Currently in development by Microsoft, the successor to IE9—Internet Explorer 10—is the newest push in the battle for browser market share. The first preview of the software was released on April, 12 2011, a few weeks after the final IE9 release. With better hardware acceleration, CSS3, and HTML5 support, the new browser significantly improves on the old. It is however only supported by the newer versions of Windows, such as Windows 7 and 8.
With 64 and 32 bit versions each for their respective systems, the new browser will be split in two, with a Metro App version as well as a standard desktop version. The standard version will keep support for external plug-ins but the Metro version, for use mainly in phones and tablets, will not. The standard desktop IE10 isn’t much different from the previous Internet Explorer; the real difference is in the new Metro interface. The Metro environment is the new standard which Microsoft is investing heavily in with Windows 8.
With the increased availability of touch devices, internet browsing habits are changing and it is becoming necessary for designers to keep that in mind when planning their software. The combined development of Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8 attempts to catch this growing wave making browsing the net flow more smoothly on touch devices, such as the new touch-based notebooks and the old smartphones. This is vital for Microsoft if it is to have any hope of taking back the territory they have lost in the on-going browser wars.
As touch-screen keyboards can be a bit cumbersome to some users, a great deal of attention is being devoted towards minimizing the need for typing. The browser makes extensive use of touch shortcuts such as swiping and double taps. It also attempts to make navigation easier with the automatic URL suggestions feature. These things are vital elements in keeping the user’s browsing experience simple and fast, avoiding unnecessary complications.
Sticking to the principle of a clean and functional interface, IE10 will hide all unnecessary tools and only display on the screen the elements that are actually relevant. The old shortcut system has been replaced by its Metro style equivalent, using tiles to help users find the sites they visit most often, or that they have manually pinned to the home screen.
The decision to remove support for external plug-ins from the Metro version of the browser is a decision that is causing some unrest among users. Without plug-in support sites that rely heavily on Flash technology will become inaccessible to those using the Metro version of IE10. This is also going to cause problems with password managers that rely on toolbar extensions. Common features like “Printing” and “Sharing” sites will be done through the new “Charms” bar. While this works fairly well most people were used to doing it the old way, directly from within the browser.
Those not making use of touch screen technology can access the usual navigation controls on the side of the interface by using a regular mouse with the Metro Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft is investing heavily in making the Metro style the new standard interface for its products and this can be seen in the tiles showcasing pinned and regularly used sites in the browser. Those using the Metro interface in Windows 8 can make use of the pin feature on the Start Screen, which will notify users of any activity in the pinned sites as well as provide easy access to them.
The improvements made to the security elements of IE10 include the ForceASLR feature, added to Windows 7 and built into Windows 8. This spreads randomly the location of modules that are loaded by the browser into memory. There is also the new “Enhanced Protection Mode” which isolates the data in each of the tabs. The “InPrivate” mode is now set on a per-tab basis and no longer used for the entire browsing session.
With the ability to function as the old IE that Microsoft customers are familiar with, or as a tablet-like browser using the new Metro style of interfacing, IE10 is flexible enough to satisfy different types of users giving each the experience they find most comfortable to use. It is, for all intents and purposes, two different browsers combined into one neat package.