By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 10:47 pm
According to Neowin’s Tom Warren and Cnet News’s Ina Fried, Microsoft will have something–maybe just a little something, but something–to say about its plans for Internet Explorer 9 at its Professional Developers’ Conference in Los Angeles tomorrow. The company often briefs tech reporters in advance about major announcements, but it hasn’t told me a darn thing about IE9. So I’m just as curious as anyone else to know what the upgrade is going to involve.
And for the next few hours, at least, I’m free to ponder the features that would get me excited about a new browser from Microsoft…
A user interface for 2010 and beyond. Microsoft didn’t make much in the way of major changes to IE’s interface in IE7 and IE8–and some of the tweaks it did make weren’t improvements. Google’s Chrome has a grand total of two menus; IE8 has thirteen of ’em…and it still doesn’t find space for one that takes you to your downloads. And why does IE have both traditional left-hand menus and right-hand ones, including both text-based ones and ones that hang off teensy icons? If Microsoft decided to blow up the IE interface and start over–as it did with Office 2007–I’d be thrilled.
Integration with Microsoft Web services. Okay, so a certain courtroom battle from the last century may have left Microsoft permanently timid about tying its browser to other stuff it does. I don’t care–the days of Microsoft being able to monopolize markets at will are over. Why shouldn’t IE offer, say, built-in instant messaging and e-mail that are really slick front ends for Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail, respectively?
A second pass at Web Slices. IE8’s built-in infowidgets are an intriguing idea, but they haven’t come anywhere near living up to their potential–sorry, Dolly. Unless Microsoft wants to just give up on the concept, it should (A) make them more powerful; and (B) convince more developers to build really cool ones.
HTML5 goodness. It’s going to be a while before the next generation of the HTML standard starts to make the Web a better place. But it has the potential to make Web sites way more rich and interactive without the use of plug-ins. And Microsoft would earn infinite street cred with developers if it released a version of IE9 that took HTML5 as seriously as Firefox 3.5 already does.
WebKit. At one point, rumor sort of had it that Microsoft was considering dumping IE’s rendering engine for WebKit, the widely-used, universally-admired open-source standard originally jumpstarted by Apple. Which sounded both improbable and like a really good idea. Microsoft has a long and ugly history of writing rendering engines that do a miserable job of adhering to Web standards. Why not just get out of the business and use one that works, so Web developers can concentrate on building neat sites rather than trying desperately to get their creations to work properly in IE?
I’m guessing that Microsoft won’t reveal all about the new IE tomorrow. Assuming it says anything at all, it’ll probably give a sneak peek or two of specific features, and then say that it’s shooting to have IE9 out in the second half of 2010. Which gives us plenty of time for additional idle speculation before all the facts are in.
So tell me, Internet Explorer users: What would you like to see in the next version of your browser? And are there any Windows users out there who use another browser but who’d consider coming back to IE9 if it were a knockout?
[NOTE: I slapped together the IE9 logo above myself.]