Monday 27 April 2015

IE rages into the night

We are seeing another major 'end of life' (EOL) scenario for a primary Windows component. This time it's Internet Explorer and it's not for the usual "gosh, it's over 10 years old" reason. Take the latest Windows operating system (hint: Windows 8.1 Update) and the latest production version of IE (this time IE 11) and look to January 16, 2016 and what do you get?


"What, but Windows 8.x and IE11 are only a few years old?" 

I thought that we had at least another five years of support and then maintenance after that. You could be forgiven for thinking this way as Microsoft has traditionally followed a multi-year release, production, and support model.  However, things are changing. Following on from Microsoft's IE support statement page found here, we will find that; 
"Beginning January 12, 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates"
Microsoft generally allows for five year's Mainstream and then five year's Extended Support. So even though IE11 is a relatively young browser, you will need a plan to move this browser by next Christmas. Microsoft is helping though with two key technologies; Enterprise Mode and Site Discovery

Microsoft describes Enterprise Mode as;
"A compatibility mode that runs on Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 Update and Windows 7 devices, lets websites render using a modified browser configuration that’s designed to emulate Internet Explorer 8, avoiding the common compatibility problems associated with web apps written and tested on older versions of Internet Explorer."
The Microsoft Site Discovery toolkit includes a collection of free tools to facilitate the identification and metrics of internal site usage for enterprise customers.

And just last week, Microsoft has made a number of improvements to both technologies which can be found here. The updated Enterprise Mode now supports IE7 where;
"If you put a site in IE7 Enterprise Mode, it will automatically use Enterprise Mode with IE7 document mode if there’s a DOCTYPE in the markup, or fall back to IE5 document mode if there isn’t a DOCTYPE." 
In addition, Microsoft has renamed the original Enterprise Mode for IE to 'IE8 Enterprise Mode', to differentiate the new features. The new Site Discovery update for March found here allows for improved privacy and security settings. Microsoft has also updated several Group Policies for improved management as illustrated by the following diagram;

This reduced lifecycle is not due to something wrong with IE, rather it's part of the new update and maintenance strategy for Microsoft. I think that we will see IE12 or 'Spartan' follow the same fate as Windows 10. Microsoft will continue to deliver 'Features as a Service' (FaaS) with major version numbers fading into the background. IE12 and Windows 10 may be the last 'version' that Microsoft ever delivers. 

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