Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Microsoft posts Internet Explorer 9 beta (updated with first-look review)

About half an hour ago, Microsoft introduced a beta-test version of the next release of its Internet Explorer Web browser. Internet Explorer 9 Beta--technically, "Windows Internet Explorer 9 Beta"--represents the company's third attempt to catch up or pass competing browsers in security, convenience and compatibility.

Microsoft has had some serious work to to. Its inept, insecure Internet Explorer 6 sank beneath contempt years ago, IE 7 was a barely-adequate update move, and IE 8 still exhibited significant weaknesses compared to competitors such as Mozilla Firefox.


With IE 9 Beta--a free download for only the 32-bit version of Windows Vista and the 32- and 64-bit flavors of Windows 7--the company touts far-better support for Web standards, faster performance, easier maintenance and oversight of browser extensions. It also incorporates a minimalist user interface that, with its combined search and address bar and near-absence of the traditional browser toolbar, owes a lot to Google's Chrome.

Microsoft hasn't made this download too easy to find on its site, however. IE 9 goes unmentioned on its home page and (it's there now) its main Internet Explorer page; the company has saved most of its Web marketing for a separate site at a address titled "Beauty of the Web."

Then again, this is an unfinished release of IE, and even shipping versions can be tricky to install. So I can see why you wouldn't want to urge everybody to try out IE 9 Beta today.

As for me, I'm going to install the IE 9 Beta on an expendable review laptop; check back later today for my first assessment of the beta. Meantime, if you've already thrown caution to the wind and loaded IE 9 Beta on one of your regular computers, let me know what you think of it. Does this release put Microsoft back into contention against the likes of Firefox and Chrome?

6:52 p.m. I've now spent some time poking around with IE 9 Beta on a Dell netbook. The install itself was mercifully boring, involving less than a 10-minute wait.


On its first start, IE 9 popped up a notice advising that I could speed up my browsing by disabling some add-ons; the worst offender on its list was Microsoft's own Windows Live Toolbar, which IE 9 calculated added 2.8 seconds to its startup. A Sun Java plug-in added another 1.3 seconds, and others added only fractions of a second.

IE 9 did not, however, follow Firefox's sensible practice of offering to check browser plug-ins to see if they needed security updates.

With that useless Live Toolbar gone, it was impressive to see how little remained of the traditional browser interface. Not even Google's minimalist Chrome devotes this much of the window to the page. But by packing its unified search/address bar (called the "One Box") into the same level as the tabs representing open pages, IE 9 doesn't leave much room for you to type an address or a query. Unlike Chrome's single form, IE 9's doesn't auto-complete search entries; it invites you to enable search suggestions but first notes that it will have to send your keystrokes to your search engine for them to work.

Like Chrome, IE 9's new-tab button opens a window with buttons showing your most-visited sites. And as in Google's browser, IE 9 hides the traditional bookmark tools--here, they're confined to a small star icon at the top right of the window.

In terms of complying with Web standards--the most basic job of a Web browser--IE 9 finally catches up to the competition. Where IE 8 scored a miserable 20 of 100 on the "Acid3" test, IE 9 aced it at 95 of 100--better than the current version of Firefox. (Google's new Google Instant search did not work, but since it operates fine in IE 8 I suspect there may be some confused browser-specific coding by Google.) Microsoft can also take some justifiable pride in the performance improvements it invites users to try in a series of online demos.

But with all the work Microsoft put into IE 9, couldn't somebody at the company have taken a moment to redo the Internet Options control panel? That relic, barely changed since Windows 95, desperately needs a rewrite (hint: it's probably safe to get rid of the "Connections" tab). Seeing this cobwebby interface also makes me wonder what other antique bits of code linger under IE 9's shiny new surface.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 15, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  The Web , Windows  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Blu-ray's HDCP security possibly cracked. So what?
Next: Thoughts on Craigslist, 'adult services' ads and convenient targets


It will be a cold day in hell before I ever run Internet Explorer anything on my computer, so I cannot give you a review. I have tried them all. Opera, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and others and Internet Explorer is easily the worst. Unless they have had the sense to copy the best features of Opera, Firefox and Chrome, there is no point in this version either.

Posted by: RickJohnson621 | September 15, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

IE works best when it's not used at all. It's a bloated, inefficient piece of junk no matter what number it wears.

Posted by: signof4 | September 15, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I downloaded it, installed it and when I tried to use it, I got this:
IE 9 Beta went into convulsions and was in an infinite loop providing the dialog box with the title "Internet Explorer has stopped working", with only one choice to make, namely, "Close program".
I am done with IE9; thank God there is Chrome.

Posted by: krbabu | September 15, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I just downloaded and installed IE9 beta on my 64 bit Windows 7 machine. So far it works very well. I like that they have designed it for maximum page display and that one can search from the address bar. There was minimal set up. I do, however miss the favorites bar, that I used to one click to my most visited sites. Perhaps that will be an option with the final release. But as I said above, so far, so good.

Posted by: cgindc | September 15, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Why do people complain about something they've never tried? If Microsoft is so evil to a person, why do they even read the article, let alone take the time to comment about it? Those types of comments make me discard as useless ANY comment they make about.

I'm curious about IE9, but, not curious enough to download it the day it's released. I'll be following the rationale comments I read about it.

Posted by: mdogsmom | September 15, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I know IE6 is obsolete and I would never use it. Still it bugs me when people bash Microsoft because of it. That's like blaming Microsoft for shortcomings in Windows 3.1. IE6 was released 9 years ago. In internet time, that's eons ago. So enough with the Microsoft bashing for IE6.

Posted by: tundey | September 15, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

"Smick" So far so good, very nice indeed.

Posted by: Ubetido | September 15, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Just adding: the favorites bar is there if you want it and I agree totally about the IE options, it is ancient but I suppose there are some who still use dial-up. They could update the look and organization of the thing though.

Posted by: cgindc | September 15, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I gotta be honest - if it doesn't support AdBlock plus (well), I'm not going to use it. I know Chrome is faster, but I couldn't get it to stably block ads like Firefox. I've gotten very spoiled by not seeing ads; until someone has a nice browser that works with AdBlock, they're all unsatisfactory, to me.

Posted by: Section406 | September 16, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

@mdogsmom, actually, I have tried every version up to version 8. I finally decided not to bother anymore after being disappointed every time. I too will now wait until someone definitely says this is worth it. I am a tech junkie so if it is really good, I am bound to hear about it soon. Hopefully Rob Pegoraro will give us a review soon.

Posted by: RickJohnson621 | September 16, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I too, have the same exact issues as the poster "krababu" listed above. I have a normal Vista Laptop built by a name manufacturer will all updates applied and no custom apps of any sort. The Ie 9 browser goes into that crash loop and I have to end with the control-alt-delete end process/program option.

These days, I am very happy with Opera 10.6.2 or Chrome 6.0.472. Once those browsers get Hardware Acceleration- why switch?

This is one of my last tries with Microsoft. That company is beginning to remind me of GM in the 70's and 80's. A few good products- but a lot of long lasting clunkers that stay on the market far too long due to name brand power.

I do wish the Ie9 team well- the product looks good in the demos - but in practice- this is a poor start.

Posted by: cm1701 | September 16, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Rob said
"Google's new Google Instant search did not work, but since it operates fine in IE 8 I suspect there may be some confused browser-specific coding by Google."

While this may simply be a bug, keep in mind that it is a common business practice at Microsoft to deliberately design their products to not work properly with competing products (when they believe this can give them a tactical advantage against their competitors).

Some documentation of Microsoft's business practices from the US justice department.

Posted by: dfolk1 | September 16, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company