Microsoft has not often been the favorite internet browser for most web developers and designers. But they do have a significant portion of the market share, and that’s something we developers and designers have to deal with, for best or worse. Internet Explorer’s new version, now in development, promises to be a different and refreshing new gem for web development.

Internet Explorer Market Share

IE Market Share (taken from Wikimedia Commons)

Internet Explorer is really a very popular product. Since its first version back in 1995, it was slowly adopted until the next decade brought huge marketshare. When we realize that in 2003, 96% of the market share was using Internet Explorer, you know that a single browser can begin to shape the internet’s future. Let me emphasize that number again: 96%, that is 19 of 20 people saying “Internet Explorer” and one person saying “maybe I prefer something else”. Things have changed over the years, there are more browser options and Firefox has been the biggest competitor since late 2004. Still today, Internet Explorer holds more than 50% of the browser market share.

There was a time where Microsoft’s ideas and products would define the whole web, regardless of what common standards were in place. This invited a lot of controversy surrounding Microsoft’s domination of the software market, some of which is still topical nowadays. From the late ’90’s and still today, designers and developers have to struggle with the fact that there are users still browsing with versions from many years ago. There are still people who use IE5, IE6, and of course, IE7 and IE8. (Interesting fact: the most used between them is still IE6, which was released in 2001!) What is most frustrating for developing for such a variety of browsers is, of course, a coherent cross-browsing experience. This means that the intent is for a webpage/site to look close to the same in IE5, IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 2, Firefox 3, Opera 9, Opera 10, Chrome 4, Chrome 5, Safari 3, Safari 4… and more (mobile versions are diverse as well). Of course, in order for all of these to render pages in a similar way, browsers need to be build on display standards… and that’s not always the case, especially for Microsoft.

Microsoft has had a reputation for innovation inside their own software, and ignoring web standards… of course adding to the workload of designers and developers by mandating IE-specific versions of websites. But with IE9, it seems that Microsoft intends to change that “go it alone” strategy and begin leveraging common standards as well as interacting more openly with developers and users.

If you review Jacob Gube’s article Five Things that IE9 is (Actually) Doing Right, you can clearly see that there is a new approach here. A different and refreshing approach. We’ll still have to wait for IE9’s release and what drawbacks do we find in the future but…

…what would happen if, all of a sudden, IE9 is really the new standard for review for standards compliance? What would happen if Microsoft keeps its development processes transparent to people? Can these new approaches of openness, standardization and connection with developers signal a new Microsoft? Or will Microsoft still be the bad guy? Will the new IE9 dominate like IE once did, with over 90% marketshare?

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.