Just after proclaiming Internet Explorer 6 needs to die, Microsoft is readying the launch of IE9, the newest version of its market-leading web browser.
Microsoft plans to debut the browser at the SXSW (South by Southwest Conference and Festivals) conference in Austin on March 14, and the browser will be available for download that same evening.
IE 9 does what no Microsoft browser has done before -- embraces HTML 5. HTML 5 is the latest greatest version of HTML, the core coding language for the web. With HTML 5, rich media web sites with stronger animation are made possible.
A More Private Experience
One of the key new features in IE9 is Tracking Protection. This feature was originally planned for IE8, but Microsoft held off on executing the software that lets customers control tracking on web sites. Essentially, Tracking Protection lets consumers filter content in a page that may have an impact on their privacy.
Here's how Tracking Protection works: Consumers can indicate what web sites they would prefer to not exchange information with. Consumers do this by adding Tracking Protection lists to IE. Anyone, and any organization, on the web can create and publish Tracking Protection lists.
In practice, this means that if you visit a news site, then a sports site, then some other web site, third-party advertisers can't build a profile of browsing activity. Although there are many benefits to building those profiles, including driving more relevant, personalized content, Microsoft is responding to privacy concerns by giving consumers a way to block that tracking.
IE9 also offers InPrivate Browsing, another feature to help consumers control what their machine remembers about browsing sessions. InPrivate Filtering was a forerunner of Tracking Protection.
A Comeback Platform
"This is Microsoft's comeback platform. They've broken from the pack and the end result is that it's incredibly fast," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group. "It's probably one of the most secure products Microsoft has ever brought out."
Beyond speed, security and privacy features, Enderle said Microsoft has something else important in the realm of web browsers: massive developer support to use the underpinning features. That means there should be a number of web sites at launch that make unique use of some of the performance and graphics capabilities of the product.
"This is probably going to be one of Microsoft's strongest launches ever and probably one of the most important IE launches since IE 3 when Microsoft stepped away from Spyglass," Enderle said. "So this is very critical one for Microsoft and one where the company is taking a pretty big risk by jumping out so far ahead of the other guys with regard to technology."
Will the advances be enough to ward off Firefox, Chrome, Opera and other competing browsers? It's too soon to tell, but one thing is certain: Microsoft is focused on making IE 9 a success. And, Enderle said, when Microsoft focuses it's hard for them to miss.