back to article IE9's Acid, speed and HTML5 trip to land lost surfers

The browser wars have taken a fresh twist with Microsoft's release of the fourth - and final - preview of Internet Explorer 9 before the beta in September. The notable features are that it has improved standards support to the extent that it scores 95 per cent on the Acid 3 CSS test, that its JavaScript and graphics …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    "Chrome, though, still bests IE in JavaScript speed."

    Why are people using Chrome, when Opera 10.60 is significantly faster....

    1. caffeine addict


      When I've asked people it's normally been because they've used previous versions of Opera and hated them so much they'll not give Opera another try.

      You know, the same reason I'll not be using IE for a hell of a long time, even if it becomes the bestest browser evar!

    2. Malcolm 1


      Because Javascript speed isn't everything? Certainly I use chrome because it's so quick to launch and is very snappy in use. Every other browser I've tried takes at least twice as long to launch which I find irritating.

    3. Real Ale is Best


      Opera looks significantly different to IE, Chrome and Firefox.

      Too much of a leap for the average user...

      1. John 62


        the latest version of Opera is much more similar to all the more common browsers. I still have to tweak it a bit to get it how I like it, but much less than before (that's because Chrome is quite close to how I like things, but the others all copied Opera for years).

        I'm a huge Opera fan, but I've had to use Chrome on the Mac for a while because Opera 10.50+ on Mac has been a stability and performance nightmare when more than a few tabs are open. Opera's UI is the only one I can get close enough to how I like it (though Chrome isn't far behind). Opera has a preference that lets you turn off gif animation (per domain, too!) and Opera has a keyboard shortcut for paste and go. Plus it has the best gestures when you're using a mouse.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        No it doesn't

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ..some folks care about usability over just javascript speed, and find Opera annoying? It's a browser with several nice features, but certainly, I hate using it as a browser.

    5. MarkOne

      LOL at all the people

      that are basing their opinions on what Opera looked like 5 years ago.

      For your reference:

      Opera 10.60, looks almost identical to Chrome (Chrome actually copied Opera), it starts quicker than Chrome, it's faster at javascript execution, it's faster at most things infact, it's more web standards compliant, it's more fully featured it's just as easy to use.

      Rather than making yourselves look like clueless idiots, why not try it out.

      I really don't care that much if you use it or not, but it's your loss. If you don't want to try it out, at least check out it's screenshots and features.

      Tell me this does not look like Chrome:

      And that these features don't put it right up there as the most powerful and fully features internet suite out there.

      1. Rainy Rat
        Thumb Up

        Re: LOL at all the people

        @MarkOne: First, I was troubled that the URL you provided wasn't an actual link and I'd have to go through the excruciating second-and-a-half process of copying and pasting it into my address bar. The I remembered about Opera 10.60's "go to web address" option that pops up when you right-click some (any) selected text. That's got to be one of my favourite Opera features.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Tell me this does not look like Chrome"

        This does not look like Chrome.

    6. Anonymous Coward

      because Chrome

      -Installs considerably faster

      -Starts considerably faster

      -Has built in language translation/detection

      -Fills in pictures first by creating an empty box, and then filling in the picture (This has always irritated me on several browsers)

      -Looks better out of the box

      -Still has a simpler cleaner UI

      -Uses multiple processes for each tab meaning one web page can't take out all other tabs

      Off the top of my head....

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Memory and bandwidth

        Chrome's trick of one process per tab is extremely memory intensive and some of the loading tricks depend on lots of bandwidth. Nice if you've got oodles of both but that is not the case for everyone. Particularly in a corporate environment bandwidth can be an issue.

        Microsoft deserves recognition for the work they've put into IE9 and the implicit recognition of the failure of their previous strategy. They may be the first to hardware acceleration but all the others have slated it in various forms.

        Browser competition and choice is good. But I think we all know that we're about to re-enter the browser wars of 10 years ago with particularly Google and Apple trying to offer up content that "works best on their browser". Apple through its devices and associates, Google through its properties.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Slitherlight RIP?

    If this means that Slitherlight is marked for termination then Hurrah.

    Yes Microsoft, your own slitherlight sires can't properly detect a browser with moonlight installed & enabled.

    The sooner this dies a public death the better. For once in your life Microsoft don't start trying to tinker with HTML5 either. We don't need IE9 now. There are plenty of real alternatives. So this time please try to get it done right eh?

