

  • Scott says:

    Holy heck. No support for XP? WTF??

    That'll be a deal-killer for me (for a while longer, at least).

    Geez.

    IE (notMine)

  • Andy L says:

    Brad:

    Yes, I wasn't sure if it was until 2011 or later.

    But, the thing is, sooner or later, we'll have to pay just to put a video on our website!

  • Chris says:

    Thanks for the summary.

    The fact that there'll be no support for Windows XP is understandable; by the time IE9 will be released:

    the last licence was sold more than 2 years ago

    any support for Windows XP will be discontinued in about 3 years

    For Microsoft it just wouldn't be reasonable.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Brad,

    For now, yes, but eventually it will cost. Also, reading the news section for MPEG LA, it's all about who they are suing – doesn't seem that comforting as a choice if you ask me.

    Dave,

    Well, now and then there have actually been rumors about that. Given the new efforts put into IE9, though, I don't find that likely at the moment,

    Scott,

    I can relate to that.

    Chris,

    Thanks!

    Well, given the user base of XP, which will not go away in quite some time, it's a risky move. Besides, IE 6, IE 7 & IE 8 have about the same user market share together as Windows XP has amongst operating systems: could you imagine releasing a web site not supporting IE at all?

  • Chris says:

    Well, given the user base of XP, which will not go away in quite some time, it’s a risky move. Besides, IE 6, IE 7 & IE 8 have about the same user market share together as Windows XP has amongst operating systems: could you imagine releasing a web site not supporting IE at all?

    No, but I could imagine releasing a web site in december 2010 that does not support IE6 & IE7.

    I mean it's a bit guesswork what will happen to the market shares (in the web site example the browser's shares, in case of IE9 the OS's shares) and guessing is always risky. But I think that the chance is high, that XP's market share will shrink dramtically in the next 1-2 years. And I think that Micrsoft's strategists did a more profound guess on the change of the market share.

    That's just my guess :-)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Chris,

    Well, that's a bold move, leaving IE7 behind as well. :-)

    My take is that Microsoft is rather wishing for upgrades and prefers writing software for newer operating systems, than having to deal with XP.

    But maybe you're absolutely right and the XP share will drop dramatically. Only the future can tell. :-)

  • Chris says:

    We'll see and all hope for the best (whatever "the best" is :-D)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Chris,

    Yeah, I'm not sure what is "best" either. :-)

  • […] Testing IE9I think it looks good all around. Most stoked for CSS3 selectors. […]

  • […] Testing the Internet Explorer Platform Preview (IE9) – reviewing the good, the bad and the main le… – ?????? ???? ?? ???? 9 ???? ??????? ? ??????? ????????? ?????????. ?? ???????? ?? ??????? ??????? XP ?? ?? ???????? ?? IE9, ???? ???? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ??????. ????????? ?? IE9 ????? ????????????  ??????? ?? kangax ? ???? ???????. […]

  • Adardesign says:

    Robert, With yesterdays announcement that IE9 has canvas support.

    I can only wait and see how much new bugs they will introduce. I am sure that if a canvas element is positioned left, it will be flipped horizontally or if its a video, it will stop playing after 14.3 seconds causing developers to spend hours figuring out workarounds and hacks.

    Lets wait and see..

    I have seen enough….

    Anyway, thanks. nice post.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Adardesign,

    Yes, just read that, which definitely makes it more interesting. We will just have to wait and see… :-)

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