Microsoft to drop support for older versions of Internet Explorer

Microsoft to drop support for older versions of Internet Explorer

Summary: Microsoft announced today that it's dropping support, including security updates, for older Internet Explorer versions. The changes, which take effect in 18 months, are meant to push the vast Windows installed base to Internet Explorer 11.

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If you’ve stubbornly resisted upgrading Internet Explorer on an older PC, you might be forced to act soon. (Of course, if you work for a company that has stubbornly insisted on making you use an ancient version of IE, this is good news.)

Starting January 12, 2016, Microsoft is changing its list of supported Windows configurations. Effective that date, the company said in an announcement today, “only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates.”

Support for the five-year-old Internet Explorer 8 will be dropped completely for Windows desktop and server releases. On mainstream PCs, Internet Explorer goes into the same bucket as Windows XP, which reached its end-of-support date in April 2014. Microsoft will not release security updates for Internet Explorer 8 on desktop versions of Windows after the first Patch Tuesday of 2016 (security updates for Internet Explorer 8 will continue to be available after the cutoff date for a handful of embedded operating systems).

That’s likely to affect a lot of people: Net Applications says IE 8 is the most popular single browser version worldwide, installed on more than 20 percent of all PCs running a desktop OS, including many that are still running Windows XP.

IE8-dominant-Aug-2014
Worldwide browser usage (desktop OS only) July 2014. Data from NetMarketShare.com

StatCounter says roughly 6 percent of all web traffic uses that ancient browser.

Internet Explorer 9 and 10, which have a combined share of more than 15 percent, will be supported only on three older platforms, where later versions can’t be installed.

  • IE 9 is supported in Windows Vista (SP2 or later) and Windows Server 2008 (also SP2 or later). Windows Vista will reach its end-of-support date in 2017.

  • IE 10 is the only supported version for Windows Server 2012.

That leaves Internet Explorer 11 as a required upgrade for all PCs and devices running Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012 R2. (It’s installed by default with Windows 8.1.) Excluding surviving Windows XP machines, that means about 98 percent of all Windows PCs in use worldwide will be required to have Internet Explorer 11 installed to continue to receive security updates.

As with Windows XP, there’s no Redmond “kill switch” for older IE versions. If you or your business want to continue using an older, unsupported browser configuration, nothing except common sense will prevent you from doing so.

For businesses that still rely on internal apps that require older Internet Explorer versions, Microsoft is strongly recommending Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11, released in April 2014. Skip the rambling five-paragraph introduction and look to the middle of today's IE blog post:

"Enterprise Mode…offers enhanced backward compatibility and enables you to run many legacy web apps during your transition to modern web standards. 

Today we are announcing that Enterprise Mode will be supported through the duration of the operating system lifecycle, to help customers extend their existing web app investments while staying current on the latest version of Internet Explorer. On Windows 7, Enterprise Mode will be supported through January 14, 2020. Microsoft will continue to improve Enterprise Mode backward compatibility, and to invest in tools and other resources to help customers upgrade and stay up-to-date on the latest version of Internet Explorer."

If that's not an option for a large business or government agency, they might be able to arrange for pricey custom support contracts like those negotiated by some XP laggards. But most businesses will have no legitimate alternative when the end-of-support date rolls around.

This change shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and it's a relatively leisurely schedule. The new, more rapid cadence at Microsoft makes it much more difficult to maintain compatibility with older versions. Moving the vast majority of the customer base to a single supported platform is essential if Satya Nadella's changes in the engineering organization are going to be truly capable of keeping up with aggressive competitors.

In an unrelated backward-compatibility development, Microsoft also announced today that .NET Framework 4.5.2 will be the only supported version for .NET 4 applications:

We will continue to fully support .NET 4, 4.5, 4.5.1, and 4.5.2 until January 12, 2016, this includes security updates as well as non-security technical support and hotfixes. Beginning January 12, 2016 only .NET Framework 4.5.2 will continue receiving technical support and security updates. There is no change to the support timelines for any other .NET Framework version, including .NET 3.5 SP1, which will continue to be supported for the duration of the operating system lifecycle.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser

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117 comments
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  • Microsoft to drop support for older versions of Internet Explorer

    Good, because this will free up resources for Microsoft to work on other projects and it will give developers of web apps the incentive to update their software to make it compatible Microsoft Internet Explorer 11.
    Loverock.Davidson
    • Mr. Davidson: "will free up resources for Microsoft"

      Indeed. Perhaps, Microsoft will now have sufficient resources to fix its Internet Explorer sandbox:

      http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/08/microsoft-security-sandbox-for-ie-still-broken-after-all-these-years/
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Good job they have

        From the article:

        "Enhanced Protected Mode enabled in Internet Explorer 11 and running on Windows 8.1, blocks this technique"
        SupaRawr93
        • Only Internet Explorer 11 running on Windows 8.1

          is immune to this vulnerability, by default. In addition, Enhanced Protected Mode or EPM can be (and often is, see the linked article and comments) disabled on Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 8.1.