    If you do then I'll raise my glass to you. Just the once mind you. Then I'm back to Chrome or Firefox.

  3. Wibble

    Fantasic news for... web developers:-)

    Oh yes as the dog says.

    For years we'll need to create TWO websites; one for the HTML5/CSS3 compliant browsers, the other for IE6, IE7, IE8, i.e. Microsoft's legacy.

    I wonder where this is leading? Will it a) hold back adoption of HTML5/CSS3, or b) lead to a two-tier interwebs.

    Certainly going to be challenging for the laggard IT departments who still consider a 'browser' to be just for looking at thar intarwebs and not delivering mission critical applications. The ones who see this as a fantastic opportunity to move the corporate forwards will be well rewarded.

    But, IE9 only works on Windows VII. So what's the choice for upgrading if you're going to stick with XP... oh yes, use a non-Microsoft browser.

    Microsoft are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Shweet, they've only themselves to blame:-)

    1. Daniel 1

      "For years we'll need to create TWO websites"

      No, we'll only need to do 'Graceful Degradation' - same as we did with Netscape 4. Make the site work, and make everything render, but if it looks a bit crummy, then it's because its in a crummy browser.

      "It's your computer's fault" - users understand this logic. Separation of content from presentation is a bit like object oriented Programming, as opposed to procedural: developers either get it, or they don't. I seldom write any web content that doesn't have five or more stylesheets, at the moment, and as documents become more portable and reusable I only see that figure rising. You just have to organise it all in a logical way and build for it in advance, because it's going to happen anyway.

      It's not all going to be roses, of course. Microsoft is still selectively cherry-picking the bits of HTML5 they think it can do, implementing them, and then declaring 100% compliance. However, as long as there is no effort to preform a half-arsed implementation of bits that won't work easily, then this will only mean another layer of styling, applied to the same documents, for the browsers that go that bit further in support. The other browsers are all moving forwards at fairly similar speeds on HTML 5, and Internet Explorer will no doubt catch up at its own pace - once they work out why rendering a rounded corner on an animation causes the DVD drive to pop open (joke).

      Browsers have long been designed to ignore elements and styling rules they can't understand at all and HTML5 actually builds this assumption into its own rules. What made IE6 so awful was the fact that it actually tried to support the specified standards but got them disastrously wrong.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Prepare for another lock-in

    [QUOTE]...partly because it can optimize everything for Windows.[/QUOTE]

    Enough said

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    letters and/or digits.

    "The preview is not a complete browser, just a rendering window with a minimal menu for navigation"

    Sounds like IE8 tbh.

    IE9 does sound like it will be a good release though. I just hope they don't fuck it up with a wacky new GUI, their marketing people seem to have this bizarre idea that everything they make has to be 100% different to everything else on the market and everything they've ever made before.

  6. Bucky 2

    Light My Fire

    I hope this lights a fire under the Mozilla developers, so they stop screwing around with inconsequential nonsense like where to stick the menu, or reorganize bookmarks, and get back to the business of programming the browser, for God's sake.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Business as usual

      Just because you're not following it, doesn't mean it isn't happening:

      IE9-style graphics hardware acceleration (under development, but can be tried out in latest betas):

      Development on JavaScript performance continues:

      Efforts to improve startup time are also under way:

      Some developers are better at, or prefer doing UI work. Some prefer under the hood improvements. UI work gets more press coverage, but that doesn't mean the "business of programming the browser" isn't going on too.

  7. The BigYin


    It does not get 95% The 95/100 isn't the "score". I realise that "The Register" is not pitching itself to be the IT equivalent of "Nature" but really... ...there are something simple things that the authors should *know* and to be able to explain correctly to readers.

    When writing a price of browsers, the author should actually have a clue what ACID3 is and how it is measured.

    1. Alastair 7

      I wish...

      No-one ever knows what the ACID tests are. They just throw around the numbers like medals when arguing about which browser is best. They're just a series of hoops, that's all.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Further to that...

      AFAIK the Acid3 test doesn't test for HTML5 capability. It's tests for, among other things, SVG support (not part of the spec) and some aspects of CSS3 (not part of the spec). Have a look at* for a better reflection of html5 support, where this preview 'scores' 95 out of 300.

