Microsoft is planning to showcase its product with India-specific focus

Microsoft has just launched the final version of Internet Explorer (IE) 9, and Mozilla is likewise set to release the final version Firefox 4 on March 22. With this, the battle between the makers of the two leading browsers to draw more users to their fold has been taken one step ahead.

While the IE9 is available for download (http://www.BeautyoftheWeb.com) following its global launch on March 14, Microsoft is planning to showcase the new browser with an India-specific focus at its three-day Tech·Ed event beginning in Bangalore on March 23.

“At Tech·Ed India, besides showcasing the new browser, we will unveil strong local partnerships with popular Indian websites,” explained Senthilkumar Sundaram, Director, Internet Explorer, Consumer and Online, Microsoft India.

The open-source Firefox 4 is now available in the Release Candidate (RC) version, which is one that precedes the final launch. “The response to Firefox 4 RC has been hugely positive,” according to a Mozilla spokesperson.

The IE9 is compatible only with Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems, though. Asked if the non-availability of the browser for Windows XP platform was not a limitation, Mr. Sundaram said that the browser “requires the modern graphics and security underpinnings that have come a long way since 2001, and is intended to be run on a modern operating system in order to build on the latest hardware and operating system innovations.” Installing IE 9 might also require the downloading of additional Windows software components in some cases.

If there is one single factor that seems to count most with browser makers, it is the speed at which browsers load pages and deliver various types of web-content; IE 9 makes use of hardware acceleration to significantly boost speeds, claims Microsoft. The browser leverages the power of the graphics processing unit in computers to provide a speedy browsing experience, particularly when it comes to video and gaming.

In the latest version of Firefox, a new ‘engine' associated with the scripting language JavaScript, speeds up the rendering of web pages. The Mozilla developers too claim that the browser takes advantage of hardware acceleration.

But much of the browser wars have, in recent times, been centred around the extent of support they provide for HTML 5, used by browsers to render web pages; HTML 5 offers a new generation of features intended to vastly enrich browsing experience. And browsers are trying hard to incorporate support for as many HTML 5 specifications and features as possible, though the number and range of these may vary from browser to browser. Both these browsers offer direct support for video and audio elements in web pages and also features like drag and drop and file handling.

These browsers are also giving increasing importance to security and privacy. While IE9 offers a feature called ‘tracking protection,' which helps users filter out content that could be used to track them, Firefox has come up with a ‘do not track feature' that similarly makes it possible for users to opt out of ‘tracking used for behavioural advertising.'

Order of the day

Unvarnished user interfaces, which avoid overwhelming the user with too many interface elements, are the order of the day; IE 9 makes it possible for users to ‘pin' individual site icons to the Windows task bar, which means that launching these oft-visited sites becomes easier. In Firefox 4 RC, tabs are positioned right at the top of the browser, even above the row of other user interface elements, which lends it a different look. And many of the interface elements themselves are tucked away in a hidden menu at the top of the browser. Also new is the Panorama feature that helps users to group tabs into different ‘projects.'