Internet Explorer 9 “to close performance gap”

Microsoft has unveiled the first details of Internet Explorer 9, promising that it will close the performance gap on rival browsers.

Internet Explorer 9

Although Microsoft admitted it only started working on IE9 three weeks ago, the company still felt confident enough to share details of the next-generation browser with attendees at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

The major newcomer is a revamped rendering engine that will tap the power of the PC’s graphics card to accelerate text and graphics performance.


“We’re changing IE to use the DirectX family of Windows APIs to enable many advances for web developers,” Internet Explorer’s general manager, Dean Hachamovitch, explains on the Internet Explorer blog.

“The starting point is moving all graphics and text rendering from the CPU to the graphics card using Direct2D and DirectWrite. Graphics hardware acceleration means that rich, graphically intensive sites can render faster while using less CPU.”

As well as improving performance, Microsoft claims the hardware acceleration will enhance the appearance and readability of fonts on the web, with sub-pixel positioning that eradicates the jagged edges on large typefaces.

Scripting performance

Microsoft claims IE9 will also improve the browser’s scripting performance. Rather damning Internet Explorer 8 with faint praise, Hachamovitch claims IE8 is “no longer an outlier” when it comes to JavaScript performance measured using the SunSpider benchmark, although a graph published on the IE blog shows that IE8 is still significantly slower than Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

Microsoft claims that early tests with the IE9 build drags Internet Explorer roughly into line with its rivals. As with IE8, however, the company claims that JavaScript performance isn’t the be-all and end-all. “We’re looking at the performance characteristics of all the browser sub-systems as real-world sites use them,” Hachamovitch says. “Our goal is to deliver better performance across the board for real-world sites, not just benchmarks.”

Raising standards

Hachamovitch claims Microsoft has also made progress with making IE9 more standards compatible. He claims that Internet Explorer 9 currently scores a rather paltry 32 out of 100 in the Acid3 tests, but that “the score will continue to go up”. He also claims CSS improvements will deliver features such as rounded corners.

Microsoft hasn’t revealed when Internet Explorer 9 is expected to arrive, although it seems almost certain that we won’t have to wait the two years it took to move from IE7 to IE8.

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