          NetMarketShare indicates that Windows 8.1 has a market share of approximately 6-7% (and Windows 8 has a market share of approximately 6%). Windows 8 and 8.1 are mostly found on consumer PCs which usually run a non-business edition of Windows 8/8.1 and do not support joining domains. This vulnerability affects business editions of Windows Vista and newer running on domains.

          Thus, this vulnerability is a potential issue for enterprises and SMBs running Windows 7, Vista, 8 and 8.1 if EPM is disabled on IE11. And as a sandbox bypass mechanism, it can be paired with another IE exploit to pwn a Windows endpoint running on a domain.

          Why give the malware miscreants a mechanism for a sandbox bypass?
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • give the malware miscreants a mechanism for a sandbox bypass

            because a lot of activex plug-ins don't support running in this mode.
            cym104
          • Or "fix" ActiveX ???

            Remember when we spoke of fixing dogs and cats so they couldn't procreate? Fix ActiveX in the same way. It is a creation of Microsoft, initially to serve Microsoft needs, and it is one of the biggest security holes in the ungodly mess we call the Windows ecosystem.
            ben_myers
      • Leave things alone

        I can't get Microsoft to put back my Windows 7 or 8 program I had when they put in 9 and broke all my driver connections as well as printer and Comcast internet connections.

        Some of the older Microsoft programs had nice features that I can't find on the new ones, things that I could actually use for basic writing projects.

        The desktop design for the new programs are for crap. Little colored squares that require a UN interpreter don't impress me. Put out an Icon that has plain English titles and I'm one happy puppy because I will know what they are for. Tired of searching all over hell and back for hidden lists and icons.

        I think that Microsoft has forgotten the "little guy" consumer. Also, they are going to make us pay more for some things we don't want or can afford.

        My Social Security check and limited paycheck can only go so far, such as mortgage, used car payments, food, energy and doctors bills.

        Leave us alone. I loved Word Perfect and now that is being taken away from where I work.
        Sometimes the "oldies" are really good. That is why someone coined the term "golden oldies", not "golden newies". If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
        Max Friedman
        • maybe

          Maybe you should be using a type writer or something. I mean Word Perfect? Wow. You would be better off using Google Docs.
          Rann Xeroxx
    • Perhaps it will Allow Microsoft

      to "compile better it's kernel", to shut down open ports? :-)
      Charles_B
    • Internet Explorer 11

      B arking absolutely barking, how much resources do microsoft need? What theey do need is some discipline among their rag tag and bobtail sloppy code writers.
      bobmattfran
  • About time

    Perhaps it's reasonable for Microsoft to maintain 10 years of support for operating systems, but for critical, Internet-facing components like IE it's just plain reasonable for them to expect users to keep up. No other browser vendor maintains long-life support support for old versions.
    Larry Seltzer
    • No other browser vendor maintains long-life support support for old version

      True. Although other browser vendors do offer the most recent version of their browser on Vista.
      Sacr
    • Don't let the numbers fool you

      Most other browsers automatically update themselves, or otherwise transition into newer versions, Firefox is great at that. What they need to do is something similar for OS systems, where old versions can be blended smoothly into new ones without screwing up your settings and customizations for the most part. The reason IE numbers on desktops is so high is because of Worldwide users who cannot afford to upgrade hardware and OS like in South America, Africa and other impoverished areas.
      Romanticapped
    • No other browser vendor maintains long-life support support for old version

      Firefox is technically supported for longer as it originally came from Netscape Navigator in 1994 and IE came after in August 1995. So Firefox has been supported for 20 years now and sense software is not a mortal being, you can expect that there never will be an end-of-life for Firefox. Only Microsoft's software gets diseases and die like mortals.
      Tim Jordan
      • That's not support that is age.

        Mozilla does not patch Netscape navigator or even older versions of FF as does Microsoft. The "patch" is to get the latest version. Same with Chrome.

