And based on tests of the recently released public beta, IE 9 is shaping up to be the best version of the Microsoft browser yet. But that may not be enough to stem the advances of the constantly innovating and improving competitors such as Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome.
That's because, while IE 9 is much improved over previous versions of IE, very few of the new features in IE 9 are new to the current browser market. In fact, most of the new features in this beta release are simply a matter of IE catching up to Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
When launching the beta of IE 9, the first thing that one notices is the interface, which is much more compact and streamlined. The other thing you notice is how much the IE 9 interface (just like the beta of Firefox 4) resembles Google Chrome. At this point, despite its still low market share, we can probably crown Chrome the winner of the interface battle of the browser wars, as most competing browsers have emulated it in some (or many ways).
No matter where it comes from though, this new interface for IE 9 is welcome. The much less cluttered interface makes it easy to get up and running on the web with little interference. Like many other browsers, most menu items have been combined into a single tools menu icon.
Probably my only complaint with the interface is the decision to put tabbed windows and the address bar in the same row. As you open many windows in the browser, this row can quickly become very tight. Also, there was no longer a menu item to launch a new browser window. I either had to hit ctrl-n on the keyboard or right-click a link to open it in a new window.
The old Quick Tabs feature has been downplayed and turned off by default (though it can be turned back on) and the old New Tab window has been completely revamped.
Now when opening a new tab in IE 9, the user sees a collection of sites that they regularly visit along with a color-coded fever bar indicating how often the site is visited. This worked fine but I would have preferred more options to customize the new tab page, such as the ability to move site icons within the page. Right now, I could only choose to never show a certain site.