Microsoft Demos Internet Explorer 9: Fast, HTML5, No XP Support

Microsoft gave a demo of its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser at the MIX conference earlier today.  IE9 is mainly about two things– bringing the browser up to industry standards, like HTML version 5, and improving performance all around.  Its new JavaScript engine, codenamed “Chakra,” is dramatically faster than IE8, currently scoring in between Firefox and Safari, and still a bit behind Chrome and Opera, on the WebKit SunSpider benchmark.  The browser still scores only 55/100 on the Acid3 test for CSS compliance, but Microsoft’s promised that will improve by the time IE9 ships.

On the standards front, Microsoft has implemented a good deal of the HTML5 spec, including support for embedded video (using the H.264 codec) and audio (MP3 and AAC), scalable vector graphics (SVG2- for images that grow and shrink smoothly with different page sizes), and CSS3.

What does IE9 bring to the table that Chrome, Opera, and others don’t already have?  The answer is that IE9 renders web pages using Direct2D, a new API introduced in Windows 7, and also supported in Vista and Server 2008, that provides hardware graphics acceleration for 2D rendering.  This helps web pages look better (with sub-pixel text rendering) and load faster and is particularly beneficial for embedded videos.

Microsoft showed a demo of a page with two HD videos embedded using HTML5– IE9 played them both perfectly smoothly, while Chrome stuttered badly with just one video playing.  The downside to this is that Direct2D doesn’t work on Windows XP, so neither will IE9.  The company has made a test version available for download.

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