Mimicking Google Chrome, Microsoft this week launched its IE Developer Channel, giving web developers a chance to use coming IE platforms features before their general release. IE Developer Channel is a fully functional version of IE that can run alongside your existing IE version on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 with Service Pack 1.

"Internet Explorer Developer channel is our way of sharing an early sneak peek at what's coming next in IE," Microsoft IE principal program manager lead Charles Morris said. "Today's build has four main improvements: WebDriver support, WebGL hardware instancing, some improvements to the F12 developer tools, and support for GamePad API."

Here's a bit more about these new features:

WebDriver support. The IE Developer Channel supports for the emerging WebDriver standard, allowing web developers to write tests to automate site testing. Microsoft explains how to set up WebDriver here.

WebGL improvements. WebGL performance improves and adds support for instancing extension, 16-bit textures, GLSL builtin variables, and triangle fans. This release improves the browser's Khronos WebGL Conformance Test 1.0.2 score from 89 percent to 94 percent. Find out more on MSDN.

F12 developer tool improvements. Beyond the new features in IE 11 for Windows 8.1 with Update 1, the IE Developer Channel F12 developer tools support event breakpoints in the debugger, Richer analysis capabilities throughout the Memory and UI Responsiveness profilers, and an improved navigation experience that provides more keyboard shortcuts and new header notifications. You can find out more on the Internet Explorer Dev Center site on MSDN.

GamePad API support. This JavaScript-based gaming API lets you use an Xbox 360 (or similar) controller with web-based games.

It looks like IE Developer Channel is desktop-only, which makes sense. And of course its ability to run alongside IE and not replace it is of course good. You can find out more, and get the free download from the Internet Explorer Developer Channel web site.

Microsoft is of course looking for feedback. In this case please send your tweets to @iedevchat.