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In Pictures: New features coming to Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s new Developer Channel offers glimpse into upcoming features of IE.

  • Microsoft recently released a “Developer Channel” edition of Internet Explorer, launching a new way in which upcoming features will be previewed, and laying the groundwork for a business strategy focusing on web services. Here’s what you need to know about the future of Internet Explorer.

  • Developer Channel version offers sneak peek at new features Though it’s available for the public to freely download and install, Internet Explorer Developer Channel is not meant for everyday use, whether business or casual. As its label implies, IE DC is primarily geared toward developers with which to play around. But anyone can try out the browser to see what new features are being worked on by the IE development team.

  • No more betas Instead of releasing betas, the IE development team will update IE DC with the latest features, fixes and optimizations. Throughout this process, you’ll be able to keep up with the work-in-progress of IE by downloading the most current release of IE DC. When the IE team determines this code is ready for public consumption, it will then be rolled out as the next version of IE.

  • Compatibility is limited to Win 7/8.1 IE DC is available for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 only. Either OS also must have Internet Explorer 11 installed on it. You should probably also ensure your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system has the latest official updates for the OS installed, as recommended by Windows Update, prior to installing IE DC.

  • Caveats IE DC runs within a virtualization system, which keeps the browser in a “sandbox” operating separately from the rest of your Windows environment. This is for reasons of security. The consequences are that IE DC cannot share add-ons or settings that you already have in place with your installation of IE 11; IE DC may run slower than IE 11; and it cannot be used as the default browser.

  • Tracking features in development The IE development team set up a web page where you can follow the latest features they’re working on to possibly add to future versions of IE. It also lists features that are already in the most recent final releases of the browser, and ones they are considering, but not officially developing yet. You can easily set this list to show only features that are in development, under consideration, under which version number of IE they first appeared, or their interoperability with the other major web browsers.

  • New features in IE DC As of this writing, release of IE DC includes only a few new technologies being actively worked on. Two are interesting for the average user: GamePad and WebGL Instancing. They obviously tell that the IE development team is expanding the capabilities of the browser for gaming. (WebGL Instancing utilizes a system’s GPU, graphics processing unit, to more efficiently draw copies of an object without hitting up the system CPU for this task.) These technologies could alternately be integral for less leisurely pursuits, like using a controller to interact with a productivity web app.

  • Features in development Other technologies listed as “In Development” (which also means they are not yet implemented into the actual IE DC browser) include Media Capture and Streams, and Web Audio. The first indicates a web app in IE would be able to access audio or video from your computer’s or device’s mic or webcam. Web Audio would enable a web app to produce audio through JavaScript.

  • Features that are being considered Listed as “Under Consideration” are features that point to granting web apps even more access to control or receive feedback from the hardware of a computer or device (Ambient Light Events, Battery Status, Vibration). Web apps could also be allowed to encode audio or video from within the browser (MediaRecorder), incorporate speech recognition and synthesis (Web Speech), and manipulate the local files on a Windows system (Drag and Drop Directories, FileWriter).

  • End of numbered versions? This new system of providing early looks at IE under a continuous development cycle could suggest Microsoft may de-emphasize version numbering. If this happens, then, as far as the general public is concerned, the upcoming 12th release of IE could be referred to by Microsoft as simply “Internet Explorer.” As for new features, IE appears to be becoming a more technologically capable browser for using with sophisticated web apps. The IE development team isn’t just looking to make a better browser; they’re aiming to make Internet Explorer a better web app platform.

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