IE9: Such a Disappointment

IEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE9, what a disappointment! It would not be so bad if Microsoft had managed expectations better. But the ACID3 scores going from 55% to 95%. And all the accelerated graphics routines. And the promise of Canvas, SVG, and HTML5 support. Shades of Windows 3.1 days when the Redmond boys won on glitz over substance[a foreshadowing of Windows Phone 7 launch in October??]. The following quick test of the IE9 beta released today shows big gaps between IE9 features and those of the other browsers like Chrome, FireFox, Opera, and Safari.

The biggest gap – IE9 does not run on Windows XP [more than 50% of all current Windows usage]. Yet  all the other browsers do and with the features that Microsoft say they cannot implement in Windows XP like hardware assisted graphics acceleration. Worse, if you develop for the IE9 browser features, they will not  port cleanly  to any other OS – not Mac, Linux, Android, Apple iOS4 nor even the upcoming Windows Phone 7 because IE9 does not run on those OS.

HTML5 Shortcomings

If  ReadWriteWe/NYTimes and O’Reilly Radar among many observers are right, HTML5 is already moving towards a pre-eminent position in Web development. Here is how ReadWriteWeb sees HTML5′s importance:

Publishers are turning to the mobile Web because they’re sick of remaking the same app for different devices. HTML5 is a solution for both (see our post, “HTML5 is Great for Mobile, Developers Say“). Rich media ads get a 56% higher click-through rate than static ads, according to Greystripe. HTML5 promises a consistent and rich user experience across platforms, and it’s often faster…

So one would think the IE team would strive to put up the best face on its HTML5 capabilities. You would guess wrong – IE9  gets the lowest HTML5 test ratings of 96/300 tests among the 5 major browsers.

HTML5test.com tests results  on 300 points

In contrast Google Chrome 6 scores 217 on 300 [while Firefox 3.6 is at 190, Opera 10.6  at 166 and Safari 5.0 is at 207].  You can confirm these results by clicking on the screen shot or going to Modernizr.com which does CSS3 as well as HTML5 tests. Modernizr  reports IE9 at 18/36 score with no support for 7  CSS3 features. In contrast, Google Chrome scores 32/36 tests including all but one of the7 CSS tests.  And there are huge gaps in IE9′s HTML5 compliance on other critical Web tasks.

Given all the good news on IE9 graphics, one would expect IE9 to score well on the W3C SVG tests. Not exactly. On 20 of the the more than 3 dozen SVG tests Chrome scored 16/20 while IE9 sat down at 6/20.  Of course any hopes of supporting E4X of JavaScript 1.6  were slim – and the tests at W3schools proved “No Such Luck for E4X support in IE9″.  Does this litany of missed standards  sound familiar? My gosh, Web developers are still waiting for compliance with 1998  DOM, CSS, and JavaScript standards that everybody else in the browser business but Redmond matched 2-3 years ago. So Redmond starts to close that old  gap; but leaves more than 2/3rd of the new HTML5 standards yet to be done and lagging in other new features as the other browsers power on down the road.

For example, Chrome and Firefox support three video formats – WebM based on the open source V8 video engine [currently the speed champ], Ogg Theora also open source, and MP4 format. IE9 supports one video format, H.264. All 4 of the other browsers have syncing so you can quickly apply your browser styling at work to home or mobile while IE9 barely covers the PC OS set. And there are lots of new browser features like Firefox’s tab editing Panorama feature or Safari’s  User CSS Styling and Article Reader or Opera’s Speed Dial and Mouse Gestures or Google Chrome’s Translate bar . In sum, IE9 is still playing serious catch up in features and standards compliance in comparison to all the other browsers.

Summary

Has IE9 improved? – no doubt. Much better speed, improved developers tools, plus much improvement over IE6-IE8 in old CSS2.x, HTML4, DOM and JavaScript 1.x compliance. But IE9 awaits  complete and thorough  testing on old compliance issues, most extending back to 1998 [think DOM and JScript proprietary extensions]. But just as before in the 90′s versus IBM OS2 and Linux, Microsoft is betting that if it  can be Close-as-In-Horseshoes while  offering Graphics Glitz,  it can carry the day despite  missing bigtime on most of the  key CSS3 and HTML5  standards while clearly lagging behind on new browser  features such as Sync, video support, tab manipulations, etc.

While reading the excellent book – HTML5: Up and Running, I was wondering why the author, Mark Pilgrim,  kept referring to all the new HTML5 tests and  workarounds available for IE. Why do this given the promise of the IE9 Test Preview? Ahhh, I should have known better. IE9 is only half of what Chrome Firefox, Opera and Safari are on features, extensions, and new standards compliance. Demand betterdo not bother to download the IE9 beta, rather use any of the other 4 excellent browsers [Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera or Apple Safari]. In sum, the IE9 improvements over IE8/IE7/IE6 are substantial and welcome; but no, it is no time for Microsoft and the IE team to rest on its laurels.

  4 comments for “IE9: Such a Disappointment

  1. David Smith
    September 15, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    “do not bother to download the IE9 beta”

    Because if people do then they might see you are wrong, can’t have people making informed experiences for themselves.

    • admin
      September 15, 2010 at 10:15 pm

      David -

      I will assume you are not calling me a fabricator of results or a blatant prevaricator canning the tests to fit my conclusions. In such case, go out and do the deed – download this beta …. but even for a 35MB file expect further delays as the system updates Windows to meet all the requirements for IE9.

