Internet Explorer may be the way half the planet access the web, but it's long been regarded as a dirty word, if not a pariah, in web designer and developer circles. Since the 2009 launch of IE8 - the first version to really take web standards seriously - Microsoft's been making strident efforts to placate angry web designers, forced to write hacks to get their sites to work in it.
But even though it's now on IE11 - the first release preview (opens in new tab) has just been launched, and Windows users can download it today - Microsoft clearly realises there's some way to go to win hearts and minds. And so its latest website campaign tries to encapsulate the progess it has made with the simple strapline-cum-nav: "Curious? It's good now. No really".
Referring tongue-in-cheek to IE as "The browser you loved to hate", the website features a collection of selective tweets, a quite amusing video playing on '90s nostalgia, and a few showcase sites that demonstrate some of the new features in IE11.
It's all fairly fluffy stuff, and we're not sure how many designers or devs it's likely to sway one way or another. But in terms of the detail of the new IE11 release, there's plenty to get your teeth into in this official blog post (opens in new tab).
Most controversially, Microsoft is claiming IE11 to be "over 30 per cent faster than the nearest competitive browser". That's using their own testing methods, of course, so we expect others to challenge that assertion. But more specifically, there are some significant updates in terms of web standard compliance, including:
- Support for an un-prefixed version of the Pointer Events spec. This allows for multiple forms of input to generate the same event type. That should make it easier to build websites that work equally well with mouse, keyboard, pen, and touch.
- New user controls for the Standard Delivery Profile for Closed Captioning, which enables users to customize how captions appear in the browser, even overriding the default styling provided by the source.
- Support for the latest Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) draft in the W3C.
Microsoft is also keen to shout about new developer tools in the IE11 preview, including:
- Debugger: An improved file picker allows faster access to files in a complex Web project.
- DOM Explorer: Developers can tune websites more quickly by editing CSS property values and seeing those edits in the Live DOM without having to press the enter key
- Memory: To make it easier to narrow down the source of memory leaks, the F12 tool now identifies what operations were performed on allocated data between memory snapshots.
- Networking: A new "always refresh from server" option creates reproducible performance results while developers rapidly iterate to tune their site performance. There are also new 'Search Next' and 'Search Previous' functions for analyzing complex network traces.
We're not sure everyone at Microsoft has received the same "charm the community" memo, though. Clicking around, we came to this page (opens in new tab) encouraging the visitor: "Explore amazing new sites reimagined with Internet Explorer. The only snag: you have to install Silverlight first.
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What do you think of IE? Share your views in the comments!