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Internet Explorer 9 pinned sites: how they work, and the best examples on the Web

If, by some weird quirk of fate, you missed the big news yesterday: Internet Explorer 9 RC is now available to download. If you've read our complete guide you'll know about one of IE9's neatest features: pinned websites.

In essence, it takes the Firefox and Chrome idea of pinned app tabs and goes a few steps further by actually integrating with the operating system. To pin a site, simply visit it in IE9, then drag the tab down to the Windows taskbar. Your tab will quickly close and re-open in a new (color-coded!) window.

Pinned sites can do three very awesome things: they can provide notifications, such as new messages; you can right click the pinned icon to access a jump list to various parts of the site (see right); and finally, pinned sites can even have thumbnail toolbars -- you can control a media player, from a pinned site!

The thing is, though, a website has to be explicitly coded to provide these features -- and while Microsoft has done a good job of getting major Web service providers to add the IE9-specific meta tags, it will be some months before every site has IE9's special pinned site magic.

After the break, we have a comprehensive list of the best examples of IE9 pinned sites from across the Web. Make sure you've downloaded and installed IE9 before you continue, too.

Twitter -- Twitter simply gives you a jump list for quick access to New Tweet, Messages, Mentions, Favorites and Search. But what more do you want? Facebook and LinkedIn both offer the same kind of functionality, too -- and Facebook also notifies you of new messages (see right)

Hotmail -- Along with an easy-access jump list, Hotmail's pinned icon also notifies you of new email; very cool. Hopefully Gmail and Yahoo will follow suit soon!

The Huffington Post-- The HuffPo jump list gives you quick access to the latest breaking news, and the five of the main news categories. If you're looking for other big news sites that support IE9 pinned sites, Wall Street Journal seems to be the only other option. CNN is meant to support IE9 pinned sites, but at the time of publishing it seems to be broken.

Amazon -- The Amazon pinned site provides both Tasks (checking order status, managing account, etc.) and Favorites (bestsellers, your wish list, etc.) You can also pin your favorite favorite (but why??)

IMDb -- Much like Amazon, the IMDb pinned site also gives you access to common Tasks (find movie showtimes, watch trailers) and Favorites (IMDb Pro, the forum community). It's a shame you can't search for a film directly from the jump list, though. Also, it looks like you only get access to the Tasks if you pin the HD trailer page, not the home page. (It's still early days for IE9 support!)

Other notable sites -- There are lots of sites that have been jump list enabled, but are not necessarily any better for them. WordPress.com, Flixster, Break, Bing, MySpace Videos, and more.

Thumbnail playback controls
-- One of the coolest features of pinned sites is that they can have thumbnail controls. As in, if you're surfing Grooveshark or YouTube, you could pause, go forward and go back direct from the pinned site's thumbnail preview. Unfortunately, except for the Microsoft Channel 9 Test Drive site, there don't seem to be any other examples of it in the wild.

Update: the Internet Explorer 9 team has just emailed us to point out Jango, which is a streaming radio Web app. It uses the thumbnail playback controls!

Finally, if you're a developer, check out the Pinned Sites Developer Documentation on MSDN. Adding functionality is as simple as adding a few lines of code, and won't interfere with other browsers. Heck, there's already an extension that lets Chrome users take advantage of IE9 jump lists as well!

Tags: browsers, ie9, internet explorer, internet explorer 9, InternetExplorer, InternetExplorer9, pinned, pinned sites, PinnedSites, web, web apps, WebApps