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Microsoft releases final IE9 preview, beta due in September

By Ed Bott | August 4, 2010, 12:05pm PDT

Summary

Internet Explorer 9 continues its steady pace toward a final release. Today’s milestone is an important one. The fourth and final Platform Preview, like its predecessors, is intended for developers to test their web sites and report bugs. Most of the major pieces of IE9’s HTML5 support were put in place in the previous release. [...]

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Ed Bott

Biography

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications. He's served as editor of the U.S. edition of PC Computing and managing editor of PC World; both publications had monthly paid circulation in excess of 1 million during his tenure. He is the author of more than 25 books on Microsoft Windows and Office, including the recently released Windows 7 Inside Out.

Internet Explorer 9 continues its steady pace toward a final release. Today’s milestone is an important one. The fourth and final Platform Preview, like its predecessors, is intended for developers to test their web sites and report bugs. Most of the major pieces of IE9’s HTML5 support were put in place in the previous release. This preview incorporates a slew of bug fixes (more than 1300 bug reports have been filed at Microsoft’s Connect site) and shows off what Microsoft claims are big improvements in its new Chakra JavaScript engine. IE boss Dean Hachamovich argues that how a JavaScript engine is integrated into the browser is as important as the engine itself, in terms of performance:

The fourth Platform Preview moves the new JavaScript engine, codenamed Chakra, inside IE9 and brings them together into one single, integrated system.

Through this deep integration, the performance of real world websites significantly improves, and IE9 becomes the first browser to have a shared DOM between the browser and the script engine based on ECMAScript5. The benefits start with real-world performance and consistency.

Microsoft has published test scores that show the new JavaScript engine acing the SunSpider test (and beating the current shipping version of Safari), but the company continues to emphasize holistic, real-world performance measurements.

Probably the single biggest headline in today’s release is IE9’s final score on the Acid3 test. As I noted back in June (see IE9 adds key HTML5 features in new preview release), each successive platform preview release has sported an improved score on the 0-100 Acid3 scale, starting at 55 in March, increasing to 68 in May, and jumping to 83 in June. Today’s release hits a 95, and Hachamovich argues that striving for a perfect 100 on this imperfect test isn’t necessary or desirable. The two Acid3 failures are on features that are “in transition,” he writes:

Support for SVG Fonts in the web development and font communities has been declining for some time. There’s already been discussion without objection of dropping SVG fonts from the Acid3 test. The community has put forth a proposal in the SVG Working Group to give SVG Fonts optional status.

Instead, developers can use the Web Open Font Format (WOFF, supported in IE9 Platform Preview 3 as well as other browsers) for both HTML and SVG content. It works well in conjunction with the CSS3 Fonts module and has broad support from leading font vendors (e.g. here, “a majority of font makers have already settled on WOFF or services like Typekit as their format of choice”). WOFF fonts are a better long-term solution for many reasons discussed previously.

Similarly, support for SMIL animation of SVG in the web development community is far from strong. The leader of the SVG standardization effort wrote that not supporting SMIL in its current state is probably best “since the SVG WG intends to coordinate with the CSS WG to make some changes to animation and to extend filters.”

Today’s newly released performance tests continue Microsoft’s tradition of showing off full hardware acceleration using PC-based GPUs to render text, graphics, and media, both audio and video. I haven’t tried the tests themselves yet, but I’ve seen videos of  Hamster Dance Revolution and  Psychedelic Browsing in action. The former is guaranteed to get that silly hamster jingle stuck in your head for the rest of the day, and the latter could cause vertigo. You’ve been warned.

What’s next? A beta, of course, with a full-fledged user interface instead of the bare frame that the platform previews use. When I spoke with Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin earlier today, he declined to offer an exact shipping date but suggested that the next release would follow the same cadence as the platform previews. On that timetable, it’s reasonable to expect a beta in the second half of September.

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Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications.

Disclosure

Ed Bott

Ed Bott is a freelance technical journalist and book author. All work that Ed does is on a contractual basis.

