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Microsoft's 'Ultimate Browser Strategy' Demotes IE

Organizations shouldn't use Internet Explorer as their default browser for every activity, Microsoft argued this week.

Chris Jackson, a principal program manager in the Experiences and Devices Group at Microsoft, warned in a Microsoft Tech Community blog post that while organizations may be tempted to require the use of IE to avoid application or Web site incompatibilities, that approach could bar them from using newer applications or sites.

Instead, Microsoft advocates its "ultimate browser strategy" of using its flagship Microsoft Edge browser on Windows 10 as the default browser, while also having the ability to fall back to the IE 11 browser (also supported on Windows 10) when needed for specific compatibility reasons.

Microsoft introduced its Enterprise Mode tool for IT pros back in 2014 to help organizations specify when to switch from Edge to IE for compatibility reasons. Enterprise Mode permits the emulation of older IE technologies back to IE 5 and uses an XML file to specify the type of browser to use when accessing particular sites.

Jackson explained that Microsoft had made a shift with IE 11 in terms of the browser's support for older Web technologies. Earlier IE browsers had defaulted to so-called "quirks" mode (IE 5 emulation) if the right DOCTYPE wasn't specified in the HTML markup, or they'd include support for older IE versions. IE 11 apparently doesn't work that way, so organizations will need to specify the sites and apps that must the use older IE technologies instead, he suggested.

IE 11 will be the last IE browser version, Microsoft has declared, and it isn't getting new development work. "We're not supporting new web standards for it," Jackson said.

Moreover, the Edge browser is switching to the Google-fostered open source Chromium platform, which is expected to come into effect in early 2019, Microsoft recently announced. The switch to Chromium is expected to improve site compatibility issues for both end users and developers, Microsoft has argued. The idea is that most developers just tune their sites to be compatible with the popular Google Chrome browser, rather than checking for Edge compatibility.

Sometimes, though, organizations may have applications and sites that depend on using older Web technologies, such as Java. For them, it would be painful or expensive to make the shift off IE. An alternative to Microsoft's approach is offered by products from Browsium, founded by Matt Heller, a former Microsoft official who had worked on the IE team. Heller recently applauded Microsoft's shift to the Chromium platform in a Browsium blog post.

"From a web developer standpoint, we should start to see a much more friendly and efficient development cycle," Heller wrote regarding the Edge shift to the Chromium platform. "It was getting better, but there were still differences. From the IT perspective, life will be more comfortable as well. Microsoft always led the way in browser manageability controls, and I believe they will continue that effort on top of this 'new' Edge. From a security angle, this should make folks breathe easier."

IE 10 is still around for users of Windows Server 2012 and Windows Embedded 8 Standard. However, Microsoft recently indicated it'll be dropping support for IE 10 on Jan. 31, 2020.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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