Internet Explorer 9 beta makes the browser wars interesting again

Internet Explorer 9 will hit the Web on Wednesday night.

Internet Explorer 9 will hit the Web on Wednesday afternoon. But can IE9 help Microsoft beat back the competitors?

On Wednesday night, Microsoft will launch a beta version of its long-awaited Internet Explorer 9, which is seen by many industry insiders as vital to Microsoft's success in the browser wars. So what's new on IE9? Well, just about everything: support for hardware-accelerated graphics, support for HTML5, plenty of improved processing power, and (if you believe the rumors) a stripped-down interface.

Of course, Internet Explorer 9 has plenty of rabid competition – including Google Chrome, which continues to snatch up shares of the browser market. (IE currently claims about a 60 percent share of the market, down from as much as 74 percent two years ago, while Chrome has about 7 percent, and Firefox approximately 22 percent.)

Google recently released Chrome 6, an upgraded browser that apparently chews through JavaScript at a much faster clip than the original iteration. In addition, Chrome 6 got an even more streamlined interface, a host of bug fixes, and an adjusted color scheme. A screenshot leaked a few weeks ago seemed to indicate that Microsoft could be attempting to ape the Chrome look with the newest iteration of IE.

In an interview with Bloomberg, analyst Matt Rosoff said that IE 9 had a chance to shake up the market again – but he cautioned that interest in Chrome remains high.

“Based on developer buzz, it seems tech enthusiasts are more excited about IE 9 than any version of IE in recent times. We might start to see IE regain some market share from Firefox,” which has stumbled in recent months, Rosoff said. “Chrome still seems to be the one people are most interested in, in terms of the cutting edge.”

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