Internet Explorer 9 and the New UI Homogeny

By  |  Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley thinks she stumbled upon the user interface for Internet Explorer 9, spying a screenshot on Microsoft Russia’s press website. If this is the real deal, the next IE will look like the lovechild of Google Chrome and Firefox 4.

From Firefox 4, IE9 reportedly takes the oversized back button, translucent window and tremendous amount of wasted space above the navigation bar (seriously, it’s just an empty row with window management at the end, and the next Firefox is just as guilty). From Chrome, IE9 may derive the omnibar for search and URLs, and a series of menu icons on the right side of the screen.

Already, Firefox 4 and Chrome aren’t much different. Mozilla’s upcoming browser raises tabs above the address bar, just like Chrome, and consolidates the old menu bar into a single button that rests to the right of the search box. IE9’s biggest supposed difference from these two browsers is the placement of tabs next to, instead of above, the address bar.¬†The overall trend is the same: Chrome, Firefox and IE are cutting out the sprawl of menu items, bookmarks and extensions in favor of more vertical space for the Web itself.

Overall, this pleases me. Compared to actually browsing the web, I spend a miniscule amount of time organizing bookmarks, formatting page styles, viewing pages in code, looking at my browser history or doing anything else that’s made easier by expansive menu bars and buttons. But as browsers consolidate the amount of space not dedicated to the web itself, there’s a limit to how different they can be.

User interface similarity is part of a broader homogenization of web browsers, but I strongly believe that look and feel are a browser’s most defining characteristics. As all browsers approach the perfect interface, they get harder and harder to tell apart.



10 Comments For This Post

  1. Dennis Says:

    "I strongly believe that look and feel are a browser’s most defining characteristics."

    Extensions and add-ons are a browser's most defining characteristics. Firefox used to have the extensions I need, but I switched to Chrome when I realized that Chrome had better extensions.

  2. Tyrax Says:

    “From Firefox 4, IE9 reportedly takes the oversized back button”

    I’d say the oversized back button is more of an element of the old MSN
    explorer than firefox 3.

  3. Paul Jasper Says:

    The "omnibar for search and URLs" has been there in pretty much every browser for years – you just have to know to start your search with a question mark. Try it…

  4. richardmitnick Says:

    Why show us Bing? Why not just show us the opening UI?

  5. JaredNewman Says:

    It's a screenshot leaked from Microsoft's press website.

  6. madbohem Says:

    Looks like Tabs on Top is the new thing.

  7. MJPollard Says:

    One big difference with Firefox 4: those of us who think this “improved” layout is the most butt-ugly look to come along since Vista/7’s Aero interface can revert FF4 back to the more traditional interface. Nice to have choices, which Chrome (and presumably IE9) doesn’t give you.

  8. Collins Says:


    But user interface is just one aspect which, admittedly, doesn't give a browser serious traction. I, for one, needed very little to get myself used to Firefox's, Chrome's, Opera's and and each IE's old and new UI.

    Browser startup speed and overall snappiness are two things that actually keep most users happy. This is where Firefox gets beaten up seriously and why Chrome is getting increasing usage share from time to time, I guess.

  9. adnan Says:

    im surprised they didnt go with a metro like interface in anyway. hmm.. interesting.

    but this means that UI has come to a point where it is being generally accepted by everyone which ultimately means the browsers look isnt what really matters anymore. It's going to come down to speed and compatibility.

  10. Matt Says:

    Chrome's extensions are better than Firefox? Seems like a Chrome fanboys who has never looked over the vast number of add-ons between Chrome and Firefox. Last I checked Chrome's best Adblocking Add-on was worse than Firefox's Adblock Plus. Firefox's version of LastPass is a hell of a lot better than Chrome's version and the same can be said about Xmarks.

    Face it when it comes to extensions and themes Firefox pwns Chrome and anyone who claims differently has never fully used Firefox add-ons. Also every good Chrome add-on is being made for Firefox like iReader. Adblock Plus creator already said he had no intent on making a Chrome version of Adblock Plus. FYI Chrome's Adblock+ is not the same as Firefox's Adblock Plus.

    When it comes to speed and pushing web standards, nothing beats Chrome but to say Chrome's extensions are better than Firefox is just plain laughable. Also last I checked Chrome there was no way to move their extensions around like you can with Firefox. Chrome lines them up side by side so if you have 20 extensions then you have 20 extensions side by side which makes it cluttered for heavy extension users.

    I will switch to Chrome for good once Chrome cleans up their add-on interface and actually HAS better add-ons. Ive used 100s of Firefox add-ons and none of my favorites are as good on Chrome as they are on Firefox if available for Chrome at all. ,Don't anyone lie to me and say Chrome's themes are on the same level or better than Firefox.