The first thing I thought of when I opened both Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4 for the first time? Chrome. I realize and appreciate there's only so much you can and want to do with a browser -- so there's nothing wrong with a similar look. After all, at least 95 percent of the browser windows should be devoted to the website itself and its efforts to wow you. As the IE9 Help page says, you want a "simplified design" -- in this case, à la Google's take, whether in a nod to its search engine or its browser.
Don't think I'm saying boo to Microsoft for copying another design -- I'm not. If that design is better in some ways, by all means copy it. Copy it to the hilt (within legal limits). I'm sick of the talk about what's "fair" in the world of the Winklevii. Whoever gets to market first, whoever advertises the best, whoever can be innovative in some areas while knowing when to copy in others -- those are the winners in this game.
Thus, I downloaded Google Chrome 10 and Mozilla Firefox 4 to begin my comparison to IE9. One thing I can say is that it would take an eagle eye to see the difference between them in terms of provided site real estate. All three did everything they could to minimize the amount of space they used at the top. I give Mozilla the thumbs-up for Firefox's use of space. Mozilla is also the only developer that went out of its way to provide a colored tab in the top left of its browser (small but noticeable), which helped me find what I needed; every other browser blended the colors between the tabs.
But it's clear that all three are following the same concept that Dean Hachamovitch, product manager in charge of IE, has stated: "People go to the Web for sites, not the browser." How true.
How IE9's features compare to Firefox and Chrome
I like the look of IE 9 and some of its new features.
Pin sites to the taskbar: Designating sites as favorites was cute when the Internet was something we visited, not lived on. Now that I live on it, I want one-click access to many of my sites, and having the ability to pin them to the IE9 taskbar makes it much easier to reach for those sites. Firefox or Chrome can't claim this capability, perhaps because they aren't developing both Windows and IE9 and don't have access to the taskbar, as Microsoft does.
Search in the address bar: This isn't a new feature to browsers: You type in a URL and the browser takes you to it. You type in a search term, using Google, Bing, or any other search provider you want, and it returns search results. But what is new in IE9 is the ability to turn on suggestions so that your keystrokes are sent to the search provider, which offers suggestions as you type. Chrome does this and allows for further configuration of search. Firefox? After spending way too much time trying to locate the search settings, I gave up. Maybe I overlooked them, but as far as I could tell, they were nowhere to be found.
Download manager: This new feature tracks the files you have downloaded. It shows where the files were downloaded to and allows you to pause and resume downloads, open them, run them, or see if they might be malware. Both Firefox and Chrome have download view windows, but I wouldn't call them managers. They provide information but very little in the way of management.
Tabbed browsing enhancements: In a method similar to Chrome's, when you first click for a new tab, you see your most popular sites in IE9. The content of those sites is not displayed as it is with Chrome -- and I agree with Microsoft's decision. That way, the content doesn't have to be pulled in and you get a bit more privacy in terms of your viewing activity. You can easily hide sites, reopen closed tabs or last session, or begin private browsing. Chrome shows just the most-visited sites, whereas Firefox shows nothing.
New notification bar: At the bottom of the IE9 browser is the notification bar, which apprises you of the status, such as when a downoad is complete. Chrome does this too. Firefox? Nope. It puts a dialog box in the middle of your screen asking you if you want to download the file and how.
My verdict: IE9 is more intuitive and capable than Firefox or Chrome
IE9 will clearly take over for IE8 and will ultimately be in the next flavor of Windows. It already has the jump on the other browsers in that respect.
In the enterprise world, IE9 has the advantage is that it can be administered through Windows Server's group policies, not through admin templates, as non-Microsoft products must be managed. The result is that Microsoft's browser is more easily managed within a Microsoft server environment. IE rules the corporate world, and it will stay that way. (There are some great tools out there like Jeremy Moskowitz's Policy Pak tool that Mozilla, Google, and others can use to extend group policy settings perfectly to control these apps in any environment, including Windows Server.)
As for Firefox and Chrome on the home front? My wife prefers Firefox. I prefer IE. I have a friend who prefers Chrome. I think that's the reality: People stick with what they prefer.
However, I believe that IE has a much more polished and an easier-to-use browser interface with more of the features easily accessible and intuitive. Plus, its accelerators, ActiveX filtering, and SmartScreen filters (to protect from phishing scams) are all solid features.
This article, "Why IE9 is better than Firefox 4 and Chrome 10," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
This story, "Why IE9 Is Better Than Firefox 4 and Chrome 10" was originally published by InfoWorld.