The Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) beta was downloaded more than two million times in the first 48 hours it was available--a significantly faster rate than the Internet Explorer 8 beta. The launch event and hoopla around the launch of the IE9 beta make it seem more like an official release than a beta, and the initial demand demonstrates that users are ready to embrace the next-generation browser from Microsoft.
Roger Capriotti notes in an Exploring IE blog post, "In first two days, over 2 million people worldwide downloaded IE9 Beta. By comparison, when Internet Explorer 8 Beta launched in August 2008, we had 1.3 million downloads over the first five days," adding "We've seen 9 million visits and over 26 million page views to the Beauty of the Web site since its release last week, and our developer-focused IE Test Drive Site has had 4 million page views since last Wednesday."
IE9 contains a variety of innovations that set the bar for next-generation Web browsers. Microsoft worked to move the focus from the browser to the sites, and to enable developers and users to treat sites as apps on the system.
A Time article by Harry McCracken points out the specific ways that IE9 capitalizes on the features of Windows 7 to enhance the browsing experience. "IE9 is compatible with Vista, but it's most at home in Windows 7. Drag a browser tab out of the browser and onto the Windows 7 taskbar, for instance, and the site it contains gets pinned there, letting you launch it with one click thereafter. Proprietors of major Web destinations such as Amazon.com, eBay and the Wall Street Journal already support Jump Lists, a Windows 7 feature that lets you hop directly from a pinned icon to a specific subsection of the site in question, such as your Amazon shopping cart."
Granted, two million downloads is far short of the nearly 100 million downloads Mozilla claims for Firefox in the eight months since it launched on January 21, 2010. In IE9's defense, though, eight months is a lot longer than two days, and Firefox 3.6 is an official release instead of a beta. For a more realistic comparison, let's check back eight months from now, or--better yet--eight months after the official release of IE9.
When the official release of IE9 becomes available and it surpasses Internet Explorer 8 to become the number one Web browser, Microsoft opponents and Firefox and Chrome fans will be quick to suggest that its success is purely a function of its integration with Microsoft's virtual monopoly of the desktop operating system with Windows. At that point, you can remind them that IE9 was an overwhelming success before it was part of Windows or even available through Windows Update.
Capriotti sums up with, "All in all, we are encouraged about the very early response to the IE9 release this past week, namely because it signals that the emphasis on making websites shine through Windows is resonating. We are looking forward to more and more partners building great experiences through Internet Explorer 9 to deliver a more beautiful web."
The one hurdle that could stand in the way of the success of IE9 is the fact that it is not available for Windows XP--the legacy Microsoft desktop OS that still makes up a dominant share of the market. Windows 7 has been chipping away at Windows XP, though, and hopefully Windows XP will continue to fade away so businesses can take advantage of what both Windows 7 and IE9 have to offer.