Internet Explorer 9 is ready for full-time use

I’m still busy, but thought I would drop in here for a minute to alert those who are still hanging around that Microsoft has released the IE9 Release Candidate.

My review is up at ZDNet:

IE9 Release Candidate review: will Microsoft’s big browser bet pay off?

I’ve been running an escrow version of the IE9 RC for several weeks, on a variety of desktop and notebook PCs, and earlier this week upgraded to the final RC bits. It is a solid, polished package, and I have no trouble recommending it to anyone running Windows 7 or Windows Vista. (Sorry, XP users. This is yet another reason to upgrade your OS.)

You will find echoes of other modern browsers throughout IE9. But this is no clone or copycat, and in fact it has a few features that other browser developers would be wise to copy. IE9 has its own distinct personality  and visual style, especially when compared side by side with archrival Google Chrome.

I tried to go into as much detail as possible about the user interface, some very interesting new privacy and security features, and performance. Way too much detail to summarize here, so go read the whole thing.

I’ve also posted answers to a lot of common questions, including where to download the RC code, how to make a few hidden features and UI elements visible again, and how to uninstall if you have problems.

IE9 FAQ: how to install, uninstall, and tweak the IE9 RC

A reader asked me this morning about whether 64-bit Internet Explorer is ready for everyday use yet. I said no. There’s still no official Flash add-in, and there’s no real benefit (and potentially some memory cost) from running as a 64-bit process. For now, use the defaults and stick with a 32-bit browser even on 64-bit Windows.

11 thoughts on “Internet Explorer 9 is ready for full-time use

  1. Yeah right, what happened to the Flash 10.2 64-bit build? Their first preview in September had it, and then it disappeared with the 10.2 beta.

    However, with the HTML5 option for youtube, you can go pretty far without Flash, too. In fact, I’ve enabled ActiveX filtering and only allow Flash etc when really needed.

    Also, EasyList is publishing all their lists as TPLs now, so as expected, that feature can be abused a lot as an adblocker.

  2. Ed, I think the last graf should make clearer that a user of 64-bit Windows should download the 64-bit package, which installs both 32-bit and 64-bit versions and makes the 32-bit version the default. Readers of your underlying articles (should) already know that.

    — John (who edited his first sentence away from “… a 64-bit Windows user …”. I’ve never met a 64-bit user of anything)

  3. Ed…whatever made you say that. IE was and will never be ready for prime time, unless they redesign the whole thing from scratch – I bet you haven’t had the issues I came across particularly with different types of plugins such as DivX. Here’s why I hate IE 9

    A web browser shouldn’t make you restart your computer during installation.
    Extensions are nothing but ActiveX controls. So if I have to install an extension i have to look for activex controls around the web- that’ll be a jolly interesting experience, they don’t even make a SDK and there isn’t an extension gallery like Chrome and Opera has.
    Just because the browser looks clean and light weight doesn’t necessarily make it so. There were a bunch of iexplore.exe processes running in the background even after i closed IE 9…duh- these leaky memory are generally fixed on Tuesdays.
    Most of it’s features are useless, nobody likes 3D rendering in a browser and secondly hardware acceleration is bound to cause issues- like you notice with the Abobe Flash Plugin.
    Compared to Opera which is feature rich and snappy, IE 9 RC doesn’t even come close to 10% of what it can do.
    As a .NET developer – I am forced to accept IE as the part of the society- same as crooks and swindlers who break rules but still are the part of this world, a phenomenon that occurs in everyones life.

  4. Shree:

    “Extensions are nothing but ActiveX controls.”

    They don’t all have to be ActiveX controls. You can write some simple extensions in pure Javascript. I did so myself ( e.g. ). I expect the more complex ones do have to use ActiveX, although I’ve not looked into it much. IE hasn’t been my browser of choice in years.

    Not sure what you mean by “nothing but ActiveX controls,” either. ActiveX does not mean much other than a style/technique of programming. “ActiveX” does not mean a lot more than “DLL,” to be honest. The required interfaces that the ActiveX control has to implement are what make it an IE plugin (or not).

    It is not the case that every ActiveX control is an IE plugin. You won’t be searching the web for ActiveX controls; most of them won’t work even if you tried. (And why you’d expect, say, a pie-chart drawing ActiveX control to function as an IE plugin, I do not know. :)) You’d be searching the web for IE plugins, the same as you would search for Firefox plugins or whatever.

    I’ve no idea why an end-user would directly care what technology was used to implement plugins, to be honest. Leave that up to plugin developers to care about. (You may care because it impacts how many plugins are written, of course, but that’s an indirect concern with the technology.)

