Internet Explorer 11 arrives with Windows 8.1 Preview

Microsoft browser comes bearing WebGL, new developer tools, network prioritisation, and battery improvements.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on

As part of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 preview released today, a first look at the next iteration of Internet Explorer has arrived as well.

One of the headline items for developers is the arrival of an updated developer tools interface that has had more than a liberal sprinkling of "Metro" design. One new tool is the UI Responsiveness tool, which can be to profile and analyse web page performance. Other developer tool changes are the adding of autocompletion to the Console and DOM Explorer, an Emulation tool to help developers see what their pages look like in different resolutions and document modes, an updated Memory tool, and the ability to right-click to begin inspecting an HTML element.

Image: Microsoft

The other big addition to Internet Explorer 11 is WebGL, which will be available on all devices running IE11.

"IE11 scans for unsafe WebGL content, and implements a software-based renderer to complement the GPU. With Windows, graphics subsystem failures are not fatal, and WebGL continues to run," wrote Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft corporate vice president, Internet Explorer, in a blog post.

"With IE11, your 3D experiences can access device orientation to create new interaction opportunities for immersive web content."

The company has produced a video that shows IE11 blitzing the performance of Google's Chrome. However, no machine specifications, configurations, or browser versions are shown in the video.

IE11 has changed its document mode to make edge mode the preferred document mode, which is enabled by using the standard HTML5 document declaration. All other document modes are deprecated, with Microsoft urging developers to update their sites to remove any reliance on document mode for a page's proper display.

Network prioritisation arrives in the new browser, with IE11 giving priority in the following order: Root document, CSS, WOFF fonts, script libraries, images loaded using onload, synchronous AJAX, asynchronous script requests (such as indexedDB, Web Workers, File API, and others), asynchronous AJAX, HTML5 audio/video, Active X and other object elements, and deferred JavaScript.

As well as this order, the browser will prioritise requests from the foreground tab over requests from background tabs, pre-rendered content, search suggestions, and site suggestions.

To help guide IE11's loading of items, developers are able to use the defer attribute on a number elements, as well as prefetch and prerender to have the browser load content in the background.

As a sign of Microsoft's increasing focus on mobile devices, the browser will perform a number of operations in order to extend battery life. These operations include offloading image loading to the GPU, independent tab suspension (which Microsoft claims increases memory efficiency, too), and rendering HTML5 video without the need for plugins.

To experience IE11, users will need to download the Windows 8.1 Preview, which is available now.

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