Microsoft launches Internet Explorer 9 beta

At an event in San Francisco, Redmond aims to get back in the browser game with a new version of IE that combines better standards support, faster JavaScript, and Windows 7 integration.

Microsoft traveled to the Bay Area on Wednesday to launch the beta of Internet Explorer 9. Ina Fried/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft launched the beta of Internet Explorer 9 on Wednesday, promising to use the whole power of the PC to set Web sites free from the constraints previously imposed on them.

"The Web is about sites," Corporate Vice President Dean Hachamovitch said at an event here. "Browsers should be too. Today, Web sites are boxed in."

The new browser features a minimalistic user interface, hardware acceleration, and broader support for Web standards including HTML 5 and CSS 3.

For Microsoft, the arrival of IE9 is an attempt to compete more fully with Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome, and other browsers. Although various flavors of Internet Explorer are still used for three in five Web site visits, Microsoft has been losing share for years as rivals have moved ahead technically.

With IE9, Microsoft is trying to change that, while also bringing more of Windows 7's capabilities to the browser. The new browser allows users to pin a Web site to the Windows 7 taskbar, much as a user can do already with applications. Sites that are pinned in this fashion can then program "jumplists" that allow surfers to quickly move through various parts of the Web site.

Other features include the ability to monitor which add-ons are slowing down the browser as it launches as well as a download manager that warns users if the code they are grabbing has a bad reputation and is potentially malicious.

Much of Wednesday's launch is set to focus on various partners that have built sites optimized for the new browser. The first on stage was Microsoft's own Bing search engine, which showed both its jumplists as well as a new HTML 5-powered home page that allows Bing to show either moving pictures or a video on its home page. Microsoft said it plans within a month to offer a spiffed up Bing site in preview form, using some of the HTML5 capabilities of IE9.

The IE9 beta is available starting Wednesday and works with Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Hachamovitch typically sports a new Internet Explorer-themed black shirt at each event where he speaks. For Wednesday's launch, his shirt says "Beauty," with the greek letter beta used instead of the B.

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