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For digital software and products, continuous improvement and feature enhancements are driven by the need to keep their customers interested in the product and ensuring they have the edge on competitors.
And not surprisingly, Microsoft is no different.
At the end of 2016, Microsoft made the decision to stop providing security updates or technical support to older versions of Internet Explorer. This meant that unless you were on the very latest version (IE 11), there were security and compliance risks involved when using IE 10 or older.
While Windows 10 is still operating, Microsoft will keep running Internet Explorer 11 as the two go hand in hand, however even on their own website, they are actually promoting the use of Microsoft Edge over Internet Explorer.
For developers and technology businesses however, this causes an issue of its own. Whilst IE11 may still be receiving updates from Microsoft keeping it secure, the set up of the browser is still somewhat ‘old-school’.
Unlike most web browsers, it does not follow the guidelines set out in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and instead has its own way of working.
A W3C recommendation is to use the latest major version of HTML, but running a test using html5test, clearly shows IE11 is lacking.
Max score = 555
IE11 = 312
Chrome 68 = 528
Safari 11.2 = 477
Firefox 60 = 497
Edge 18 = 496
A web browser's job is to read the code on a website and interpret how they should react and visually display that information to you. The majority of web browsers do this in a consistent way – but not Internet Explorer. This causes your website to have different results in IE compared to other modern browsers, which have been built to honour the guidelines set in W3C.
Something to consider when choosing a browser is performance. As newer frontend technologies emerge and websites become more demanding, you need a browser that can keep up and IE11 just isn’t going to cut it these days.
A great way to test the performance of your browser is to run a benchmark test. The benchmark test will essentially measure how long it takes your browser to complete a set number of tasks. Back in 2016, Digital Trends benchmarked the performance of 6 well known browsers:
Chrome 50 = 1350ms
Firefox 46 = 1651ms
Opera 31 = 1497ms
Safari 9.1 = 1442ms
Edge xx = 1497ms
Internet Explorer 11 = 2777ms
These results show IE11 trailing behind the main browser peloton by a considerable margin. It’s also worth noting this test was carried out in 2016, 4 years on and Firefox is now on version 77 of its browser, Chrome on 83, Safari on 13, and Edge have transitioned over to Chromium! IE11 however, is still Internet Explorer 11.
Back in its peak in 2003, Internet Explorer was undoubtedly the most favoured web browser, with almost 89% of web users under its belt.
However, flash forward to 2020 and things are looking very different:
The above chart, taken from Statcounter shows that actually, Chrome is leading the way, with 63.91% of web users opting for the Google web browser. By this site’s figures, less than 3% of people are using Internet Explorer today across desktop and mobile devices.
Chris Jackson, a Principal Architect at Microsoft, refers to Internet Explorer as a “compatibility solution” in this blog post titled “The perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser”. He details how Microsoft are no longer supporting new web standards for the browser and the reasons behind that.
"You see, Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution. We’re not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren’t testing for Internet Explorer these days. They’re testing on modern browsers. So, if we continued our previous approach, you would end up in a scenario where, by optimizing for the things you have, you end up not being able to use new apps as they come out. As new apps are coming out with greater frequency, what we want to help you do is avoid having to miss out on a progressively larger portion of the web!”
As web-development is growing, with newer functionalities and versions of programming languages being made available, developers are able to branch out and push the limits of their work to create top performing, highly engaging and user interactive websites. However, if being built with IE11 in mind, a lot of that will need to be restricted and ultimately you will end up with a more basic website. This is why so many website agencies and sitebuilding products are making the decision to support the more modern browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari and drop Internet Explorer 11 from their supported list of browsers altogether.