As part of the Windows 8.1 Preview, Microsoft has made available Internet Explorer 11, a refresh on its Internet Explorer 10 browser, which shipped as part of Windows 8.

As Windows’ development cycle has picked up, so too has the pace of Internet Explorer releases, it seems. Quick heads up: The only way at the moment to get Internet Explorer 11 is to upgrade your computer to Windows 8.1. Thus only current Windows 8 users who are in the mood for adventure can get the code.

In my testing of Windows 8.1 as a whole yesterday, I spent some time knocking around with Internet Explorer 11, and would generally give it high marks.

At a briefing today in San Francisco, Microsoft stated that in its view, “the best experience on the Web is on Windows devices with Internet Explorer 11.” According to Microsoft, browsers are no longer a simple commodity, and can in fact be key platform differentiators.

As Windows 8.1 contains changes to how Windows handles windowing, with simpler side-by-side, and side-by-side-by-side applications display, so too does Internet Explorer 11 pick up the torch: you can quickly snag a link, and have it open in a new window, which will quite automatically take up half the screen, just as the former windows is given half its former territory.

Tabs are now supported in higher numbers: you can have up to 100 tabs per window – thus, with two windows of Internet Explorer 11 open, you can have up to 200 websites open at at time.

However, you might expect that to both whack your processor and consume your battery. Happily, Microsoft appears to have thought of that. Tabs that are not in current use will not consume resources at a meaningful level; thus, your 200 tabs that we mentioned before won’t grind your machine to a painful, sad, halt.

Touch is the focus of Internet Explorer 11, which is perhaps not surprising. Microsoft has a new slogan: “touch is the new fast.” Given that perspective, while Internet Explorer 11 does in fact best Internet Explorer 10 in standard browsing speed tests – some, naturally, your testing will be variate – touch now has a primacy to it that puts it on par with former chief goal.

In the SunSpider test, Microsoft flashed a set of graphs that showed Internet Explorer 11 beating out Internet Explorer 10 – its closest rival – by around 12 or 13% in its estimation. No other browser came that close.

Microsoft has also revamped the Favorites and tab interfaces to make them simpler to use in a touch environment.

IE 11 also continues Microsoft’s new push for open standards support. Though still criticized widely for past releases (we will never forget IE 6), IE 10 was an honest attempt at embracing HTML 5, CSS 3 and emerging JavaScript technologies. With IE 11, developers can expect performance improvements for Web GL.

In addition, IE 11 has a new system that Microsoft claims “scans for unsafe WebGL content and implements a software-based renderer to complement the GPU.

Top Image Credit: ToddABishop