Yesterday, Internet Explorer seemed so far away…

…now it looks as if it’s here to stay.

Having been introduced as part of the Windows 8 operating system launch last month, Internet Explorer 10 has just been released for Windows 7.

Rapid uptake is expected; IE9 is a very good browser, its popularity halted the decline of the brand that had been under siege from both Chrome and Firefox. IE10 builds on that resurgence by improving both speed and standards-compliance.

A study by New Relic posted last week found that whilst Chrome is, as expected, the fastest browser on MacOS, it is in fact IE that is the fastest performing on Windows.

Microsoft have sought to underline the high-performance of IE compared to both Chrome and Firefox by publishing a study of the speed at which the browsers are able to render Mandelbrot designs. In all cases IE is faster than both rivals; substantially faster than Chrome in most cases.

speed comparison

Naturally you would expect a company to promote its own products favorably, but an area that Microsoft can’t hyperbolize is the level of support for HTML5 and CSS3.

Back in the first decade of this century the oft-referenced ‘browser wars’ saw Internet Explorer introduce all kinds of bells and whistles unsupported by other manufacturers. The feeling amongst developers was that Microsoft was seeking to dictate standards; the distrust of IE has remained ever since. However, IE9 took significant steps towards proper implementation of W3C standards for HTML5 and CSS3 and IE10 continues where it left off.

HTML5 features including the input placeholder attribute, session history management, classList, async attribute, form validation, progress bar, meter bar and datalist element are all supported; which brings IE10 inline with current offerings from Webkit and Mozilla.

CSS3 support is even more comprehensive:

  • CSS3 text-shadows are now supported, as they are by Mozilla and Webkit.
  • Bringing IE10 into line with Firefox both gradients and repeating gradients are included; a vendor prefix is required to make them work in Webkit browsers.
  • CSS3 animation, transforms (including 3D transforms) and transitions are all supported; support is also available in Firefox but Webkit still requires vendor prefixes.
  • Multiple column layouts are fully supported, as are font feature settings; there is only partial support for these features on Mozilla and Webkit browsers, where vendor prefixes are required.
  • Box-sizing is supported, as it is on Webkit; Firefox requires a vendor prefix.
  • Viewport units are now fully supported as they are in Webkit, Firefox offers no support.
  • Hyphenation is available using the vendor prefix; it’s also available using vendor prefixes in Firefox and Safari, although not in Chrome.
  • There is vendor-prefixed support for grid layouts and regions; however, with no support in Webkit or Mozilla it’s unlikely developers will feel comfortable using these features.

The interesting aspect of Microsoft’s approach is that they have, as far as possible, introduced support for CSS3 features without relying on vendor prefixes. In this respect Internet Explorer 10 offers more support for CSS3 (about 75%) than any other browser — both Webkit and Mozilla offer greater support only in conjunction with browser prefixes.

The emergence of Internet Explorer as a powerful force for the adoption of web standards is likely to confuse and confound many developers who have prior-history with the browser. However, the performance, security, and feature support that Microsoft have built in seem certain to ensure it has a bright future; perhaps even the potential to reclaim its long-lost crown.

Do you have a pathological hatred of Internet Explorer? Can the latest incarnation win you over? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail includes, crown image via Shutterstock

  • Jonathan Kempf

    I’m not so sure about this. While on paper it may seem that IE9 and 10 have come a long way to implement W3C standards, in reality they support them in their own strange ways, much different then other ‘modern’ browsers. For example, IE10 does the math completely different when calculating rem sizes. Now this wouldn’t be a problem except in case Microsoft decided to remove conditional comments in the case of IE10. Which they did. So once again Microsoft decided to go against the grain and tell developers and designers “My way or the highway”, without even a way to conditionally select ie10 to add css styles without javascript.

    Also, their dev console is shit.

    • Benjie

      I think you have to expect a certain amount of variation when standards are interpreted. Taking IE out of the picture altogether, there’s still a vast array of different implementations, especially when it comes to sizing elements.

      I can’t see developers using IE10 to develop in, most that I’ve spoken to recently use Firefox.

      However, it’s fast and supports most of the really useful aspects of the CSS3 specification (gradients being the obvious example), so I see it as a large step forward.

  • Jason Day

    Working for an enterprise level ecommerce company, our code has to be good back to IE8 (we just recently dropped IE7). In this environment it’s part of the development process, however, we are all aware that web development would be a lot more fun without IE to contend with. So, in that respect, I certainly look forward to IE10 (except IE10 in IE9/IE8 mode). Additionally, I’ll be interested in seeing performance improvements in IE’s javascript engine, because IE tends to chug behind.

    • Benjie

      I’ve spoken to some developers recently who are still expected to support IE6.

      I think the most realistic approach is to work to standards, but doing so does mean ignoring anything pre-IE9, which is quite a lot to ask a client to accept. Hopefully IE10 adoption will drive an exodus away from out of date browsers.

  • Gabriel Pleszowski

    I am a web developer, and IE has always been a pain…

    I am happy to hear this, but it will take some time for me to forget the countless hours that IE made me waste adjusting my sites

    • Benjie

      I feel your pain :)

  • Paul Kelly

    I fear that your claim of this platform being “a powerful force for the adoption of web standards” is unsubstantiated. While it is faster, almost every site that reports real, independent metrics says it has come closer, but is still behind all other modern browsers. It’s still looking like an aging web browser that is playing catch-up. It’s flashy marketing should not be taken seriously until it at least supports new web standards at a comparable level.

    • Benjie

      The claim probably is unsubstantiated, I haven’t spent long enough with IE10 yet having not upgraded to Windows 8, it will take a few months to come to a final conclusion I think.

      IE9 was definitely playing catch-up, it’s hard to level the same criticism at IE10.

      It’s worth remembering that any vendor-prefixed CSS property may or may not be implemented by a manufacturer in the long term. If you discount vendor prefixes IE is now at least on a par with Chrome and has much better support than Firefox.

  • Александър Петров

    I believe that the biggest problem of IE as a whole is the lack of update to the latest version.

    For example,IE9 is somehow fine, but it wont promp to every single IE9 user that his browser has been automatically updated to IE10.

    So does it really matter that IE10 support 75% CSS3 support without prefixes, when I still have to deal with IE9 and IE8?

    Microsoft will make a step forward in the moment they make the best they can to get all Internet Explorers around the world a same version, that is reagularly updated, just like FF and Chrome.

    • Benjie

      The lack of prefixes matters for two reasons:

      1. It’s the finished implementation, not a beta version subject to change.

      2. Most new CSS3 properties were implemented in straight away, without a browser prefix version in IE8/9. Which means that correctly coded sites will simply start working in IE10, without the need for any additions.

  • Alfred Larsson

    The user interface and that you have to install a toolbar to not use bing is still critical. I can offer 2ms for chromes beautiful UI.

  • shamim

    Super blog and its awesome..
    Many many thanks for nice sharing..

  • Inventika Solutions

    I will never trust IE, the problem with MS is that once they get into a position of dominance, they stop innovating.

    If IE 10 or 11 wins the browser war, they will stop implementing new features. The browsers have made a lot of progress in the last few years thanks to the efforts of Chrome and Firefox.

  • Barry Reynolds

    Interesting to see how badly Chrome performed in those tests. I was expecting IE to be slower. But it’s not just about speed is it, it’s about the whole user experience, ultiamtely we build sites for our users so it needs to work with what ever browser they’re using if it’s IE then so be it. I designed in a way that I knew would be compliant cross browser and really that’s the most important thing.