Thursday, August 26, 2010

A look at Internet Explorer 9 UI and thoughts on browsers as a whole


Well apparently the cat has been let out of the bag, even though I do have my doubts as to whether this might be the final version, the user interface of IE9 beta was leaked earlier and was spotted by the ever alert Mary Jo Foley of ZDnet. And given below is what she found.


As you can see the interface has been switched to a much more minimalistic one with controls getting less of an emphasis and actual viewing space being given to the webpage as much as possible. In fact they seem to have gone as far as taking the tab line and putting that on the same line as the address bar. Can’t say I can actually see how that is going to work out given that half an hour after opening my web browser I have a minimum of 25 tabs open. For this reason I see Firefox Panorama which is still in beta working out against all other browsers.

Speaking of other browsers, judging by the comments in the sites running this story it seems that many people seem to be arguing about the similarity between the looks of all browsers these days. Indeed that does seem to be the case which is why I will not be dedicating this post to discussing the UI. Mary has done a pretty good breakdown of that over at the ZDnet site.

But here’s my take. People need to take a step back and realise it isn’t about the UI so much anymore. Once tabbed browsing came in, and then the URL bar became the search bar coupled with the vanishing of menu bars (Firefox 4 beta has consolidated everything into one firefox button as well) all the browsers were bound to start looking the same at some point anyway. What this means is that the UI has found its sweet spot in most ways. Minimalistic view and emphasis on the web page itself. How far has actual web page loading come along though? Compatibility? Standards compliance and support?

I think that in the race to make the UI better browser makers might be forgetting the more important thing that people also want to see web pages load as fast and as correct as possible. A prime example of this might be Firefox beta. Might! While the UI has indeed come several steps forward I find that Firefox has failed to make page loading faster. I’m hoping this is a beta only issue but many of the pages loading seem to hang at the 98% mark and don’t load any further than that for hours.

Google Chrome is supposed to be a lot faster but I honestly did not notice this change in most cases. In some cases like YouTube, Chrome seemed to be a tad faster than Firefox 3 but again it just seemed that they were all running at roughly the same speed.

So what does this mean for IE9? Their selling point needs to be combined with both a new UI which is something more closer to the standard set by popular browsers like Firefox and Chrome and then they need to somehow prove to the world that what they have is a more secure and much much more efficient browser than anything else out there. Else I just don’t see continued adoption of it.

Hint – I’m looking at you O “Chakra” (IE9 s Javascript engine).

Well. September 15th. We are waiting.

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