Serious work has begun on Internet Explorer 9, the next revision of Microsoft’s flagship web browser.
That sounds like good news, right? After all, IE8 has its moments, but it isn’t exactly a cutting-edge browser. Certainly, any improvement would seem welcome.
Yet, judging by the reaction from the web-development community onMicrosoft’s IEBlog, you’d think Microsoft just announced the release of a major virus.
To understand why web developers — and even ordinary users — aren’t particularly thrilled with this early preview of IE9, we need to take a look at IE8’s shortcomings:
- Speed — This is all that matters for the average user, and all of IE8’s competitors are faster, something even Microsoft doesn’t deny.
- Emerging standards — Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera have all begun implementing support for HTML5 and CSS 3, while IE8 has not. As more and more web apps take advantage of HTML5 tools, IE is in danger of becoming a second-class citizen on the web.
Microsoft needs to hit a home run with IE9, or the IE franchise is going to go the way of Geocities. Unfortunately, based on what Microsoft has shown so far, IE9 looks to be a base hit at best. Certainly IE 9 will be good news on several fronts, notably the speed improvements and the increased CSS 3 support. But once again IE is catching up, not leading the way as it once did.
The typical rebuttal to IE’s shortcomings is that it doesn’t matter — IE still maintains a dominant market share, and will continue to do so, because it ships alongside Windows on new computers. It’s true that IE controls a majority share of the web. Microsoft got that majority because it bested the competition. Keep in mind that IE’s majority share used to be much, much larger, and it continues to slip with every passing month.
While we’re sure there are plenty of people who would love to dance on IE’s grave, the truth is that competition is a good thing. We want to see Microsoft make a better browser. Sadly, thus far, IE9 doesn’t look very competitive.