Sure, Internet Explorer may be considered a joke when stacked against highly popular web browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari, but you’d be in for a huge surprise if you thought IE had been relegated to non-contender status, especially in the race for HTML5 support.

Read on to find out more.

If you would remember, we ran a short article about the upcomining Internet Explorer 9 some time back, and even offered a download link to the Platform Preview for those who were adventurous enough to give it a test run. Of course, it was far from being usable as a web browser for daily tasks, but it did provide a sneak peak into what the IE team over at Redmond were up to: nothing. Well, other than hinting about kililng off support for XP.

Fast forward back to the present, and today. we present to you yet another download link for the latest version of Internet Explorer 9, which has been aptly named as Platform Preview 3. And as before, the words ‘Platform Preview’ should be a dead giveaway that this version is still no where near completion, but is nevertheless a huge improvement over the previous version, especially in the area of HTML5 support which we will detail below. 

<video> tag and H.264 support

Now that HTML5 is being geared up to be the next standard in the future of the internet, support for the standard is gradually being rolled out in spite of HTML5 still currently in its drafting stages. Prior to the release of Preview Platform 3, the IE team had promised H264 and WebM (through downloaded codec only) support for the final build of IE9.

With Preview Platform 3, it seems that Microsoft had finally delivered what they had promised, and the screenshot from Youtube’s HTML5 beta program speaks volumes. 

Built-in WebM support is still not available for Platform Preview 3 though, and chances are it will never be part of the team’s roadmap, although the promise of supporting WebM through external codecs is still better than having completely zero support.

SVG and Canvas support

Microsoft had already touted support for SVG in the earlier Platform Preview release, so there was nothing especially interesting or groundbreaking about it when Platform Preview 3 was release. However, many critics had been calling the team out on their supposed reluctance to support the HTML5 Canvas element, which “rovides scripts with a resolution-dependent bitmap canvas, which can be used for rendering graphs, game graphics, or other visual images on the fly”.

So it was no undoubtedly a welcome surprise for many to see that canvas was suddenly givenn some love in Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 3. But Microsoft apparently decided to go one step further with its plans; it didn’t just implement support for the canvas element, it went ahead and added in hardware acceleration capabilities for faster rendering speeds.

Out of curiosity, we ran the tests mentioned in the IE team’s MSDN blog to see if the browser really lived up to its claims. And it did so fairly well with a mobile Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT, as shown in the short video below:

And while Internet Explorer may not be the fastest or the most standards-compliant browser in the market today, do bear in mind that the IE team has always focused on usability over compliance. Regardless of what many others feel about such a strategy, there is no doubt that Microsoft has got off to a good start with HTML5 support in Internet Explorer 9 through its Platform Previews. Here’s hoping that the momentum will carry forward to the final build.

Source: IE MSDN blog via Ars Technica