      Ohhh …you have Windows XP like more than 50% of all Windows users than you are ship out of luck – IE9 does not run on Windows XP. Read here the reasons why not and tell me whether you think Redmond is trying to force an upgrade to Windows 7.

      But most telling is the missed opportunity here for Microsoft. They could have delivered a compelling upgrade with no questions asked – like why didn’t Redmond upgrade the features of IE6 for 5 years between 2001 and 2006. And lets not quibble over the fact for the last five years Web developers have had to spend anywhere from 15-40% of their time creating workarounds for IE shortcoming or proprietary extensions. Just a small inconvenience for developers, developers, developers.

      And so as everybody and Steve Jobs says HTML5 is the new Web development standard why complain if Microsoft only delivers 1/3 of that standard? Hey these Redmond guys delivered Vista in all its splendor such that Windows 7 still cannot match Windows XP for speed/performance, peripheral connections, and programs supported. Windows 7 is not my idea of a winning OS upgrade. But to each his own poison. But David, continued blatant shortcomings in Web browser features and standards compliance by Microsoft is certainly not my favorite imbibable “poison” either.

      JBSurveyer, eye eye, editor here

  2. Scader
    September 16, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I’m puzzled why you’re so angry that Microsoft decided to limit the target base for IE9 when you wouldn’t use it even if they didn’t? Do you think anyone would upgrade an OS simply to get IE9?

    If were petty I’d clarify that Firefox does not support MP4 (H.264), but more importantly you miss the big picture: HTML5 is still in development–a fine print that Jobs carefully avoids. To get your panties in a bunch over IE9 supporting your made-up percentage of that specification is reason enough to discredit your angry rant.

    I use Chrome for my daily browsing, but I’m glad of the huge progress of IE9, and that IE6 is so close to over.

    • admin
      September 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

      Scader -

      I am not so much angry as perturbed that once again Redmond is in the game of short changing the Web. After illegally blasting Netscape out of the water by pricing all of Netscape’s products at zero “for perpetuity” [and then taking IIS adding it to Windows 2000 Professional and then Windows XP Professional as the only substantial value-add for $50 more];
      and promising in 1998 to consumers and corporates that IE would implement all the Web standards [and then failing to do so even to date including IE9];
      and then not updating any IE6 features for 5 years between 2001 and 2006 [for which Bill Gates apologized and promised a more rapid update cycle for IE];
      and failing to to do hat as the browser community appears to be doing one major update per every 4 months while IE is on a more leisurely once every 2 years schedule;
      and finally promising a major commitment to HTML5 and then delivering an IE9 that is less than a third of the way there…..
      One would expect the Web development community [myself included]would get the message => Microsoft is the enemy of a full flourishing Web because the Web threatens the monopoly profits of Windows and the desktop Office apps.
      So once again Redmond promises a major Web presence but that is really only serving two key purposes for Microsoft:
      1)IE9 is designed to obsolete Windows XP and make the upgrade to Windows 7 more compelling;
      2)to improve IE enough to stave the loss below 50% browser market share so Redmond can have a seat at the table of W3C and other Web standards committees to “influence” Web standards setting such that the Windows 90% desktop monopoly is preserved.

      I suspect that Microsoft’s commitment to HTML5 and the vision of a truly open and cross platform development process that HTML5 would engender is just not palatable in Redmond. But lets look at the other major IT players:
      Apple – no friend of Open and cross platform development as seen in the forbidding of Java and Flash on its iOS4 operating system;
      AT&T – generally Open except regarding Net Neutrality – they want to charge premium rates for delivery of premium services;
      ARM – who the hell are they? Their low power, high performance chips are in lots of fast emerging smartphones and tablets. They would dearly like to see some Open platforms like Android etc succeed;
      China – Open bigtime because it “opens” markets for Chinese tech champions;
      Cisco – big on the Web backbone babystepping into consumer markets with Dlink and Flip; not religiously committed to Open except at the deepest layers of the Net;
      Dell – just now changing its allegiance from Wintel to more Open platforms as in Slate using Android and ARM – depending on Open but a cautious shifter;
      Google – generally committed to open Web and cross platform development. They want their advertising presence available on any and all platforms;
      HP – ambivalence: stuck with Wintel, never adopted Linux or Open like Google until the risky shift to Palm WebOS demands Open;
      IBM – likes Open if it preserves their preeminent Corporate IT consulting status;
      Intel – used to be lock-stepped with Microsoft but since antitrust case and changing markets have moved much more Open as their CPU chips gain market share through Open players – but their bread is still buttered Wintel bigtime;
      Oracle – would flip as fast as a hamburger from open to closed if it sold more Oracle software and services;
      SAP – gradually becoming more Open on huge proprietary base;
      Verizon – like AT&T , needs open devices but wants proprietary for delivery and no Net Neutrality;
      In short Open and standards based systems like HTML5 have become quite complex – embraced by some whose revenues are largely tangential to any one IT product or service like Google [advertising] or IBM [consulting] and emerging/upcoming or shifting players in IT markets. Open helps emerging businesses but proprietary and defacto standards are the stock in trade of established and/or monopolistic businesses.

      So should I be surprised that once again Microsoft shorts the Web – no. Am I mad that I got Lucy Brown suckered again by Redmond in dopey Charley Brown fashion on the prospect of Redmond finally delivering on Web Standards – you betcha.

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