      *This test seems reliable, BUT until there is a publicly available WHAT-WG and/or W3C made or approved test, then this is perhaps the best indicator of *HTML5 and associated technologies* that is *available to the public*.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      ...percent is just short hand for x/100. So whatever the intention of the scoring, if it displays the score as 95/100, it's accurate to call the score 95%.

      As for the statement that '95/100 isn't the "score"', the reference rendering says different:

      It clearly refers to the fact that 'the score has to end on 100/100'. It seems to be calling itself a score, wouldn't you say?

      Anyway, if you're so bothered, why didn't you explain exactly what it _does_ mean, rather than just smugly sniping at the article's 'incorrect' use?

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    Windows users back to IE?

    They think a nippy browser will do it? Try this: According to Windows 7 is growing in support, from 10% to 20% since January. In the same period, Vista dropped from 15% to 10%. And XP? Well XP is slowly losing ground, from 59% to 54%.

    Yet IE9 is (perhaps deliberately) incompatible with XP... and old OS, yes, but one that still (just) has over half of the measured OS market, and quite a bit more than half of the Microsoft part of it.

    Microsoft can pull rabbits, genies, and cute Asian chicks out of their hat, but it won't take long for other browsers to implement similar functionality if it's worth doing, so where, I ask you, is the incentive to even commit to a newer version of IE? And to cut out a huge percentage of your target market... WTF? You DO realise that when the XPSP3 support cycle ends, we're not going to flock en masse to Win7? Many will stick with XP, some will take the Penguin route. And where does IE9 figure in this? Ummm... Well...

    1. Mark 65


      I think you'll be surprised at how many people will end up on Win7, or whatever the flavour of the day is, when XP support runs out (if not before) as they go out and buy a new machine. Pretty much everywhere you care to mention if you are buying a PC you get a windows pre-install. Unless you change that then that's what people will end up using.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Something missing?

    So we get some comparisons with Chrome and Safari... but not with Firefox? How come?

    1. florian mosleh 1

      wtf? mozilla?

      yeah, i was noticing that. every major browser except for firefox is mentioned. honestly i found it distracting. is firefox so much better that it throws the basis of the article (ie9 is sooo neat) into question?

    2. Joe 3


      They're still waiting for the Javascript tests to finish running!

    3. The BigYin

      Just a guess...

      ...but maybe IE9 vs FF3.6 isn't considered "fair" and they're waiting for FF4? I really don't know though.

      I did the tests last nigh on FF 3.6 running on MS's end-user OS (Windows XP) and some worked (slowly) others didn't (e.g. "Space Invader"). Here's the thing, you can get FF for FREE! You could test and publish your own results! You'd need to test IE9, Safari and Opera on the same hardware for a fair comparison though.

      As for "it can [optimise] everything for Windows", I really don't care. Windows is becoming increasingly irrelevant by the day.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Chrome and Safari are currently the best production browsers for HTML5 and associated technologies support (as are their mobile counterparts). See

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Methinks you need to untertake a little personal research as opposed to just 'read & believe'!

        In respect of HTML5 - using as a beseline test - Opera is in fact ahead of your Apple-Goo love puppies.

        So... Which source should we believe? I have done my own reasearch and know the answer. Have/do you? (The question is rhetorical, as you have already answered my question in your originating post).

  10. Wanda Lust

    Accelerated, like cherry bomb pipe & painted calipers

    OK, sounds radical - like they've actually designed the software to run on a real-life silicon CPU?

    Now, the plebs won't know that most of the PCs they buy from the Dysfunctional Selling Group for 399!!! or 499!!! have very little in the way of acceleration just like the Kia's and Hyundai's that they pull up in out there in the car park so IE9 will be a duck with a limp

    So foot with smoking hole Microsoft, you'll never get the PC manufacturers to get their derrieres out of that race to the bottom as DSG 'names that price' for the cheapest glitsiest piece of poo that'll fly off the shelf like lemmings off a cliff

    The real story is that 70% of US higher ed freshmen are choosing Mac - for now Stevie J's got it - he looks cooler than Stevie goon-boy Ballmer too, apparently the consumers like that

  11. Desktop Mobile
    Gates Halo

    I wish them well

    I can't say I use Internet Explorer but I do wish then well in building a secure and standard conforming browser.

    That may sound bonkers but I do remember IE in late '96 or early '97 stomping all over my preferred choice of Netscape Navigator and so I guess that if there is the will there is the way.

