For many years and through many iterations, Microsoft championed Internet Explorer as the best browser around, and at one time IE dominated the landscape. What about now? Microsoft's message is very different in the era of Windows 10 and Edge (which is undergoing an overhaul to Chromium). In a recent blog post, Microsoft warned of the "perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser."
Internet Explorer is a legacy product at this point. It hangs around because in the old days, so much of the web and the tools businesses built were designed to be compatible with IE. Consider that a decade ago, IE claimed around two-thirds of the browser market, and by some metrics it was still the dominant browser at the start of 2012.
The landscape has seen a considerable shift since then—Chrome is now the dominant browser, in terms of market share, followed by Safari in a distant second place, and then Firefox, according to both StatCounter and Net Applications.
"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," said Chris Jackson, a cybersecurity expert and Principal Program Manager in The Experiences and Devices Group at Microsoft.
Jackson is speaking to Microsoft's previous design philosophy, which entailed baking in support for both new and old IE standards when releasing new versions of the browser. This worked fine for a time, but is no longer appropriate, both for Microsoft and especially the people who still rely on IE.
"By going with the 'technical debt by default' approach, we ended up in a scenario whereby if you create a brand-new webpage today, run it in the local intranet zone, and don’t add any additional markup, you will end up using a 1999 implementation of web standards by default. Yikes!," Jackson added.
To be clear, Jackson isn't saying that anyone who still needs IE should dump it outright. He addressed the topic in the comments section of his blog post, where he clarified that Microsoft still wants people using IE on sites that need it for compatibility. "What I'm trying to say here is I hope you don't use it for everything else," Jackson said.
It's a tricky situation, and while it's nice that Microsoft is promoting open browser standards, the current situation that some people face is a problem Microsoft created. Hindsight is 20/20 though, right?