Since 1994, Ed has written more than 25 books about Microsoft Windows and Office. Along with various co-authors, Ed is completely responsible for the content of the books he writes. As a key part of his contractual relationship with publishers, he gives them permission to print and distribute the content he writes and to pay him a royalty based on the actual sales of those books. Ed's books are currently distributed by Que Publishing (a division of Pearson Education) and by Microsoft Press.

On occasion, Ed accepts consulting assignments. In recent years, he has worked as an expert witness in cases where his experience and knowledge of Microsoft and Microsoft Windows have been useful. In each such case, his compensation is on an hourly basis, and he is hired as a witness, not an advocate.

Ed does not own stock or have any other financial interest in Microsoft or any other software company. He owns 500 shares of stock in EMC Corporation, which was purchased before the company's acquisition of VMWare. In addition, he owns 350 shares of stock in Intel Corporation, purchased more than two years ago. All stocks are held in retirement accounts for long-term growth.

Ed does not accept gifts from companies he covers. All hardware products he writes about are purchased with his own funds or are review units covered under formal loan agreements and are returned after the review is complete.

Biography

Ed Bott

Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications. He's served as editor of the U.S. edition of PC Computing and managing editor of PC World; both publications had monthly paid circulation in excess of 1 million during his tenure. He is the author of more than 25 books on Microsoft Windows and Office, including the recently released Windows 7 Inside Out.

Talkback Most Recent of 29 Talkback(s)

  • RE: Microsoft releases final IE9 preview, beta due in September
    Will adding the javascript engine into IE9 increase/decrease the likelyhood of security issues for the browser?
    ZDNet Gravatar
    Loverock Davidson
    08/04/2010 12:46 PM
  • ZDNet Blogger

    Probably neither
    It should improve execution speed but doesn't really represent a change in potential attack vectors.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    Ed Bott
    08/04/2010 12:48 PM
  • RE: Microsoft releases final IE9 preview, beta due in September
    @Loverock Davidson

    No "software system" that is in use day to day is 100% secure. While your question is valid it seems a bit "out of scope" with respect to Ed's blog posting which focused on JavaScript performance & HTML5 standards. Anyway, I'm just making a general comment here. Nothing more.

    Since you brought up the topic of security, the #1 reason people have had their systems breached (in the past) is because they run with administrative rights - this is particularly nefarious on Windows XP. Unfortunately XP doesn't ship with the tools to mitigate this problem and your average lay person operates with an "ignorance is bliss" demeanor.

    While Vista and Win7 aren't immune they severely cut down the severity of how vulnerable people are. Beyond that I encourage people to use Microsoft's Security Essentials:

    http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

    It's free and after using AVG for years based on various things I had read, I switched. It was this article in particular that made me a convert:

    http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/05/microsoft-mse-safe-from-windows-kernel-hook-attack.ars

    I might add I'm not an IE fan. I haven't used IE since 2002 (I started using the Mozilla suite that year before "Firefox" was ever packaged). Nowadays I do most of my browsing with Firefox on Windows 7 but I do use Chrome as well. I also use a LINUX VM regularly and use Chrome exclusively there.

    -M
    ZDNet Gravatar
    betelgeuse68
    08/04/2010 02:41 PM
  • It's too bad
    @betelgeuse68

    Microsoft can't add MSE to Windows by default. It would shut the "Security woes" complainers up, but would make the "Anti-trust" crowd explode. It really is an excellent product, and is the first thing installed on any of my Windows machines.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    Cylon Centurion 0005
    08/04/2010 02:47 PM
  • No changes to security boundaries
    @Loverock Davidson

    The JavaScript engine was communicating with trident through COM. However, COM supports both in-process and out-of-process "servers".

    In-process is significantly faster as parameters/results from method/function calls do not need to be marshalled under this model. Out-of-process has a considerable overhead on each invocation.

