In the IEBlog, the team developing IE9 talked a bit about what they’ve been working on. What it boils down to is feature parity.

If you haven’t been keeping score, here’s the last few versions:

  • IE 6 - Microsoft destroyed Netscape/Mozilla and covered them with concrete in this release. This would have been a legendary release if they hadn’t left it to rot. Netscape rose from the dead as Firefox and the rest of the market passed IE 6 by long ago.
  • IE 7 - The “Oh, crap” release. This was intended to shore up the falling browser market share numbers while attempting not to annoy corporate customers.
  • IE 8 - The “Well, that didn’t work” release. Turned out browser standards, performance and new capabilities were coming on strong. IE 8 was supposed to show that Microsoft was working toward that.

The biggest problem with the IE 8 release was that it didn’t close the feature gap with the other browsers. Its JavaScript performance was still abysmal, it didn’t support most of the HTML5 enhancements and they still couldn’t render any CSS3 elements.

So, in IE 9 Microsoft is aiming for feature parity. They’re working on a JavaScript engine that comes close to the performance of Safari and Chrome. They’re adding in the HTML5 video tag. They’re adding in SGML support (vector graphics). They’re switching to a hardware accelerated display model. They’re adding in CSS3 elements. And, hopefully, more enhancements.

There are a few interesting items to take from this:

  • IE 9 will support H.264 as a video format. That will mean that Firefox will be left out in the cold. Every other major browser will support HTML5 video display of H.264 except for Firefox.
  • Microsoft hates the ACID3 test. They keep arguing that it doesn’t really test how well browsers implement standards it just tests how they handle edge cases. Doesn’t matter. If you can’t handle the edge cases, then you aren’t reliable.
  • They’re finally implementing standard DOM events. IE has stuck to their traditional event model with tooth and claw. Now they’re supporting the model everyone else has been using.
  • The example site for IE 9 works just fine with Chrome and Safari.
  • We need competition. Quite a few people have wondered why Microsoft doesn’t just switch to WebKit. I don’t want that. You don’t want that. Homogeneous environments lead to situations like the Windows virus arena.

It’s very nice to see Microsoft finally playing in the same arena as everyone else. They’re even pushing the envelope a bit. It’s too early to tell yet but graphics performance might end up better on IE 9 then on the competition. And that would be nice change of pace.