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3/14/2011
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Microsoft Set To Formally Launch IE9

Software maker is hoping new features and faster performance will halt steady decline in its browser's market share.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Beta Revealed
Slideshow: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Beta Revealed
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Microsoft on Monday was set to launch the latest version of its Internet Explorer Web browser at an evening event at the South by Southwest tech and media fest in Austin, Texas. The company is hoping the new edition will bring an end to Explorer's long-term slide in browser market share.

Internet Explorer 9, or IE9, features a number of enhancements over the current edition, including support for hardware acceleration, a slimmed-down interface, full compatibility with Web standards like HTML5, and better privacy controls.

"Our focus with IE9 has been on creating the platform for the next class of Web experiences built around HTML5 and tapping into the power of the whole PC," said Ziad Ismail, director of product management for Microsoft's Explorer group, in a recent statement.

With IE9, users will find a design that's less cluttered with toolbars, icons, and controls. While most of the features from previous versions are still present, many are confined to the background as Microsoft sought to create a browser that puts more emphasis on displaying Web content rather than on its own interface.

IE9 also takes better advantage of modern chip technology, as it is able to discretely hand off some elements of Web display, such as rendering HTML5 graphics, to dedicated GPU units on the client side through support for Direct3D and other graphics standards.

"A better browsing experience combined with better sites really starts to deliver on the promise of what we set out to do with IE9, which is to deliver a more beautiful Web for users," said Ismail.

In terms of privacy, IE9 adds a feature Microsoft calls Tracking Protection Lists, which allows users to control how Web sites share their viewing histories with other Web sites. Tracking Protection Lists works in concert with software from Web privacy organizations such as Abine, Privacy Choice, TRUSTe, and EasyList.

IE9 also lets users "pin" their favorite sites to the Windows 7 taskbar—a feature that could also be a boon to Web publishers. "A pinned site is more than just a shortcut," said 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."

Microsoft is hoping it's all enough to halt Explorer's slide in market share in recent years amid robust competition from Mozilla's Firefox browser, Google's Chrome, and mobile browsers like Apple's Safari for the iPhone. Explorer's share of the browser market currently stands at 57%, according to the latest data from market watcher Net Applications.

As recently as 2007, Explorer's share stood at 80%.

Microsoft needs to stop the decline. While the company does not earn revenue directly from Explorer, which is available as a free download, the browser is a key gateway to many online services, such as search and e-commerce, from Microsoft and its partners that to generate cash.

Microsoft shares were off .27%, to $25.61, in late afternoon trading Monday.

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