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A few weeks after it debuted with the Windows 8.1 update (and a brief preview period), Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7.

No, it doesn’t look any different from IE 10, and it doesn’t bring over any of the visual flourishes from the touch-friendly Windows 8 version of IE 11, but it’s a worthy upgrade for anyone sticking with Windows 7.

Given that Google has built an entire operating system around its Chrome browser, I asked Mauceri how Microsoft is approaching the role of the web browser today (especially as it’s in the middle of a concerted effort to bring more apps to Windows 8).

“Windows [developers] just think differently about how sites and apps can be used together,” he said. “It’s not an either or thing, it’s an and thing.”

Also, as a mandatory upgrade, Windows 7 users will eventually be forced to grab it.

With IE 11, Microsoft says its new Javascript engine is almost 10 percent faster than IE 10 (which it claims was already 30 percent faster than the latest Chrome and Firefox releases). The browser also adds support for several new web standards — things like HTML5 video without plugins, drag and drop HTML5 capabilities, and the latest version of WebGL — all of which paves the way for sites that look and feel like traditional desktop apps and games.

There are also several subtle upgrades that will make browsing the web with IE 11 feel faster. Rob Mauceri, group program manager for Internet Explorer, tells me that IE 11 has improved its prefetching capabilities (which loads links you’re likely to click in the background).

 

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