In mid-March, Microsoft announced that it plans to release a new web browser (code named Spartan) to eventually replace Internet Explorer. Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s head of marketing, made the announcement at the Microsoft Convergence conference, stating that Spartan will replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on its Windows 10 devices.
IE has been the bane of web developers including myself for many years. In fact, I refer to the browser as, ‘Exploder’ rather than Explorer. Simply put, the browser (older versions like IE9 and down) often fails to render websites properly, thus blowing up the design and frustrating developers. On the surface, this announcement is great news to any web developer as it further supports any argument against the awful browser. Hell, Microsoft is even giving up on it. Finally, ‘Exploder’ will blow itself up.
IE has been such a headache because Microsoft never kept up with web standards compliance. They tried to catch-up every version with added support for coding standards, but ultimately fell short. Their folly has led to alternatives that are now household names. Browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox are well known and tend to render websites better and with code standards accuracy.
A focus on standards compliance has given these alt browsers all the fuel they needed to surpass IE. It wasn’t until IE 10 that Microsoft started to get things right, although in my opinion it was too little too late. Microsoft is well aware of its shortcomings with IE. They know that the old browser has negative connotation and why they are dropping Internet Explorer.
The announcement of dropping IE is mostly good. However, I do think it’s fair to be cautious about the change as Microsoft plans to continue on with a new browser. The end of IE is just the beginning of a new Microsoft web browser. Yes, they will still be making web browsers…
It might appear that all they are doing is rebranding IE, and that the new browser (project Spartan) will just be a continuation of all that has been wrong with IE. This appears to be partly true. Microsoft isn’t getting out of the browser war, but they aren’t just continuing with IE. The new rendering engine they are using is a fork of the old IE engine, however it appears to have a better focus on performance and standards. Time will tell if Microsoft has changed the way it builds browsers and the way it does (or doesn’t) keep up with standards updates.
The countdown is on. It’s been on. And now it’s official.
Below are some of the hints that IE was dying, prior to the official announcement.
• The clock to Internet Explorer’s doom has been counting down for awhile. Worldwide use of IE 6 and 7 is down to around 1% or less now. While Explorer 8 worldwide usage is down to about 10%. IE 9 use is around 16%.
• In addition to the use of IE only hacks, designers and developers have adopted progressive enrichment or enhancement to remain on the cutting edge of web development and offer new technologies to better browsers, while maintaining the functionality of a site for a browser such as IE. Allowing visitors with modern browsers to enjoy more of the design or styles available to their browser while an IE visitor simply will not see these enhancements. The point here is that developers have been moving on from IE for a while.
• Popular websites like Facebook began phasing out support for IE 7 back in 2011.
• Microsoft has announced a new support policy that goes into effect January 12, 2016. This new policy covers only the newest version of IE for any given version of Windows. Older versions will no longer receive security fixes or other updates.
• Microsoft even has a website counting down IE6 usage, modern.ie/en-us/ie6countdown
If you haven’t updated your browser from an old version of Internet Explorer yet, now is the time to do it. Go and download a modern browser. Find one you’re comfortable with, because even Microsoft is moving on.
The ongoing joke is that the only thing IE is good for is downloading a different browser. Take your pick, Google’s Chrome, Apple Safari, or Mozilla’s Firefox all put out a better product simply by maintaining web standards compliance. If you are interested in privacy, check out the Tor project. There are many great browsers out there, try some and enjoy the change. You might notice that some of your frequently visited websites look… prettier.