Attendees at Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles got a sneak preview of IE9 yesterday. From what was presented it’s not really clear what type of personality IE9 will take on.
Ray Ozzie, chief software architect, stated Microsoft want’s IE9 to be “a good balance between things we know and have to do and moving the whole notion of browsing forward.” The task of delivering the “most world class browsing experience we can develop,” he added, has to be done “in the most responsible way.” Which suggests IE9 will be brought into line with existing browser potential, but won’t be pushing any cutting-edge technology.
Changes and improvements are plenty. First off, IE9 will use the Trident rendering engine, running on DirectX instead of GDI. DirectX will shift graphic processing from software to hardware, which will boost the display of graphics and text, and provide smoother rendering of animation and video.
While DirectX adds advantages, apparently it also tosses up some roadblocks. Dean Hachamovitch, the general manager of the Internet Explorer team, says DirectX is hard to get right: “there's a huge benefit but it takes a lot of work to get all of the details right – like how do controls like Flash work and what about printing?” Being best positioned to “get all the details right”, DirectX helps Microsoft, but may not help out cross-platform browsers, which may not want to make the commitment.
IE9 will better support standards, such as CSS, including CSS3. IE9 scores 574 out of 578 on the CSS3 selectors test--much better than the 330 out of 578 scored by IE8. (Again, Safari and Firefox on my Mac both score perfect 578s.)
IE9 is at best a work in progress. Right now there is no canvas or SVG support, and no real commitment to HTML 5 standards. But, with no release date yet announced, and a technical preview not available until sometime next year, it’s a good bet IE9 will evolve into something a bit different than what we’re seeing today.
Microsoft uses the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) as a platform to showcase new technology and make some key announcements. This year is no different. Today, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie tried to woo those attending his opening keynote speech at the ongoing PDC09 with the promise of making Internet Explorer 9 the "best Internet browser without compromise.”
Microsoft VP Steven Sinofsky is expected to shed more light on the company’s plans vis-à-vis IE9 when he delivers tomorrow’s keynote speech. According to Cnet, Microsoft will not be previewing IE9 at PDC. It also ruled out the possibility of Microsoft switching its browser to the WebKit engine.
Google's lean, mean, browsing machine called Chrome is pretty darned zippy, but the search giant envisions a much faster Web. Enter SPDY, pronounced "SPeeDY," an early-state research project that is part of Google's effort to supercharge Web.
"SPDY is at its core an application-layer protocol for transporting content over Web," Google wrote in its Chromium blog. "It is designed specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization, and HTTP header compression."
Google is toying around with SPDY as a successor to HTTP. So far, it has only tested SPDY in lab conditions with some pretty impressive results. According to Google, it saw "significant improvement" when downloading the top 25 websites over simulated home network connections, with pages loading 55 percent faster.
"Thee is still a lot of work we need to do to evaluate the performance of SPDY in real-world conditions. However, we believe that we have reached th stage where our small team could benefit from the active participation, feedback, and assistance of the Web community," Google added.
Mozilla this week released the second beta for its upcoming Firefox 3.6 browser. If you decide to ditch your stable build and jump on the pre-release browser, Mozilla says Firefox will update itself during the beta period and eventually to the final release.
The out-of-date plugin alerts might be the most interesting new feature of the bunch. Earlier this week, security vendor Ceznic noted that Firefox accounted for 44 percent of all browser vulnerabilities, 'beating' out every other browser by 9 percent or more. Ceznic noted that part of the reason Firefox led the pack is because of the large number of plugins, which accounted for a "fair amount of the vulnerabilities."
View the release notes and download a copy of the second beta build here.
It turns out our favorite browser might also be the most susceptible to security breaches. According to application security vendor Cenzic, Firefox leads the way in terms of total vulnerabilities, accounting for 44 percent of all browser vulnerabilities reported in the first half of 2009.
Coming in second is Apple's Safari browser, which accounted for 35 percent. And what about everyone's favorite whipping browser, Internet Explorer? A comparatively low 15 percent. The Opera faithful will be stoked to learn that their favorite browser was the least vulnerable of the bunch with just a 6 percent share.
As to why Firefox's numbers were so high, Cenzic said it was a combination of things.
"They've gotten more traction as a browser, which is good for them and the more you get used the more exposure you have. As well a fair amount of the vulnerabilities have come by way of plug-ins," noted Lars Ewe, CTO of Cenzic.
