IE9 and the future of the web

IE logoWell… IE9 is finally here. For those that have not seen the promotional videos or downloaded the browser, you can find out more at beautyoftheweb.

I suppose the key question is, “how will this browser affect the web“?

There seems to be a fair amount of focus on two primary concerns:

Concern 1: no support for XP

The IE9 team has made a deliberate decision not to support XP with IE9 – primarily around hardware acceleration and directx. This means that users have to be on Windows 7 in order to use the new browser. The biggest concern here is that many companies and organisations are still running Windows XP – and they are probably not likely to change any time soon.

This has been explored in some detail via articles like IE9 a ‘non-event’ for most businesses

But, how much of an impact will the lack of support for XP have on the uptake of IE9? When IE7 was released, we saw some reluctance to take up this browser from aspects of the community – mainly large organisations and companies who had systems heavily tied to IE6.

When IE8 came around, the uptake seemed much quicker. While IE7 usage dropped significantly, the impact on IE6 was much greater – as you can see here. worldwide, IE6 is now at 12% worldwide – around 5% for many of my clients.

Will we see the same uptake with IE9? My main concern is that the XP issue will mean that many people will not, or cannot upgrade to IE9, and that is bad news for web designers and developers!

Concern 2: Lack of full CSS3 support

There has also been criticism from some web developers for IE9′s lack of support for key aspects of CSS3 – such as Gradients and text-shadow.

IE9′s HTML5/CSS3 support is outlined at the Internet Explorer 9 Guide for Developers. As you can see, IE9 scores 95/100 in the Acid3 test, and 574/574 in the CSS3 selector test.

Where do I stand?

I’ve been building commercial websites since 1995. In those days, the key browsers were Netscape 1.2 and IE2. Since then, a large percentage of my time has been about dealing with browser differences. More recently, these battles have taken place in the mobile space as well.

To varying degrees, these “battles” have always been part of our landscape.

However, I think we are on the cusp of a new era. We are about to have new releases of IE, Firefox, Chrome and Opera to explore.

While IE9′s CSS3 support is not perfect, and there are definitely going to be bugs we uncover as this browser gets pushed to the limits, it is still a staggering improvement over previous versions of IE.

I think web designers and developers should be very excited by IE9. With good support for HTML5 and reasonably good support for CSS3, we can suddenly start moving forward into the future!

Where do you stand?

Date: 17 March 2011
Author: Russ Weakley
Category: News, Web, Web standards
Tags: , , ,

Comments so far

  1. Ollie says:

    I ran IE9 through some tests and found a few this IE doesn’t support, like you said, but I am happy to see the most-used parts being supported – like radius, box shadow, multiple backgrounds (!), rgba, box-sizing and media queries.

    What I absolutely hope for is that Microsoft doesn’t stop here, I hope they push updates once in a while to patch the holes, I hope they are not going to say “Okey, we’ve done it, now leave us alone for another ten years.”.

  2. It’s nice to see the progress IE is making. Maybe they haven’t caught up entirely, but they are really making a big effort. Main question is, with most browsers moving to a quick-release model, where is IE9 going to be in a year’s time?

  3. Andy says:

    Rather than arguing benefits of IE7/8 over the competition on the XP platform Microsoft could give a huge boost to the web development community (and their reputation) by recommending those unable or unwilling to upgrade to Windows 7 “upgrade” to stable and more secure browsers such as Firefox, Chrome or Opera.

  4. james says:

    hi russ

    ditto the quick release plan. with 4 releases in 10 yrs i don’t want to be bemoaning IEs lack of XYZ support in 2 yrs because they don’t ship point releases.
    We’ll have another donkey trying to do racehorse work…

    IE doesnt ship for my OS. the biggest pain now being a win7 license and yet another virtual machine.


  5. ‘No full support for CSS3′ is a bit of a nonsense, really. No browsers have full CSS3 support, and some parts of the spec are very subject to change.

    The Gradients spec in particular has undergone a lot of change, and I don’t blame MS for not implementing it; IE has a very slow upgrade cycle, so anything they implement which later changes could be left for us to work around for years to come.

    My biggest gripe is lack of support for HTML5 forms, which are more stable and at least partially implemented in every other browser now.

  6. Kat B says:

    You’re missing the major leap forwards here! The support for XHTML *with the correct MIME type*!

    This is a HUGE step for the web, towards the semantic web! :)

  7. AJ says:

    Did you miss out a figure?

    “worldwide, IE6 is now at XXX. “

  8. Russ says:

    @AJ: ooops – thanks for that – fixed!

  9. Russ says:

    @KatB: a good point. :)