    Don't get me wrong there is not a hope in hell I will use their browser unless hell freezes over but I do hope they build a product that will be as good as the rest in terms of security, privacy and conformity to standards.

  12. adnim

    How secure is

    Direct X?

    "The technical story is that everything in IE9 is hardware accelerated."

    Direct X has never really been a target for hackers, I can see that changing. A little snippet of code within the canvas tag and all your OS's belong to us? Interesting times ahead indeed.

    I'll stick with Firefox. Slower or quicker is a moot point when page rendering is pretty much instant, providing the code gets to the browser quickly enough of course.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Force-feeding advertisments

    "stuffing rich content into browser plug-ins might not always be necessary."

    Ie. advertisments. Is there anybody who don't get what "rich content" is in reality?

    Plug-ins are easy to disable, how do you save you from advertisments in this so called "better" system then?

    I see htlm5 as a tool for force-feeding everything to user and no way of filtering or blocking anything, advertisers dream

  14. Muckminded
    Thumb Up

    Serve me

    ...a turd and call it a truffle.

    I understand why it only works with the latest version of Windows (aero graphics et al), but that equates to laziness, considering all other browser developers are able to achieve similar speed gains w/o targeting just one version of an OS (and no, the red-headed dialog-spewing beast that survived birth by accident doesn't count as an OS).

    It's cute to see MS trying. Thing is, if they happen to think they are ahead again, they will let IE lay in the weeds again for several years. Oh, hey, Windows Mobile, whazzup?

    Once the buzz fades, so will development, and it will be another bolted-up Frankenstein patchwork of security updates.

    But hey, nice temporary success.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    "and if version 9 does not bring Windows users back to IE, then nothing will."

    It won't, unless someone is able to make a true ad blocker that works like AdblockPlus for Firefox. heh

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Too late

      Adblock Plus lists already work in IE8 without plugins courtesy of Inprivate Filtering. You just need to download the translated AB+ list. NoScript is another matter though.

  16. Bugs R Us
    Gates Halo

    The points is...

    ...with IE9 Microsoft is back in the game versus the likes of Firefox, Chrome and Safari and even Opera. IE does not need to be the fastest browser, it just needs to be within milliseconds of performance of it's competition because in the real world, end users won't care if it's 50ms slower or faster than the competition. And with the added bonus of being more standards friendly, this is likely to be a big win for Redmond. If I were MS I would rebarnd it as Windows Internet Explorer to highlight that the performance gains are only available if you use WIndows as your operating system.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Mark Quirk

    It must be pretty cool to be the guy they named quirks mode after ;)

    1. Studley


      ...I'm looking forward to a future interview with Jonathan Compatibility-View.

  18. PaulR79

    Opera users please shut up

    OK I get it, you love Opera and think it's the most awesome thing ever invented but that doesn't change the fact that hardly anybody uses it. Why is that if it's so awesome and does everything? I avoid it because the constant whining the Opera developers make whenever something they don't like happens. I've tried it before, it's zippy yes but I don't like how it does certain things and that's why we have different browser choices.

  19. booz

    CSS3 effects

    CSS3 effects support is still very limited - most of the tests on fail in IE9 PP4. A shame as I'm sick of chopping up images to get gradient effects.

  20. Pandy06269

    Will businesses buy it

    So apparently IE9 won't run on XP.

    Businesses and UK Government are struggling to make any plans to move away from IE6, or to upgrade their aging PCs to Windows 7 so they can run Office 2007/2010 without seeing a massive drop in performance.

    They're even less likely to want to upgrade "just for the browser" when they have IE6 which works*.

    We need web / system developers to take a stand, and to explain to their bosses that still supporting IE6 is fatal and they'd be much more productive if they even switched to IE7 as a minimum. If systems didn't work in IE6, then there would be an excellent use case to upgrade.

    As for the "test for features, not browser versions" - good developers know what features each browser version supports. Unless end-users have the ability to turn off HTML5, for example, or we developers have a reliable way of testing for features (that works across ALL browsers) this is an irrelevant statement.

    [* Yes I know it doesn't, but try explaining that to non-techy types.]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reply to post: Will businesses buy it

      "good developers know what features each browser version supports"

      Great, I'm sure you can tell me what features IE10, FF5 and Opera 12 will have then. I highly doubt there's a lot of developers out there that go and update their websites everytime a new element is supported in an upcoming version of a major browser. Most seem unlikely to update their website till well after the new version has been released. And even leaving future proofing out, you have to accept there are a lot of bad developers out there.

