Internet Explorer has long been known as Internet Exploder, especially since the rise of alternative browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome. IE sat in disrepair, a dinosaur incapable of competing. Its speed, compatibility, and feature set lagged other browsers. But with the new IE9 beta, released last week, the venerable browser has turned over a new leaf. And customers are responding.
Microsoft today reported that in the first two days of availability, the beta version of Internet Explorer 9 was downloaded more than two million times. That's a far better showing than the beta version of its predecessor, IE8, which netted 1.3 million downloads in its first five days.
Of course, Microsoft's enormous customer base means that any new Microsoft software can rack up massive sales or download numbers, enough to make other software companies seem insignificant. Also, it's not a true comparison: IE8 was such a thorough dud that users will be glad to see the back of it. This could be known as Windows Vista Syndrome — Vista's followup, Windows 7, achieved similarly large download numbers in beta thanks to widespread loathing of Vista.
But that's not to take away from the fact that IE9 is a genuinely exciting, innovative browser. It's not often that browsers bring something all that new to the table; Firefox's extensions and Chrome's universal search bar were previous steps forward, and IE9's new, HTML5-heavy, app-inspired philosophy is just as cutting-edge. (Check out our excellent preview of IE9.)
And IE9 is actually in a pretty good position to snatch back some of its lost userbase. Firefox has been expanding in girth as well as features, losing some of the speed that made it so appealing back in the day. Google's Chrome is snapping up most of those ex-Firefox users, but IE9 could well bring some of them back into the loving arms of Microsoft.
So tell us this: Have you tried IE9 beta? Does it stack up to Firefox or Chrome (or Opera or Safari, for that matter)?