Internet Explorer 10 accompanied the launch of Windows 8, and a preview for Windows 7 is slated for launch soon. The browser has some great qualities, but before you think about upgrading, you'll want to know what you're getting into.
For a long time, Chrome and Firefox, along with even geekier niche alternatives, were the coolest browsers in town. But Microsoft has thrown itself back in the game and now has 54 percent of the worldwide market, according to the latest data from NetMarketShare.
Worldwide browser usage, courtesy of NetMarketShare. Data as of Nov. 8, 2012.
That may have something to do with Internet Explorer 10. Although the browser officially launched with Windows 8 on October 26, the preview has been available since April. Here at the IT Migration Zone, we've been hearing some really great comments about IE10 and its improvements in the back end. Then again, we've also heard some disturbing comments. Here are the best and the worst -- debatable, as always -- so let's hear your arguments in the comments.
According to the freshly published benchmarks from Web performance firm New Relic, IE10 on Windows 8 has the fastest response time of any browser on Windows, followed by IE9, Firefox 15, Safari 5, and Chrome 21. Other tests also found IE10 to work fast; a study of ecommerce sites by Strangeloop Networks showed that IE10's performance edged out other browsers, despite the fact that the Webpages being loaded are bigger than ever before.
Cheer: better security
Like the rest of Windows 8, IE10 has a lot to offer in the way of security upgrades. It has an enhanced protection mode that ensures the browser has system access only when essential. When this is turned on, each tab runs in Microsoft's App Container sandbox, limiting its privileges. The ASLR feature allows for application code to be written randomly into memory. This means that in-memory exploits are more difficult to write. IE10 will also limit the use of plug-ins like Java and Adobe Flash Player. Flash Player is integrated into the browser, but only loads certain content.)
Cheer: privacy and user choice
Do Not Track is enabled as the default setting in the browser and is part of express setup, although users can switch if off using customized setup or manual settings. This has been a hotly disputed move by Microsoft, because Do Not Track tells online advertisers and Websites not to track a user's movements, and has been generally enabled in the industry.
Other tips of the hat to users include InPrivate browsing, which has been expanded to prevent storing a user's browser history per-tab rather than per-session, and the now infamous browser choice screen, which Microsoft has made certain to include.
Jeer: split personality
IE10 is really two separate browsers, or as Microsoft says, it offers "two browsing experiences in Windows 8." The first is very similar to IE9, providing a tabbed desktop layout most of us are familiar with. The other is a "touch-centric, immersive browsing experience" based in the interface formerly known as Metro. I understand that one is meant for standard desktop usage, and one is meant for mobile touchscreens. But presented as one browser in this way, it seems like the desktop version is too much like its predecessor and the mobile version is a wild departure, with a big chasm in between. (At least that's how I'm reading most folks' reaction.)
Jeer: user confusion
Here's where the big change comes in. I give props to Microsoft for going all out to reinvent its interface. However, workers who use Microsoft apps all day are going to have a bit of a culture shock when they have to adapt to the Metro-style IE10 (and Windows 8, of course). There are no menus or toolbars. There is no support for plug-ins or add-ons. You can't put favorites in folders to organize them. Instead, you can pin things, but there's no organization. I could go on. These are small usability issues in most cases, but they add up to a lot of time in an information worker's day.
Jeer: Windows 7 uncertainty
Should Windows 7 users upgrade to IE10? Microsoft has been very quiet about features IE10 for Win7 will include, and whether it will continue to push the envelope. A preview for Windows 7 is scheduled for release in the middle of this month, which will then proceed based on testing and feedback. Microsoft has been chastised for not releasing the browser already, and it is unclear why the launch is taking such a long time.
Agree? Disagree? Have cheers and jeers of your own to add? Tell us about it in the comments.