Betanews readers offer mixed reactions to IE9

Last week I asked: "Can IE9 bring back Microsoft's glory days?" You answered. As I write, there are 65 comments to the post, and I received dozens of e-mail responses about Internet Explorer 9 beta. Also, as expressed in the more than 160 comments to Ed Oswald's post "IE9 will leave a significant portion of Windows users behind," many of you are miffed the browser doesn't support XP.

In this post, I share your reactions to IE9, the majority from e-mails. This morning, Matt Buono expressed his excitement about the browser, which he described as "fantastic." Dan Locker, an alliance manager with a West Coast Microsoft partner, called IE9 a "huge disappointment." He asked not to be identified because of his work with Microsoft; the name here is pseudonym. Jonah Takalua asserts: "IE9 is quick to start up and runs great so far. I liken it to the browser version of Win 7 with IE8 being Vista."

Buono shared similar sentiment, asserting that "IE9 is what IE8 should have been." Nicholas Ipsen observed improvements, but with reservations: "IE9 is a very competent browser, and a marked improvement over IE8, but it still suffers from an archaic rendering engine, which has trouble rendering some elements of many of the Websites I visit, as well as lacking built-in support for open formats." Web developer Robert Johnson disagreed: "My sites looks more beautiful in IE9 than any other PC browser." However, even with his gripes, Ispen confesses "Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a great browser."

Comparisons to Other Browsers

Many of the IE9 beta testers have used other Web browsers. "It does remind me a lot of Chrome but it has the robustness that, in my opinion, seems lacking with Chrome but it has all the appearances of a quick browser," Buono expressed. "I have tried to move off of IE for my browsing needs but for all the Web portals I use for work, I find Chrome, Mozilla, etc. do not format those pages as well as IE does." "My feeling is this: IE9 is great," David Naylor expressed. "It basically puts IE on par with Firefox and Chrome. It feels fast and sleek, even if I'm sceptical to putting the tabs to the right of the address bar." But Naylor's IE9 enthusiasm won't bring him back to Microsoft's browser: "There is no reason for me as a long time Firefox user to switch to IE. Even if it weren't for the fact that I 'believe' in the openness of Mozilla, I can see no real reason to get out of my way to learn and set up a new browser to my liking."

Takalua feels differently. In describing his reaction to using IE9 beta, and also the new Hotmail, he delighted: "It is nice that it is able to put a smile on my face again as I learn new things I can do." In a follow-up e-mail I asked him: "Is that smile big enough to move you off Chrome and permanently to IE9, Jonah?" "So far, yes," he responded. I asked Naylor if there is some Microsoft innovation that would make him switch to Internet Explorer 9. "No, I can't think of anything that would actually make me switch. It would have to be something altogether new, that puts IE in a completely different league than Firefox et al. And at the moment, I can't imagine what that would be."

Ispen expressed a harsher tone, asserting "that's one thing IE9 doesn't do: Innovate. It merely copies all of the features Mozilla and Google have been adding over the past years, and adds nothing substantial of its own to the mix, whereas Mozilla and Google keep implementing new improvements and innovations." Another perspective: "I use Internet Explorer almost exclusively, so switching isn't an issue," explained Miller, who "was not that impressed with IE9." However, in a follow-up e-mail, he conceded that "when they get to the final version I think they will have a winner in combination with windows 7."

Which Features Impress

I expected more e-mail respondents to discuss features they liked, particularly the more streamlined look and feel. The majority did not. That said, "the interface is clean and beautiful," Johnson chimed. "It does have Zune UI touches to it." Locker slamed the new UI: "Many features I use many dozens of times a day have vanished, like the browse history dropdowns off the forward/back buttons, all the toolbars, my favorites links on a toolbar, etc." For George Boyce, any new features are wants he can't get at his job in a hospital's IT department. The organization "is only supporting IE6 at this time" because "many of our intranet/Citrix apps will not run under IE7 or better."

In comments, Betanews readers expressed more about the user interface changes. "As for the overall look, it's quite a change. It will take some getting used to," Justin McGill commented. "It's definitely a leap forward in the look." Luke Mele chimed in comments: "The design intent has succeeeded with IE9 Beta, it's all about the browsing experience and not the cluttered UI like in Chrome and Firefox. IE9 Beta has made a big impression on me to the point it is now my primary browser and Firefox is now seconday on my desktop."

Johnson praised IE9's "standards support," which is important to his work as a Web developer. Locker won't have it. "Maybe someday I'll care about HTML5, but today I care not one whit, and why would I? No site I use actually uses HTML5. He emphasized that Microsoft's "Beauty of the Web" offers "all kinds of ridiculous eye candy to show off their use of DirectX, with images swooping all around the screen. Gratuitous foolishness...Whoever the IE team thought they were building IE9 for, it clearly wasn't for me, or anyone vaguely like me. I'll be uninstalling IE9 very soon." We exchanged e-mails on September 16, so I assume he already has removed the browser.

Other under-the-hood features did matter to some IE9 testers. "The best features of IE are not standards conformance or speed but security and accelerators," Larry Scott asserted. "Security should be every person's first concern when surfing the Net...As a company we rapidly updated to IE8 because of it's security features, and will likely do the same with IE9 as it moves the state of the art forward." In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Scott if the move would be done "quickly." "We will rapidly upgrade to IE9 when released," he replied. "IE x64 on Windows 7 x64 is the most secure surfing posture currently available, I can only assume that IE9 will advance the state of the art."

Some Licks and Nicks

With regard to installation, Miller's reaction was typical. "The beta installed with absolutely no hiccups," he explained. But other users ran aground. Darrel Ewert shared: "I have Windows 7 home and downloaded and installed IE9 beta. I started it up and it immediately crashed. I can't get it to run. Nice release. I had up to [IE9] Preview 4 running with no problems." In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Ewert if he had removed the preview version (he did) and had scanned the forums for similar experiences. After checking around, I decided to disable my add-ons," he responded. "It seems that IE doesn't like to play well with Flash, Zenga toolbars or Roboform. Java works fine as does any Microsoft add ons. They will need to work on this as most of the games I play are flash based games. Needless to say, I can't play any of them in IE9."

IE9 testers chimed in about lacking Windows XP compatibility, too. Buono stands by IE9 being available for Windows Vista and 7. "Microsoft's stance on not having it be compatible with XP, it's time to let XP go the way of NT and let it die." In comments, David Ferguson expressed similar sentiments. "XP is done. The PCs that are running XP are dating fast...It would be crazy for MS to develop another browser for such an old OS."

There remains but the original question. Can IE9 bring back Microsoft's glory days? "IE9 seems to have its work cut out for it," Boyce claimed. "I really do think this browser will bring MS back to popularity in browsers," Johnson countered. Who is right? That's a question not likely answered until after Microsoft releases the final product.

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