Microsoft Offers Sneak Peek at Internet Explorer 9

microsoft offers sneak peek at internet explorer 9 exploreUnimpressed as we may have been when Microsoft released a final build of Internet Explorer 8 a year ago, the company hasn’t stopped toiling away on the most popular browser in the world. And it’s ready to show off what its software engineers have been hard at work on over the past year. On Tuesday, Microsoft allowed developers to peek through blinds into its R&D labs with the release of Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview.

Unlike a true beta test, the platform preview does not include all elements of a final browser – only the rendering engine, that critical component which turns a string of raw HTML and code into the familiar, graphic-laced pages you see before your eyes. The stripped down test build only allows users to plug in Web addresses and access developer tools.

What’s new this time around? The new rendering engine actually leverages a computer’s GPU to do the grunt work, unlike typical browsers, which still use the CPU. In theory, this approach should take the load off the CPU and make the browser even faster.

Microsoft also claims it has made strides toward better compliance with published Web standards – which it has taken plenty of flak for in the past – and embraced HTML5, which the team sees as the future of Web development. There’s also a new, alleged much faster JavaScript engine dubbed Chakra, which Microsoft’s own benchmarks place faster than Firefox 3.6 and slower than Chrome 5, Safari 4.0.5 and Opera 10.5.

Microsoft offers the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview for free to the public via its “Test Drive” site, which also includes demos of the new features within.