After months of testing, today Microsoft unveiled the Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate (RC), which is feature complete.
The Release Candidate introduces several new features that build on the browser's core themes of speed, streamlined design, privacy and security, and interoperability.
The Release Candidate is available for download at Microsoft's Beauty of the Web
The company is now focused on encouraging developers to build new websites and user experiences on IE9, said Ziad Ismail, Internet Explorer's director of product management.
Since the first IE9 developer platform preview was introduced in March 2010, Microsoft has established the key themes of its revamped browser: improved performance driven by hardware acceleration, commitment to HTML5 and standards (CSS3 2D Transforms, HTML5 Geolocation and a set of HTML5 semantic elements), a minimal user interface that puts the focus on the websites instead of the browser, and built-in privacy and security features.
For example, Microsoft claims that the IE9 offers significant performance improvements in browser speed which, according to the WebKit SunSpider test, is now 35% faster than the IE9 Beta. Coupled with IE9?s approach to graphics processing through hardware acceleration in Windows, IE9 is truly an all-around fast browser.
Microsoft also claims that the IE9 RC is also faster with real world sites. In addition to making the script engine faster, the company has improved and tuned the rest of the browser as well. Gmail, Office Web Applications, and many other sites are faster as a result of scenario tuning, network cache tuning, and new compiler optimizations. The RC of IE9 often uses megabytes less memory than the beta because of changes like delayed image decoding.
But there are also bigger changes. IE9 has made improvements to Pinned Sites, which enables users to take their favorite sites and place them directly on the Windows 7 Taskbar like any other application. "A pinned site is more than just a shortcut," said Ziad Ismail. "We have already seen sites use this to create experiences that are always visible to the user and pull the users back into the experience with notifications as important things happen."
hi5, a popular gaming and social entertainment site, used IE9's Pinned Site feature to take social gaming out of the browser and into the PC. When friends send messages or something happens in their games, users receive a notification on the task bar and can jump back into the game.
Another new feature in the Release Candidate is Tracking Protection, which gives users better control over how their information is shared across sites. Some content on websites can be used to track activity as people browse the Web. Tracking protection in Internet Explorer 9 allows users to limit the browser's communication with certain websites to help keep information private. This feature relies on Tracking Protection Lists that enable users to control how their information is shared, Ismail said. Users can install Tracking Protection Lists from the organizations they trust, which today include companies like Abine, PrivacyChoice, TRUSTe, and EasyList.
The RC also expands support for Web standards and HTML5 and addresses a developer community request to add geolocation capabilities to the browser, effectively enabling websites to understand where a user is located and deliver a more relevant experience, Ismail said.
Ismail said that users who download the IE9 RC will find a rapidly growing ecosystem of sites that are tapping into HTML5 and taking advantage of features such as site pinning.