Internet Explorer 9 release candidate available for download

A press release just hit my inbox proclaiming that an official release candidate for Internet Explorer 9 is now available for download. Microsoft's IE blog has a rundown of what users can expect from the RC build, which comes some five months after the IE9 beta was first released to the public. Feedback from the beta has fueled at least one major change in the user interface.

As part of its "site-centric" design, the IE9 beta put tabs on the same row as the address bar to make more room for site content. That apparently miffed more than a few users, who would prefer to have tabs on their own row like in Firefox, Chrome, and IE8. Interestingly, Microsoft says that only 3% of IE9 beta sessions opened more than five tabs. Beta browsers are more likely to be run by power users and enthusiasts, so I'd expect that percentage to be even lower among the general public. Nevertheless, the IE9 RC build gives users the option to let tabs stretch out on their own row.

With a hardware-accelerated rendering engine at its core, IE9 brings with it the promise of better performance than existing browsers. In fact, Microsoft claims the RC build is 35% faster than the beta release in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark. The RC's memory utilization has been trimmed, as well. On the features front, Microsoft has added support for tracking lists that gives users control over what information is shared with the sites they're browsing. There's also an ActiveX Filter that allows ActiveX preferences to be set on a site-by-site basis.

Microsoft says the IE9 beta was downloaded over 25 million times. The company will be listening to feedback "over the next few weeks," suggesting that a final release isn't too far off.

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