Autore: ExtremeTech

IE11 in Windows 8.1

Microsoft’s preview of Windows 8.1 is now available to download, and one of the most exciting new features is the inclusion of Internet Explorer 11. In a massive about-turn, after declaring WebGL to be insecure and working on its own HTTP replacement, IE11 will support WebGL and Google’s SPDY protocol. HTML5 support is also much improved, and some much-needed interface tweaks have been deployed.

WebGL is a technology that allows websites to access your computer’s graphics card via JavaScript, using a language/API (OpenGL) that developers are well versed in. As we discussed last month, WebGL and HTML5 allowed Unreal and Mozilla to bring the Unreal Engine 3 to Chrome and Firefox — and now Internet Explorer can get in on the action.

The inclusion of WebGL, now that Microsoft is assured of its security, is a no-brainer. The inclusion of SPDY, however, before its own HTTP S+M protocol, is a bit of a puzzler. Back in 2012, citing a lack of mobile- and app-oriented features in Google’s SPDY protocol, Microsoft unveiled HTTP S+M. S+M is actually based on SPDY, and provides the same kind of speed-up over normal HTTP (on the order 40%). Microsoft presumably chose SPDY because it’s more mature and already in use across the web, most notably on Google’s services. At this point, it isn’t clear if this is a tacit admission that Microsoft is handing the HTTP 2.0 standard to Google and ceasing development of its own S+M spec. Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer now all support SPDY.

You may not be aware, but the Internet Explorer rendering engine (Trident) has been an intrinsic part of the Windows operating system since Windows 95. Not only was the IE rendering engine used to render web pages, but the operating system itself, and apps, could call Trident to render HTML and CSS. In short, this means that every advance that comes to IE also comes to the OS and your installed apps — and with Windows 8, where native Metro apps can be written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the performance and feature set of IE has never been more important. The introduction of WebGL, better HTML5 support, SPDY, and other new features will generally bolster the perceived speed and functionality of Windows 8.1 — and for Microsoft and developers, that’s a very good thing.

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Also new in IE11: You can now open as many tabs as you want (and tabs now appear at the bottom, near your thumbs, rather than at the top); Improved developer tools (not as good as Firefox, but getting there); and tabs now sync across your Windows 8.1 (and probably Windows Phone/Xbox) devices. With Windows 8.1′s improved app snapping, you can now use IE11 to side-by-side two tabs, which is neat, too. There’s still no sign of WebRTC, though, which means websites still can’t access your webcam and microphone.

Stay tuned for more Windows 8.1 coverage — or, if you’re feeling brave, go ahead and download the Windows 8.1 preview now.

Now read: The death of Firefox