So long and thanks for all the shivs

Web developers across the world should be breathing a massive sigh of relief, as Microsoft have finally announced a cut off point for support of any Internet Explorer version other than the latest IE11.

As a web developer I can attest to just how exciting this news is. While for many years users of other browsers have managed to stay up to date with the latest versions, either through automatic updates, or a very clear signal that it’s time to update, certain IE users have lagged dramatically behind the curve.

Major web-ache

This has caused a major headache in the web development community, and stuck us with the choice of either cutting off support in our products for what can be a large section of our traffic using archaic versions of IE, or spend a good deal of time and effort making sure our sites and apps degrade gracefully.

As always, web developers have risen to the challenge this has presented admirably, and libraries such as Modernizer  have meant that all users have had some sort of experience of modern sites, no matter what version of their browser they are running.

The removal of this obstacle, and IE11s much improved standards support, means that we can finally get to a point where we can confidently use many of the latest standards and technologies (including technologies such as CSS3 and HTML5, as well as the latest JavaScript APIs) to provide the best possible user interface and experience. We will no longer need to test on a plethora of ancient IE versions just to make sure users will at least be able to see the site. The only drawback is that there is no forced upgrade for IE, but there will be no support or security updates, meaning the browsers will become increasingly vulnerable to attacks and problems as time goes on.

One thing to note is that one reason regularly put forward for slow uptake of newer IE versions is the implementation of enterprise business applications based on older versions of IE for internal business applications. But fear not, Microsoft have also announced extended support for Enterprise Mode in IE11. Enterprise mode will mean that companies can safely upgrade to the latest version of IE, while maintaining support for their in-house applications. So while you can still stick to older versions of IE if you really want to, there is no reason to, and you will be operating a piece of software that is unsupported and will receive no security updates. To quote Ed Bott on ZD net, “If you or your business want to continue using an older, unsupported browser configuration, nothing except common sense will prevent you from doing so”.

All in all this should be a very exciting announcement for the web development community, and while we will still have to wait two years, there is now at least a light (or well implemented box-shadow) visible at the end of the tunnel!