IE10 almost ready for Windows 7

Big under-the-hood changes are coming for Internet Explorer on Windows 7 as the first IE10 release candidate hits the street.

Two things you won't get in Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7: the new Metro-style, chromeless interface or the rich interactivity between the browser, the desktop, and pinned sites.

(Credit: Microsoft)

The first Internet Explorer 10 Release Preview for Windows 7 has arrived, gifting many of its improvements to the older OS as Microsoft prepares to keep IE current beyond the gates of Windows 8.

"There's a long alphabet soup of new abilities that we've built into Internet Explorer 10" for Windows 7, Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's general manager for IE, said during an interview last week at CNET's San Francisco office. In addition to porting over the new IE10 Chakra and JavaScript engines, IE 10 on Windows 7 also gets the Touch API innovations that help drive the browser on Windows 8; the security measures built into IE10 -- at least, the ones that are not dependent on Windows 8; location bar autocomplete; and an on-by-default Do Not Track header.

"Touch is the new fast," said Gavin, explaining that as the major browsers achieve similar speed benchmark scores, how they allow people to interact with touch screens will become a big part of which browser people end up using by default.

The jury's still out on that, given that touch screens are only beginning to hit the market in earnest. But Gavin also made an effort to not sugar-coat past mistakes that still haunt Microsoft's browser. "We've learned our lessons the hard way. The new benchmarks show the progress that we've made in giving a platform that provides a next-generation experience on the Web," he said.

He noted that Windows 8 is the ideal platform for Internet Explorer, for reasons beyond touch. "We're blocking 99 percent of malware in IE 10 on Windows 8," he said.

Additional security features in the Windows 7 version of the browser include services like SmartScreen and download protection. "If you're on a 64-bit operating system, you get a 64-bit browser, which comes with some protections natively," said IE group program manager Rob Mauceri.

Although they used to be rare, public betas and release candidates are nothing new to Microsoft, which has discovered the joys of developing at least partially in public. The word-of-mouth buzz for previous versions of Windows and Internet Explorer has served to help polish an image tarnished by the missteps of the Vista era.

IE's reputation issues have extended beyond consumers to developers. "We tell developers to have feature detection and not browser detection. They're still thinking of IE as IE 7," he said.

The last time Microsoft released a beta version of IE 10 for Windows 7 was back in March. When IE 10 for Windows 7 is finally ready in the coming months, Gavin said that IE 9 will automatically upgrade if you have auto-update turned on in the Control Panel.

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