Internet Explorer End-of-life… or not?

As a web designer of 10 years plus, the slow adoption of new standards by Internet Explorer (IE) and the lack of encouragement by Microsoft to upgrade has been a constant frustration for our team and every other creative web designer with an eye on the latest technologies.

Modern browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox, with their rapid release cycle have had a huge part to play in the availability of new web technologies over the past 7 years. However, Internet Explorer has, until recent years, consistently held the majority browser market share making our lives as web developers difficult when looking to try the latest exciting technologies in our next project. Not only do Chrome and Firefox iterate regularly but also prompt their users to upgrade and offer auto-updates. IE users historically haven’t received this level of encouragement – this coupled with large corporations stuck on old versions of IE for security and hardware cost reasons has resulted in a user base currently spread across 4 supported versions of the browser dating back nearly 7 years. Unable to harness rapidly increasing capabilities of devices due to the sheer amount of legacy IE users, web designers have been held back creatively, which has ultimately suppressed the advancement of the web.

However, last week on 12th January Microsoft officially ended support for all but the latest version (version 11) of IE as originally promised 18 months ago. As of this date, users of IE 8, 9 and 10 will get one final security patch and start receiving end-of-life notifications, asking them to upgrade to the latest version. These old versions of IE will continue to work but Microsoft won’t be releasing any more security updates or bug fixes making users much more vulnerable to hackers, and over time their browsing experience will deteriorate further as websites utilise newer unsupported technologies.

So what does this all mean for the job of a web designer? Well, I’m sure most web designers were as excited as we were when they first heard the news and expected this bold move by Microsoft to end our IE woes. Finally we will have free reign to use the latest in web technologies without worrying about how to make them work or fallback in IE8… won’t we? 

Sadly, although last week’s events should at last be the catalyst needed to make the web a more exciting place, this still won’t happen overnight for a number of reasons. Firstly, not all Windows’ users will have automatic updates enabled and therefore possibly won’t receive the final patch or see the prompt to upgrade. Secondly, the ‘End-of-Life’ update will only be received by users of IE 8, 9 and 10 on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows Vista users, of which there are still tens of millions, can only install as high as IE9, so Microsoft have extended support for IE9 on Vista until April 2017. Finally, Edge (Microsoft’s new flagship browser) isn’t available for Windows 7 and 8, so users of these versions of Windows are encouraged to install IE 11 - the most up-to-date version on Internet Explorer.

All of this means the IE will still be around for some time to come yet, but it’s days are surely numbered. And so, now is the time to really embrace modern web technologies such as CSS Animations, SVG and Canvas. If you feel that your website is optimised for legacy browsers and could use a little pizzazz, contact us on 01522 522773 or email info@optimadesign.co.uk.

If you are an IE 8, 9 or 10 user, we strongly recommend that you update as soon as possible. Download the latest version of Internet Explorer here.