By Brandon Kick

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was one of the earliest web browsers available being introduced in the Plus! For Windows 95 enhancement pack. Its first mainstream introduction was in Windows 95 operating system and the final version still being included in Windows 10. Microsoft has official “retired” the Internet Explorer browser and now focuses on their new product known as the Edge browser. Although Internet Explorer is now considered end of life, the 11th version of the software will continue to be supported and maintained by Microsoft for the versions of Windows with which it was included.

Throughout its life Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been one of the most iconic and popular web browsers available. In the earliest days the product was even available for the Macintosh computer. Many people, including myself, got their first taste of the internet through Microsoft’s Internet Explorer software. I can remember the anticipation and the buzzing and dinging from my old 56k dial up modem. Although most have similarly fond memories of their first experiences out into the world wide web, there are some issues with the Internet Explorer browser that have popped up over time and some of the larger ones are problematic enough to consider other browsing options.

The biggest problems with Microsoft Internet Explorer can be defined by compatibility and security and they are problems that affect both the end user and the professional producing and supporting content for the world wide web. Technology continues to grow and evolve rapidly, and the technical world is vastly different today than it was when Internet Explorer first released. As new technologies and libraries come and go, support for them must be included and updated in the Internet Explorer software. Some of Microsoft’s decisions and practices can be attributed to the root of both the security and compatibility problems that the browser faces. While it can be a challenge to keep your personal or professional technology infrastructure up to date, it is a very necessary endeavor.

Security is one of the main concerns the following primary reason. Microsoft will routinely discontinue support for older versions of its software. Once a piece of software hits the end of life date, that software is now no longer supported by Microsoft which ultimately means there will be no more compatibility or security updates released for that product. Older versions of software that still see regular use are prime targets for hackers and spies due to the fact those products will not be getting any more security fixes to undo the nefarious individuals’ work in compromising your system. Running outdated and unsupported software is one of the leading causes of security breaches in the cyber realm. Software updates that come down regularly for your operating system and other software regularly fix security risks that many people may never be aware even existed. Many organizations and agencies are often running older versions of operating systems and browsers due to financial constraints or operational rules defining which hardware and software they are cleared to use. It’s worth noting that in some cases corporate and government usages “can” be given extended support for a product that no longer sees commercial or consumer support. It’s also important to remember though that often the websites that require these older unsupported technologies can be accessed on machines that may not necessarily be entitled to extended support.

Another problem with supporting an older version of Internet Explorer is the way that the software implements support for some technologies like JavaScript. Each browser can, for the most part, choose to support and implement things in their own ways. Often the browsers have pretty standard, universal support and implementation for many of the new technologies and libraries available. In some cases, a browser may not support some features or may implement some things in a non-standard way. Because of this, a site may only work properly on a specific version of a specific browser or may require a specific version of the Java Runtime Environment to be installed on the machine accessing the site. This can lead to confusion for the end user, who may not be aware of such requirements, or may be victim of software auto updating itself to the latest versions and ultimately breaking their ability to access the site. Again, noting that usually automatic updates are better than ran running very out of date software. We constantly preach keeping software as up to date as possible, but in this case, an update to software like the Java Runtime Environment or Internet Explorer itself can cause a site to stop working for you entirely. Compatibility View is one option that can allow a user on a more modern version of Internet Explorer to access a site with specific compatibility requirements of an older version. Although that isn’t to say compatibility mode will work for you in every instance as the site you are trying to access may be requiring a version that is even older than what Compatibility Mode emulates. The key benefit to compatibility mode is that the underlying browser is still an update to date version that continues to receive security updates. The downfall of compatibility mode is that the emulation isn’t perfect and not everything is running or emulating in the spirit of the older software. You might find that your site still doesn’t run properly in compatibility mode. Development work may be necessary to facilitate the oddly supported mechanisms and the development is often time consuming, complicated and costly.

In closing, I think we can agree that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been a wonderful introduction to the world wide web and many of us have mostly good memories of our time with the software. I think the key takeaway is as technology evolves it often becomes necessary to stop supporting and building onto a product and start fresh as we simply have tools to do a much better job than we did before. For a browser that has been around in one form or another for nearly thirty years, I’d say Internet Explorer has had a good run. Before you know it, Internet Explorer will be reaching official end of life and Edge will be the only officially supported version of the company’s web browser. I have a sneaking suspicion though they will find a way to keep Internet Explorers legacy alive through a feature like compatibility view and we will be writing legacy JavaScript code in ways that make us want to pull our hair out until the day we retire. Not to say Internet Explorer was a bad application, we just have many other modern and more secure alternatives to take its place.

At Three Wire Systems, we bring all platforms up to date with our IT Modernization solutions. We harness our operational knowledge, ask the tough questions upfront, and partner with you throughout the critical lifecycle path to increase value and mitigate risks to the organization.

Contact us to learn how we can support your platform and modernization needs.

Tags: IT Modernization

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