In other words, Firefox's biggest strength -- customization through plug-ins -- might also be its biggest weakness. However, it's important to note that just because the tweakable browser had the most vulnerabilities, it doesn't mean that Firefox users were more at risk. According to Ewe, Ceznic looked at all reported vulnerabilities and made no distinction between a zero day bug and less serious security holes.
Someone cut the cake, and be sure to save a slice for Microsoft, who probably won't be attending Firefox's fifth birthday. That's okay, because plenty of former Internet Explorer users have sent in their RSVP.
It's hard to believe it's been five years already, and in that relatively short time span, the open source browser has come to claim over 330 million users around the globe. It's the second most used browser on the planet, and while Firefox's market share is barely visible in IE's rear view mirror, Mozilla's browser is quickly catching up and is on pace to pull ahead well before another 5 years goes by.
In celebration of Firefox's fifth birthday, Mozilla communities are hosting parties all over the place in a campaign called "Light the World with Firefox." Need more details? Check it out here.
In the grand scheme of things, October might go down as a month to remember. That's the month Mozilla's Firefox browser was finally able to catch up to, and surpass, Microsoft's still popular Internet Explorer 6.
Internet Explorer remains way out in front in market share, but it's becoming clear that Microsoft's lead isn't long for the world. From September to October, IE dropped 1.07 percentage points, settling in at 66.64 percent. At the same time, Firefox gained ground on its own accord by moving up 0.32 percentage points to end up at 24.07 percent. Those are significant numbers for such a short period of time. If the current pace were to keep up, it would take a little over 2 years for Firefox to completely catch up with IE, and could conceivably jump ahead by early 2012.
But it's not just about Firefox. Safari, Chrome, and Opera combined hold a little over 10 percent of the market. Throw Firefox into the fray and alternative browsers (non-IE) are being used by a third of all surfers. When looking at it from that angle, IE is on pace to give up its market share lead even before 2012, just not to a single browser.
Google's minimalistic Chrome browser continues to improve one feature at a time, and the latest release adds the ability to sync bookmarks across multiple machines. There's one caveat, however - it's a beta release, not a stable build.
If you're thinking to yourself that's not much of a caveat, then in your luck, because the new beta also purports to supercharge performance. According to the Chrome devs, you can expect the beta to run up to 30 percent faster than the current stable release, as measured by Mozilla's Dromeao DOM Core tests, and about 400 percent faster than the very first stable Chrome build.
But let's get back to the bookmark syncing, because that's going to be the realy draw for most users. This essentially the same implementation as was previously available through Google's dev channel, which is geared for developers and "can be very unstable at times." And just like before, there's nothing complicated about the feature in the beta build. Just mosey over to the Wrench icon, select 'Synchronize my bookmarks...' and sign in to your Google account. All of your bookmarks will then be uploaded. When you do the same on another PC with a different set of bookmarks, Chrome will offer to merge your bookmarks. Pretty slick.
For those who roll with unified browsing and emailing in a single bundle, Mozilla's SeaMonkey software, which has just been updated to version 2.0, might be just what you're looking for, provided you're a fan of Firefox and Thunderbird.
But it's not all about the browser. On the email side of things, new IMAP accounts now keep local offline copies by default, which ranks as one of the speed tweaks Mozilla implemented when working with IMAP. Tabbed mail has been added, and the mail module lets you subscribe to RSS and Atom feeds discovered by the browser on Web pages.
For a full list of changes and download instructions, see here.
In a blog post on Friday, Mike Shaver, Mozilla's VP of Engineering, explained why his company had decided to block Microsoft's .NET Framework Assistant add-on to the Firefox browser.
"It's recently surfaced that it has a serious security vulnerability, and Microsoft is recommending that all users disable the add-on," Shaver wrote. "Because of the difficulties some users have had entirely removing the add-on, and because of the severity of the risk it represents if not disabled, we contacted Microsoft today to indicate that we were looking to disable the extension and plugin for all users via our blocklisting mechanism."
And so Mozilla did just that, as you may have noticed over the weekend if you're a Firefox user. But as it turns out, the add-on may not be so harmful after all.
"We received confirmation from Microsoft this evening that the Framework Assistant add-on is not a mechanism for exploiting the vulnerabilities detailed in the earlier post, so we've removed it from the blocklist," Mozilla said.
Mozilla went on to say that the blocklist update propagates to clients, so if the add-on was previously disabled, it should automatically re-enable, though you'll need to restart your browser for it to take effect.