Last week, Microsoft announced that older versions of Internet Explorer will no longer be supported on Windows operating systems. Only the most current version, Internet Explorer 11, will receive technical support and security updates. Well, it's about time.
Historically, Microsoft held a large market share of enterprise businesses. Since Microsoft provided tools to build and maintain all PC's in these corporations, this typically meant that Internet Explorer was the default web browser available. In many cases, it was the only browser; users were unable to install anything else. As a result, web-based software companies not only catered to Internet Explorer but also specific versions of the browser.
Microsoft’s announcement marks a big moment in tech. The idea is that this shift will mark the beginning of the end of outdated browsers that have proprietary rendering rules. Other browsers have already moved to adopting web standards, and this signifies Microsoft's adoption of these standards. In the technology industry, this is a welcome change that will not only drive forward innovation but also help to create a more consistent experience across browsers.
A Better Browsing Experience
When it comes to building a web experience, consistency is key. With the various browsers at play, it can be a challenge to build an experience that looks the same for every user. Designers will always have to contend with the different environments where their experiences will exist, so standardizing compliant browsers comes as a positive shift for them. In the past, adopting a new technology might have been a challenge due to the effort required to build in backward compatibility. With the abandonment of older technology, though, this pain point is resolved. Since fewer "patches" (additions to code to support, or “patch” the holes in older browsers) need to be put in place, users will see a unified, consistent experience across browsers.
Developers Sigh with Relief
Developers spend a great deal of time and money defending against the poor experiences older browsers generate with modern sites. In the past, if support for old versions of Internet Explorer was a requirement, then developers either wrote additional code to patch functionality or resorted to older techniques. Some of this excess work subsides with modern standard requirement browsers, enabling even greater focus on the core experience for the now wider audience. Ultimately, it reduces development time, resulting in less headaches for coders and clients alike.
Retiring older versions of Internet Explorer paves the way for innovation in various arenas. When support for older browsers is less of a concern, time and resources are freed up for the exploration of new ideas and technologies. This should have an immediately positive effect for a large group of users who presumably will now have a more modern browser with greater security and more advanced capabilities. Since companies are abandoning outdated browsers and catching up with current technology, tech companies have the ability to explore the latest front-end web technologies. This presents an opportunity for a new wave of innovation.
So, what’s the impact?
For enterprise tech companies that build for and support Internet Explorer, it should be a welcome change that invites innovative thinking and iterating without taking two steps back for each step forward. However, for the international, and specifically developing world, depending on the age of their hardware, it could make their ability to stay online challenging. So, just because older versions of Internet Explorer are dropping out of support, we still have to take a step back and analyze web traffic to gain an understanding of how users of a website choose to access it. But that’s a conversation for another day.