    “they don’t even make a SDK”

    What do you mean? The APIs, COM/ActiveX interfaces and Javascript hook-points for extending IE have been documented for years and are part of the Windows SDK.

    Why so few people make IE extensions (beyond “XYZ toolbar” crapware), I’m not sure. Maybe the API isn’t as useful or easy as it is for the other browsers. I’ve heard that the barrier to entry is higher (since you have to use COM/C++ for the more advanced stuff, although you can use simple Javascript for some things). But there certainly is an API and it is very much documented. I expect a lot of it is people simply not realising the API exists (maybe if more extensions were written more people would realise you can write them. :)) Well, that and that until recently anyone would taste and development skills would have stayed the hell away from IE and not wanted to encourage its use. 🙂

    Right now the lack of extensions* is the main reason I cannot see myself switching back to IE from Firefox, and I would not call myself an IE fan, but let’s not make up more reasons to hate something than there really are.

    (* Or rather features I want which are only likely to exist as extensions. I don’t actually care whether a feature is built-in or in an extension, course.)

    “There were a bunch of iexplore.exe processes running in the background even after i closed IE 9”

    If I was writing something like IE9, I would keep some instances around for a while so that they could be quickly recycled if the user opened another window/tab.

    You cannot assume something is a leak/bug unless you wait a few minutes to see if it’s just the result of caching/recycling to aid performance. (If they are using the default COM timeouts then it could be up to 10 minutes before the process exits, if the machine isn’t under memory pressure.)

    You do not want to wait for process-startup every time you open a new window/tab. (And god knows I wish Firefox did this. I hate it when I close the browser, then realise I want to view another page, and have to wait for the thing to start itself up again from scratch even though it was just on my screen.)

  5. Shree, it sounds like you prefer Opera. Great. Isn’t it wonderful that you have a choice?

    Leo has already addressed many of your concerns. I will simply add that you misunderstand GPU rendering. It is not “3D support” in the send of playing games. Rather, it offloads computationally intensive page rendering tasks to the GPU, which is much more powerful and well-suited to this task on modern PCs. That is a key part of overall performance and will become more so as the web becomes even more graphically rich in coming years.

  6. Normally I’m a big Microsoft fan, and love the stuff they’ve been doing more recently. However…

    My original experience with I.E. 9 in the release just before the RC was terrible. I completely different experience than I have ever had with a Microsoft beta product. A small 30% of the sites I regularly visit worked completely. Everything else was a total mess. Even after un-installing I still have issues with I.E 8 now. This was on a new system, with a clean Windows 7 Ultimate re-install too! I even have issues with Microsoft web sites!!!

    I’m NOT sold on I.E. 9. I was extremely excited about the ideas they had in it, other than the minimalistic changes (WHY did it need that!) But the results for me have left a really bad taste in my mouth. Normally I’d jump on the RC. But this time, I’m not even going to consider it until I.E. 9 has been out long enough for MS and the web to grow into this drastic change.

    Just completed put off. No other way to put it.

  7. Leo and Ed, thank you for your views.

    Ed, we are living in a multi-processor era, so I think multi-threading is the best solution (right now it’s very crudely done) to render web-pages instead of GPU. I consider GPU rendering to be an optional extra because as you said we might need it in the future to play browser based 3d games or maybe….other multimedia content.

    Leo, you know what I mean. I meant separate SDK for IE only because it’s painful for people to download 1 gb SDK and other developer tools just to write a plugin. Also I think the main reason for these memory leaks are incompatible activex plugins. Because IE is so tightly integrated with windows os, almost any any program or spyware can wreck it’s functionality.

  8. Ed, I’ve been using IE 9 since the day the first day the beta was released and it’s been nothing but a joy to use. My 64 bit system and Nvidia stand alone graphics card rock with it. I’ve actually had problems with Opera and Firefox and to me Chrome is okay just rather featureless. No matter how good it gets there will always be some whining about how bad it is. They can just use the one they prefer but I’m loving IE 9!

  9. @ChrisTX: You need to download Flash Player “Square” from the Adobe Labs web site, which is really Flash 10.3 for 64bit Windows systems. there’s been some version number confusion in how Adobe handled the 64bit Flash “Square” beta releases.

    Flash 10.2 (now finalized) is available only for 32bit systems. Flash 10.3 (Square) is currently available for 64bit systems and is still in beta stage. Latest beta for Flash “Square” was released Nov. 30, 2010.

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