Top 3 Reasons to Phase Out Internet Explorer at Your Institution

Mark Metze

Mark Metze

What do you remember about 1995? Some may recall that was the year the DVD format was created, while others may remember that a gallon of gas cost around $1.09. And Toy Story, the first wholly computer-generated film, was the top grossing movie of the year!

1995 was also the year that Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer (commonly referred to as “IE”) as an alternative to Netscape Navigator, which allowed users to access the World Wide Web. From 1995 to 2004, IE saw a constant rise in popularity as it swallowed up over 95% of the global browser market share.

However, over the last 23 years, user demands, mobile device use and the introduction of new browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari provided compelling alternatives for users and led to a steep decline in Internet Explorer usage. By 2011, IE’s usage was at 42% and by March of 2015, only 15%. Today, IE only captures about 6% of the desktop browser market share.

As a software company, we’ve noticed three distinct challenges that affect our customers who are continuing to use and support Internet Explorer.

1 – Ongoing Development & Support

As of January 12, 2016, Microsoft officially ended mainstream support for Internet Explorer. This means that users can no longer expect to see improvements or additions to the browser after this date. The only modifications will be in response to serious security vulnerabilities discovered. Considering how Edge is the default web browser for Windows 10, it is probably safe to assume that Microsoft will focus on updating their newest and most widely used browser before patching IE. In this era of new technology and quickly evolving threats, the idea of being second in line to receive protection from online threats should cause any IT manager to lose sleep.

Another example of the effects of Microsoft ending mainstream support for Internet Explorer is the absence of browser extensions. Extensions make the webpages that users visit more powerful in variety of ways, from adding new features to existing web apps, providing valuable information on pages and offering timely notification about certain events. Some specific examples of these benefits include protection from online threats, auto correction of spelling and grammar mistakes and integrated password management. Just to name a few!

2 – Speed and Performance

No one likes waiting, especially not when there is work to be completed. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer consistently ranks at the bottom of performance tests when compared to Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari. For an objective comparison, check out Tim Rolston’s comprehensive performance tests. In the test, Internet Explorer took almost 11 seconds to load a site. The same site was loaded by Firefox in 9.2 seconds, Chrome in 7.2 seconds and Edge in 5.6 seconds.

For additional benchmark testing results, see Steven J. Vaughn-Nicols’ article, What’s really the fastest Windows 10 web browser today? In his battery of tests, IE consistently finished last, and in some cases did not finish at all. At the close of his article, Vaughn-Nicols surmised that there is no clear-cut winner in the browser war in terms of performance, but there was a clear loser. In his own words: “No one should be running IE 11 on any version of Windows. It simply can't compete.”

3 – Design & Functionality

Generally accepted standards and guidelines for web design have been established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). One of the main advantages to following these standards is allowing web pages to be displayed and to function properly across a wide variety of browsers and devices. Edge was designed to follow these guidelines, but Internet Explorer was not. This requires web developers and testers to spend a significant amount of additional time writing and testing special (often complex) code to support IE. Additionally, many of the new styling features available are simply not supported in IE at all.

So, the gist of it is, once the web browser of choice, Internet Explorer is now simply no longer a business-friendly option due to its limited support, poor performance and its inability to follow universally accepted web standards. Microsoft has chosen to focus its development efforts on Edge, not Internet Explorer. If you are still using Internet Explorer, it’s probably well past time to begin using an alternative browser. Please note, Edge is only supported by Windows 10 so if you are using Windows 7 or 8.1, your best browser options would be Chrome or Firefox. If MacOS is your operating system, then Chrome, Firefox and Safari are available.