SAN FRANCISCO–Microsoft Corp. unveiled Internet Explorer 9 beta on Wednesday with promises of “un-boxing” Web sites and making the browser the backdrop, while using the power of the “whole PC” like HTML5 and the graphics processing unit.

“The browser is saying ‘Look at the site, not look at the browser,’” said Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice-president with Microsoft, onstage during the launch event’s opening keynote. “Today sites are boxed in browser,” said Hachamovitch.

IE9 beta is available for download today in 33 languages.

Microsoft’s new browser experience is such that the browser takes on visual characteristics of the site being viewed, such as the back and forth browser buttons will reflect the colour scheme of the site. “The site is brought forward because the browser is less of a distraction, it sits in the background,” said Hachamovitch.

The browser gets better performance by using the “whole PC” and takes advantage of hardware-accelerated HTML5, and allocates graphics processing to the graphics processing unit (GPU). To the end user, this means better viewing of text, video and graphics, said Hachamovitch.

Web app developers can also benefit from support for HTML5 and other standards.

Security-wise, IE9 has built-in security so users can be more informed about the sites they visit.

Other features like Aero Snap allows users to more easily arrange tabs as they toggle between sites. Pinned Sites allows for favourite sites to be dragged to the Windows task bar to be later accessed just like an application.

More than 70 partners have developed sites that went live today in tandem with the unveiling of IE9. One such partner, eBay, is offering a new browsing experience for its daily deals section where visitors (not yet rolled out in Canada) can browse items from a carousel and drag them to a stash tray, using HTML5 capabilities. The site also uses Jump Lists, another IE9 capability to quickly view lists, to navigate to particular parts of the site.

“We’re very keen to innovate … for us it’s a great way of showcasing the deals we have on the site on as many platforms as possible and we only need to have one code base,” said Jonathan Gabbai, solutions manager with eBay, to ComputerWorld Canada.

Another partner, U.K.-based travel publisher Rough Guides Ltd. built a site to let visitors browse the content of their print publications. Peter Buckley, digital publisher for the company’s travel division, told ComputerWorld Canada the site takes advantage of HTML5 support and hardware acceleration to let users view geo-tagged images in a dynamic fashion. “The smoothness with the acceleration is incredible,” said Buckley.

Hachamovitch said traffic to partner sites represents more than two-thirds of active Web users. “Together that’s over 800 million users whose Web experience just got better on Windows IE9,” he said.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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