      While I agree with the rest of your statement, it's highly unlikely that much of that garbage is going away anytime soon. There are way too many places that stilll rely on COBOL or FORTRAN code. If it keeps up, someone may create an upgraded IE6 replacement, a la DOSBox though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will businesses buy it

      "They're even less likely to want to upgrade "just for the browser" when they have IE6 which works"

      You're thinking in a very insular way here, 10 years out of date. "The browser" is becoming a platform for service delivery, almost an operating environment in its own right, and businesses are adopting those services slowly but at increasing rates. In my experience practically no business will give a monkeys about which version of IE they're using. but they do care about getting access to their core services at minimal cost. There is inertia, but it's a result of cost/benefit, not because they're waiting for someone to explain why IE7 is technically better than IE6.

      I expect the next 20 years will totally blur the browser and OS and we'll start to move to delivery of services to appliances in the household, instead of delivery of broadband to a computer running an OS and browser.

  21. John 62

    the UI better be good

    IE8 may be faster than IE6 at rendering and Javascript, but I can hardly tell because opening a new tab sometimes seems like it takes forever. The IE8 UI isn't even polished!

    IE9 needs to have a Chrome-like snappy UI.

    1. Daniel 1

      Who cares?

      It's not like you're going to use it, yourself, is it? It can have a Ribbon, a Start button, an animated Yellow Dog, and a menu written by AOL's marketing department, as far as I'm concerned.

      I only need it to render pages right.

  22. Robert Synnott
    Jobs Halo

    Safari 4?

    As in the one that's been obsolete since before Chrome 5 was? Why not Safari 5?

  23. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Hardware accelerated?

    Sounds like Microsoft is really adding features for the hell of it, marketing reasons.

    The same company that thought it would be a good idea to have the browser as part of the desktop or thought that ActiveX in the browser was good.

    I wonder how long it will be before some exploit appears for this?

  24. Yautja_Cetanu

    This is awesome

    MAN! Those tests of what html5 can do are insanely awesome!

  25. MineHandle

    Javascript speed

    "496ms in IE9 versus 335 in Chrome 6.0 while Safari 4.0 lagged at 718ms. More to the point, IE8 scores 5,010ms, ten times worse."

    Does it really matter that IE9 is 150ms slower than Chrome and 250ms faster than Safari??? I realise that JS is the bread and butter of web apps nowadays, but those speed difference: do they matter? The key is 10-fold improvement over IE8.

    I don't understand this obsession with speed - what's the benefit of 150ms to the end user? My dad isn't going to switch to Chrome because it's JS is 150ms quicker. This is just an example of how some techies completely miss the point as to why someone chooses (or fails to choose) a browser. Browser start up time? Does it matter? My browser is open 95% of the time anyway.

    I am not saying speed isn't important. These comparisons are good for pushing the limits (eg opening a tab in IE8 sucks for speed - so I hope that improves) but they have little influence on why 95% of browser users are using a particular browser when all browsers are within say 100% of each other in terms of speed.

  26. Doug

    Chrome Psychedelic at 565

    I have Chrome Psychedelic running at 565 on Lubunto running off a USB device ..

  27. Rob 101

    I wonder what OS they were testing under

    Or if it was on a variety.

    I know for a fact that on a heavily javascripted site such as when playing Ogame Firefox runs 3-4 times slower than IE on Win7 64 bit (quad core 4 gig machine) than IE does.

    Then again on XP 32 bit (dual core 1 gig, more sites open at a time) the speeds are about evens meaning that firefox can run 4 times slowr under Win7 x64 than it does on XP x86.

    Opera and Chromium are also faster on both platforms with seemingly little loss on the Win7 box but I have not tested them much because they just refuse to render most of the pages correctly in the game (OK, so that may be a design issue of the site - it's only tested for IE7 and up/Firefox 3.x)

  28. Rob 101

    Enhanced DOM Capabilities

    Quite an interesting one seeing what other browsers already support that IE lacks even in 8

    IE7/8 : 2 peices

    Firefox : 15 pieces

    Opera : 19 pieces

    Chromium : 20 pieces

    I'm not yet totally familiar with the functionality it is assessing but I do wonder if there are more areas of functionality than the 24 that other browsers currently support and IE9 will not though.

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