We now have a first glimpse at the direction Internet Explorer will take in its 9th iteration, and it's pretty much what you'd expect.
Internet Explorer 9 will bring you improperly rendered web pages more than thrice as fast as IE8. The currently build of Internet Explorer 9 will redefine the way people measure browsers, leaving Firefox, Safari and Chrome only 2 to 4 times faster then IE instead of dozens.
Standards compliance is important for IE9, and Microsft claims work is being done. Yet it boasts an Acid3 score of 32/100, and its standards compliance is beaten down by even Mozilla Firebird -- one of the early versions of what would become Firefox -- back in 2004, 5 years ago, which has a score of 34/100.
So what standards is Microsoft concerned about? As it says in the IEBlog, "A more meaningful (from the point of view of web developers) example of standards support involves rounded corners."
Yes, rounded corners are important, we all like rounded corners don't we? And them we shall have come Internet Explorer 9.
Perhaps I'm being a little harsh however, as IE9 will feature better support for CSS selectors, and they do "want to work with the community and W3C and other members of the working groups to define true validation test suites, like the one that we’re all working on together for CSS 2.1, for the standards that matter to developers". (One could read that last bit as: "tests we can score better at").
One performance improvement that IE9 will bring is its use of DirectX for rendering content. Microsoft expects this to improve performance while reducing CPU usage, which is all good, but the scores speak for themselves.
While it's good to know that performance and standards support is something on Microsoft's mind, they need to do much better than this! What the web really needs is support for basic tags such as the canvas, audio and video tag that nearly all major browsers have implemented by now. Internet Explorer may have lead the AJAX revolution but it now lags considerably.
Many developers have suggested that IE use the WebKit rendering engine used by many browsers today such as Google Chrome and Safari. An inelegant way to do this is to use the ChromeFrame plugin for IE which replaces the IE engine with its own.
Internet Explorer is still the most used browser on the Internet, and will probably continue to occupy the throne for quite some time, for the web to truly adapt to the latest technologies and standards, they need to be supported by a majority of the browsers. The mistake of IE6 took a long time to correct, and still persists on many computers, the standards that Internet Explorer 9 brings might make or break the relevancy and prevalence of some of the latest standards. Microsoft needs to be more serious about implementing those standards for the greater good of the internet.
It is unclear whom Microsoft thought they'd impress by showcasing how much their product will continue to lag behind. We hope Microsoft has some massive performance and standard compliance overhaul lined up in the months (years?) before Internet Explorer 9 is released, because right now, it does not impress us.