Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, in its public beta, throws up a few surprises with its full HTML support and by welcoming some open standards over proprietary standards. Web 2.0 sites in India have partnered with Microsoft to create unique browsing experiences.

There is a positive buzz about the public beta of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 that borders on the “hard to believe”.

So much so that even some serious geeks, of the likes of Asa Dotzler, community coordinator for several Mozilla projects and co-founder of the ‘Spread Firefox' online campaign, are giving their thumbs up to the browser. He says on his personal blog — http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/ — “I'm a huge fan of IE 9. I predicted many months ago that it was going to be a killer release for Web standards and that's definitely happening.”

A serious contender

Dotzler was, in fact, one of the key workers at Mozilla who made the open-source Firefox browser a serious contender to Internet Explorer some years ago.

The positive buzz is on two counts. First, for the browser to garner some positive mention in itself seems to be a huge surprise. For some years now, it has been steadily losing ground to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The bigger surprise has been Microsoft's.

The element of surprise with the latest version of the browser from Microsoft has been the company's embrace of open standards — the upcoming HTML 5 — over even their own proprietary standard Silverlight (which is still their focus for mobile devices). Microsoft has also made some clever enhancements, combining the IE 9 experience with Microsoft's latest OS Windows 7 that promises to offer a new experience for users.

At a preview of the browser organised for a section of The Hindu journalists in Chennai recently, Pankaj Ukey, Windows Client BG Lead, said the IE 9 had made significant advances since its previous versions, most notably its support for HTML5, and was also user-friendly in ways that Internet browsers have so far not been — for example, a performance advisor informs just how many micro-seconds slower your browsing experience could get by installing an add-on. And, if you wondered just how long a few micro-seconds could be, this is your chance to test it out.

Microsoft has also tied up with partner sites to demonstrate the capabilities of IE9, especially when it is run on Windows 7. (The IE 9 beta on www.beautyoftheweb.com is available only for Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems).

One of the partner sites in India, Rediff.com, has exploited the possibilities in its new social network audio sharing service Songbuzz (accessed via songbuzz.rediff.com.). Using the new ‘jump list' option available with Internet Explorer9, users will be able to pin down the ‘Songbuzz' on the taskbar, and make it act as if it were a native App. To put it simply: Songbuzz plays on even if the internet browser is not visibly active. Prashant Pawan, product manager, rediff.com, says IE9 opens several possibilities for developers to create unique experiences for the users. “With Songbuzz, we are able to deliver an experience where content can remain live on the toolbar even after the browser is closed. That is a great step forward that we are no longer dependant on keeping the browser open to reach out to consumers,” he says.

Looks like IE 9 could be Microsoft's ticket back to taking the lead in the browser wars. In terms of sheer numbers, the Explorer has a vast edge over competing browsers — close to 60 per cent of all the internet browsing in the world is done via the Explorer — but in recent years, it has steadily lost its foothold in the market.

Leading all the way!

The biggest thumbs up yet for IE 9 comes from the Worldwide Web Consortium's first HTML5 tests released first week, which has the browser leading the competitions in all tests.

The only downside to this exciting new browser is that it runs only on Windows 7 and Windows Vista at this point of time. And, it does take a bit to get it installed — you need to have the latest service packs installed, and it could be a bit of a drag on PCs with not-so-top-notch specs.