Internet Explorer 9 Released, But Should You Care?

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UPDATED: Microsoft has released IE9, the latest version of the venerable Internet Explorer browser. It boasts greatly improved support for standards like HTML5, a new design and greater speed, as well as some nifty new features, like privacy controls and being able to pin websites to the taskbar.

To check out how IE9 compares to its competitors, I installed it (which, unlike other browsers, required me to restart my machine) and ran it through a few different benchmarking tools.


Acid3 is a benchmark which checks how well a  browser follows selected web standards. The browser is marked out of 100.

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Microsoft has made an effort to improve the standards support in IE in this release, and as you can see, IE9 scores a creditable 95 (much better than IE8 which scored a paltry 21), but it still can’t match Opera and Chrome’s perfect scores.

The HTML5 Test

Acid3 doesn’t test for HTML5, as it’s a newer web standard, so I also ran the browsers through The HTML5 Test, which provides an indication of how well they support the upcoming HTML5 standard and its related specifications.

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HTML5 support is important, because as more browsers are able to handle its advanced features, developers will be able to build much more powerful apps (see Why HTML5 Web Apps Are Going to Rock Your World). As you can see, although Microsoft has made a bit of fuss about IE9 supporting newer standards like HTML5 (even providing some online demos to show off the browser’s HTML5 chops), it’s actually lagging behind its competitors here, although none of them scores perfectly. However, I’d take this benchmark with a pinch of salt, as the standard isn’t finalized yet.


Kraken is Mozilla’s JavaScript benchmark, primarily based on the SunSpider suite. It tests how well a browser handles JavaScript and is supposed to simulate a number of different “real world” scenarios.

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JavaScript performance is vital, because we’re all increasingly reliant on JavScript-heavy web apps. The Kraken score above is a the time in milliseconds it takes for the browser to complete the test runs; a lower score is better. Note that JavaScript benchmarks should be regarded with a healthy degree of skepticism; it’s incredibly hard to create a realistic benchmark that accurately indicates how fast a browser will be in day-to-day use, so these tests can only give an indication of how fast a browser might be. That said, once again, IE is lagging behind the best here: It took twice as long to complete the tests as Chrome, and nearly three times as long as Firefox (although it’s much better than the beta of IE9, which scored around 50,000 ms).


IE9 is a great improvement over previous incarnations; it has caught up to the pack and now doesn’t lag so very far behind the other  browsers available. In particular, Microsoft should be applauded for its efforts to support web standards in this release. However, unless you really want some of its novel features, like the ability to pin websites to the taskbar, or your choice is restricted by your employer to Microsoft’s browser, I still can’t recommend it over Firefox, Chrome and Opera.

Internet Explorer 9 can be downloaded from; it requires Vista or Windows 7.

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