Internet Explorer has been part of Windows for over a decade. When Microsoft debuted Windows 8 last year, it released Internet Explorer 10, design specifically for the full-screen, touch-first experience that Windows 8 offered.

Microsoft, Windows 8.1, IE11 - Web Design Cheshire

Because of this, IE10 was a big change, but with these big promising changes came some very unusual drawbacks. Firstly, web content took up the whole screen (like apps in Windows 8) unless you right-clicked - only then coukd you see the tabs open or the URL bar. You couldn't manage favourites and could only have a maximum of 10 tabs open at once.

Aside from the built-in features, IE10 failed to support a large selection of the HTML5 API's. Video's were only supported in the H.264 format, excluding MPEG-4, Ogg Theora and WebM. Similarly, Audio was only supported in AAC and MP3, excluding Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Opus and WebM. IE10 didn't support a large selection of the new form input field types; date, datetime, month, week, color, keygen, output, meter.

Even though IE10 was aimed at the new tablet-market brought in through Windows 8, IE10 provided no support for the device orientation, File API to browse directions (e.g. to select photos), webcam access or web notifications. Upsetting, really.

So what will IE11 offer? So far, IE11 has put across promising new features with a rebuilt modern-UI to make Internet Explorer feel like a modern browser.

Tab Updates

With IE10 and Windows 8, the tabs you had, they never really were tabs as you'd expect in Chrome or Firefox. They didn't function like browser tabs in other familiar browsers, you weren't able to see all the tabs at once and simply click on the tab you wanted. Instead, you had to right-click to activate the tab menu (and address bar) to appear.

IE11 Tabs - Windows 8.1, Web Design Cheshire

IE11 fixes this with a mode that allows you to permanently display the tabs and your URL bar (wahey, a normal browser again). Tabs are visible in a strip across the bottom, above the URL bar. You'll have the ability to toggle back into the full-screen mode, if you've become accustomed to this.

IE11 also overcomes the issue of tab restrictions, 10. That was the magic number for IE10. However in IE11, Microsoft has confirmed that the number of tabs is now unlimited. The experience won't slow down for users with a large amount of tabs as the browser intelligently allocates memory, simply 'pausing' tabs that haven't been used in a while.

Live Tiles for Sites

IE10 gave you the ability to pin sites to the Start screen but they were very basic plain squares that seemed very restricted next to the dynamic live tiles of apps. IE11 takes this a step further, pined sites now have live-tile support. Sites will have to implement the new feature for it to work, but this should encourage users to pin sites more often.

Multi-Window Snap Browsing

One of the great features added to Windows 7 and continued into Windows 8, was that of snapping applications and programs to the corner of your screen, and splitting your screen up in some way. Windows 8 expanded on top of Windows 7 and allowed users to place apps in a restricted view of your desktop which was great for apps such as Skype.

Now, IE11 is receiving support for the same thing. Perhaps it's more practical if you need to have websites open side-by-side, but still, it is a feature if you do ever need it.

Favourites

Similar to Chrome and its 'Bookmark Manager', IE11 now provides a 'Favourites Centre' direct from the modern UI. You can edit your bookmarks, and you can even give each one a customised image so it's instantly recognisable when you load up your favourites list.

WebGL Support

IE11 finally adds support for WebGL, an open-graphics standard that can render 3D graphics within web browsers. Until now, Internet Explorer was the last major browser to lack support for WebGL, allegedly due to security reasons.

Microsoft has said that new standards have addressed the security concerns, and its implementation of WebGL ensures any problematic operations won't crash your browser. This is great news for many developers who have had to find alternative measures for IE users.

Streamlined App Support

At the moment, if you're running IE10 on Windows 8 and you click a link on an external app such as the Windows 8 Mail app, you'll be taken to IE10 and will have to manually switch back to Mail. This was often complained about and Microsoft has responded to customer feedback so that apps run more smoothly, allowing IE11 to open a smaller browser window, putting the two apps side-by-side in Snap mode.

Further HTML5 Support

If you're a Netflix user, you may notice that you have to run Silverlight to watch anything. According to the Netflix developers, IE11 running from Windows 8.1 will now be able to take full advantage of the HTML5-powered video streaming.

Microsoft has said that it has put HTML5 at the forefront of development. Performance has been dramatically increased, to the point that text is drawn some 12/13% quicker than any other browser. Microsoft proved they were willing to leave their mistakes behind (I'm sure IE6 is still going..) and embrace the advances of HTML5, CSS3 and the emerging Javascript technologies.

Do you use Internet Explorer? What do you want to see changed? You can get in touch with us by mentioning #ALJTMedia on Twitter, leaving a comment on our FacebookGoogle+ or LinkedIn page, or writing a comment below.

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