Are web browsers getting exciting again?

by alec on June 29, 2010

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A game of one-upmanship is starting to play out in the world of web browsers.  Microsoft, having recently released their third platform preview for IE 9, is starting to look serious about browsing again, and interestingly enough Google’s Chrome, and Apple’s Safari, are looking like laggards.

Now, the IE 9 platform preview is not a browser in the conventional sense.  It has no URL bar, forward or back buttons, or any of the other features that users would require in order to actually do real work with it.  IE 9 platform preview is targeted at developers, and designed to show off what will be “under the hood” in the end user release.

Three things have me excited.

Native hardware acceleration. IE 9 can use the native hardware on your device to accelerate graphics dramatically.  Rendered at 60 FPS, it takes IE 9 about 7 seconds to load this flickr explorer page, but Chrome takes over 30 seconds.  The potential to change how we interact with the web is dramatically demonstrated here.

Standards support.  HTML 5 and CSS 3.  Hopefully this means no more coding exceptions for IE. Tellingly, however, IE 9 still lags other browsers on the ACID3 benchmark. Enough said.

Font support.  IE 9 will include support for the Web Open Font Format (WOFF), which will dramatically increase the range of typography options available to site developers.  You can see an example of IE 9 font support on this web fonts page.  It displays correctly when viewed on IE 9 and Firefox, but not on Chrome, Safari or Opera.

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