Internet Explorer 9 comes out of beta

Microsoft’s latest web browser, Internet Explorer 9, is coming out of beta today and takes IE’s minimalist design attitude even further.

Internet Explorer 9 is billed as a simple window into web browsers. Microsoft opted to create a minimalist browser with a limited number of features, leaving most of the real estate on computer screens to the websites themselves. IE9 supports HTML5, the latest version of the HTML standard for Web pages that is largely seen as a replacement for Adobe’s Flash technology. IE9 also offers new features like “pinned sites” on the Windows Task Bar that show up as website icons.

The new release candidate for IE9 shrinks the browser’s borders by around five pixels. At face value, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot — but it’s pretty noticeable when compared to other web browsers. Additional web browsing tabs are now placed on a separate row under the address bar. Users can also pin more than one site to links on the taskbar, meaning fewer pins on the taskbar.

The newest build of IE9 also features “tracking protection,” which prevents third-party sites from grabbing information from users. That includes popular web sites that have widgets powered by third-party websites — such as images or stock tickers. A number of third-party privacy groups have published tracking protection lists that filter into IE9 so that it can identify websites that track users and block the sites from gathering the information. IE9 will also create tracking protection lists based on each individual’s browsing habits.

The browser has had 7 updates since the beta candidate was released to developers in March.

About 25 million web surfers have downloaded Microsoft’s newest browser since it launched. Microsoft tried a number of new marketing tactics to get its oft-maligned browser out to the masses, like posting a question-and-answer thread with the tech team behind IE9 on social news aggregator site Reddit that had nearly 3,000 comments.

Internet Explorer has typically been the black sheep of the browser family, despite its widespread adoption. But it looks like Microsoft has been able to (at least partially) turn that around with its latest browser. IE9 was downloaded more than 2 million times in the first couple of days. In comparison, the beta version of Internet Explorer 8 saw only 1.3 million downloads in five days when it launched in August 2008.

Microsoft has also rolled out a new version of its search engine’s home page optimized for IE9. The new Bing home page takes advantage of IE9’s HTML5 support to provide moving images as the background — with the idea that the site would serve more as a landing page than just a typical search engine.

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