    The JavaScript engine was always "in-process" and thus exploits from memory corruption vulnerabilities etc. would have no process barrier to scale before being able to compromise the main process. Windows still lays out several other barriers to stop exploits in their tracts; nothing has changes there.

    Thus, moving the JavaScript engine in with the rendering engine is merely a refactoring. In terms of security boundaries, nothing has changed. The speed improvements from this is probably not from more effective calls (being a binary model, in-proc COM has *very* low overhead), but rather because the rendering engine and the scripting engine now work against the same DOM with no need for adapter objects.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    honeymonster
    (Edited: 08/05/2010 12:57 AM)
  • RE: Microsoft releases final IE9 preview, beta due in September
    @honeymonster does that mean we can get hacked at greater speeds? ...lol
    ZDNet Gravatar
    pmoreau
    08/05/2010 11:22 AM
  • RE: Microsoft releases final IE9 preview, beta due in September
    What about ActiveX. Have they dumped that POS yet?

    Not
    ZDNet Gravatar
    LTV10
    08/05/2010 05:14 PM
  • More bs by Microfail
    Safari & Chrome both 100/100 for a LONG time. Who needs walls and fences in a world without windows and gates?
    ZDNet Gravatar
    MSFTWorshipper
    08/04/2010 01:40 PM
  • Well Safari does at any rate.
    @MSFTWorshipper
    Safari running on OS X according to Charlie Miller is the easiest browser to hack. And he's proven it 3 years in a row. Chrome is the toughest. Firefox is tough too but it isn't 100% on ACID 3 either. ACID isn't a good test for security just standards compatibility. And note many of Windows security problems are not related to Windows or I.E. but 3rd party apps and add-ons like: Flash, QuickTime, Adobe Reader, RealPlayer (in the past anyway), etc.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    DevGuy_z
    08/04/2010 02:03 PM
  • Safari is also a joke
    @MSFTWorshipper

    It has about the same amount of holes IE6 on WinXP did. A browser doesn't need to bee perfect on the Acid3 test. A 95, is perfect for the reason they are giving.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    Cylon Centurion 0005
    08/04/2010 02:44 PM
  • Both Safari and Firefox are abysmal in terms of security
    @NStalnecker

    Both of them compete at being the browser with most vulnerabilities. NONE of them have sandboxing in place. Chrome being based on the same webkit as Safari inherits many of the vulnerabilities but it *does* have a proper sandbox (except it is not sandboxing plugins like flash like IE).

    The *only* thing Firefox has going for it is that Mozilla are among the fastest patching vendors. Unfortunately this "rush to patch" also means that they have had many incidents where a patch have broken browsers and/or extensions and they have to rush *another* patch.

    Safari is just a swiss cheese browser. Tops the vulnerability chart, no sandbox, and Apple are among the slowest to patch.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    honeymonster
    (Edited: 08/05/2010 07:12 AM)
    • Flagged
  • ZDNet Gravatar
    LTV10
    08/05/2010 05:33 PM
  • Safari & Firefox are BETTER in terms of security than IE
    @LTV10: You've said it. Don't know what honeymonster was thinking when he said that.
    ZDNet Gravatar
    ep-man
    08/10/2010 04:30 PM
  • IE is most secure browser
    @NStalnecker
    Actually IE has been kicking but in the arena of security for some time: http://nsslabs.com/test-reports/NSSLabs_Q12010_BrowserSEM_Summ_FINAL.pdf
    ZDNet Gravatar
    colecrew
    08/26/2010 08:51 AM
  • RE: Microsoft releases final IE9 preview, beta due in September
    Html5 videos are encoded in h264 format, h.264 offers better compression and quality ,so we're playing videos natively with IE9 since it supports h264-encoded videos. And how to converter html5 videos to other video formats, we need video converter like ifunia, who declared they are dedicated in creating affordable and easy multimedia software to simplify your digital life, to do it?
    ZDNet Gravatar
    pennwarren
    08/04/2010 10:58 PM

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