IE 10 is no joke

Microsoft's recent work on Internet Explorer impresses me.

I put together a new workstation—including new hardware and a fresh installation of Windows 8. With Windows 8 comes IE 10, and IE 10 might be the rebirth of IE 4. Allow me to explain.

Since the dawn of the world-wide web, my heart and advocacy have been with Mozilla, then Netscape, then Mozilla again. Around 1997 to 1998, I was using Netscape 3 and then Netscape 4. This was out of willing and at times painful sacrifice since it was accepted that the chief rival at the time, Internet Explorer 4, was superior in just about every way. It supported more CSS; it was faster; its JavaScript engine didn't crash on a whim.

When Microsoft went dormant in 2001 (thank you, DOJ and EU), it took Internet Explorer along with it. IE development essentially halted at version 6.

So Netscape/Mozilla (revived as a Phoenix, or Firebird, or Firefox, or whatever) caught up and surpassed Internet Explorer. This gave me and others like me the privilege of sneering at those who had years ago mocked us.

Eventually Microsoft snapped out of their government-fearing coma. Since then, they've been the ones working on catching up. They still have a lot of ground to cover, but they are closing the gap quickly.

Internet Explorer 10 is a major step forward for Internet Explorer. So major that I am tempted by it once again. Had they merely caught up in features, I would have welcomed it as a web developer, but I still wouldn't use it.

But they didn't catch up on features alone. The rendering speed is fast. Fast.

Do I stay vigilant in resisting? Do I stick with Aurora (or worse, Chrome)? Or do I give in to the tempting speed?

It depends. There are still some odd limitations in IE 10. For example, SVG declarative animation (SMIL), the mechanism driving the background animation on this site, is not supported.

Plus I would need to get comfortable with its user interface quirks (whereas I am already familiar with Firefox's quirks).

To get acquainted with IE 10, I have adapted this site's style-sheet to its liking. Here is how it looks:

IE 10 is blisteringly fast at CSS transition animations, such as the animation between the topic sections of this blog using the menu at the bottom left. On my new hardware, I'd estimate it pulls off twice as many frames per second as Aurora and Chrome.

You have to see it first-hand, but one way I can characterize it in words is: it seems animations are utterly effortless for IE 10.

And I think that's part of it—IE 10 does a great deal of its rendering work on the GPU. Of course, Aurora uses the GPU as well, which I believe is why it's generally faster than Chrome. But IE 10 sets a benchmark.

Setting a benchmark counts for something, right?
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