        You are confusing the concept of "support" which, in context, means both technical support and patches, with age or the longevity of an existing browser. In this realm you have to add Safari, Opera and others to the mix.

        But even there it is murky because FF probably has very little if any code from Netscape. The same could be said for IE as well. I doubt if there is very much commonality with IE6 and IE 11. There may be some but not a lot.
        MeMyselfAndI_z
  • If IE

    Was in compliance with WWW standards, this would not be an issue. End users can always use a more compliant browser, and avoid tis headache.
    I hate trolls also
    • I understand your frustration

      Hello "I hate trolls...," I'm Jonathan Sampson, from the Internet Explorer team. Much of the issues the web sees today is not the result of IE [not] adopting Standards, but rather developers [not using] standards.

      Look at the recent changes Microsoft made with Windows Phone. Simply by adopting the non-standard approaches web-developers were taking to building their sites, Microsoft achieved greater than 40% improvement on the Mobile platform. This involved using -webkit- prefixes rather than relying on standard property names like `transform` and `animation`.

      For a long time now Microsoft has been having better and better adoption of standards. Our team works with Google, Apple, Adobe, Mozilla, and others on common standards to implement and support, and we ship those as we are able to justify doing. But still, within the community developers were propagating anti-patterns, causing problems not just for Internet Explorer, but for many browsers.

      Today, browsers are seeing more interop success than ever before. Internet Explorer 10 and 11 have demonstrated a great deal of standards adoption, at times before the competition. Today, when you write clean standards-compliant code, you find very few dissimilarities between the major browsers.

      The next goal is to get the old versions of IE to quietly fade away. Developers don't like supporting old version of Internet Explorer, and frankly at Microsoft I still don't like the idea of supporting old technology :) Over the last couple of years Microsoft has been investing in resources and efforts to bring everybody current on the IE platform. This is tremendous news for web developers like you and I - our code will "just work" without jumping through too many hoops.

      I am very passionate about this topic, and though my body is in Microsoft, my heart is in the community (super cheesy, right?). I come in to the office every Saturday to work on community-related cross-browser interop issues. If you would like to discuss this topic further, I am always here. Please feel free to ping me.

      Jonathan Sampson
      Program Manager, IE
      @jonathansampson
      Jonathan Sampson
      • All good points

        I'd like to point out the obvious here though:

        How does Microsoft feel about IE slipping away from being the only player, going into a more competitive market, where developers (like those of Webkit) are calling the shots on features, and web developers are picking them up instead of relying on standards-based support?

        Let me put it another way: were you with the IE team when IE6 was the only web browser really around? How did it feel to be on top of the mountain back then compared to now?
        Joe_Raby
        • History Repeats Itself (Kinda)

          Joe,

          I wasn't on the team when old IE was calling the shots - I was part of the problem though. Around that time I was moving along my merry way, hammering out markup, slinging out styles, and wearing out my F5 button. If it worked in IE, it worked for me.

          When Firefox came out, I jumped ship, and began using that. Not because it had better Standards support necessarily, but because the narrative around it resonated with me; who doesn't want to use "The People's Browser"?

          Around version 9 of Internet Explorer I began giving the browser a second look. I started noticing (largely through answering questions on Stack Overflow) that the vast majority (nearly all) of issues developers were facing with Internet Explorer were due to poor coding habits, and not the fault of the browser.

          By version 10 I was firmly persuaded that the old ways were done; "IE was dead, long live IE." Microsoft had gotten their priorities in order, and began shipping solid work. Internet Explorer 10 allowed me to animate pseudo elements, use standard property names, and so much more - things I still couldn't do in Chrome at the time (Chrome supported animating pseudo elements around v26 I believe).

          To this date, I still have to remind myself that some modern CSS has to be written with prefixes in browsers other than IE. I now take it for granted that IE ships with stellar support for standard CSS properties out of the box.

          Today, with Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc., all having large chunks of the market, and all building their browsers into other devices, it's more important than it has ever been before that they all three work on a common set of standards. Sure, they have liberty to experiment with things, but they should do so in a responsible manner.

          Today, I gladly work on the Internet Explorer team because I know the people serving beside me. I know their backgrounds, their many years spent neck-deep in code, trying to build a more cross-browser compatible web. I know their passion is for the community, the market, and our common craft.

          I work here because these individuals are motivated by the upswing of competition in the area, and the fact that as we all work harder to do better, a better web is the result. It would have been terrible (absolutely horrible) if everybody packed up their bags, and left the web to IE6. Likewise, it would be terrible if we did that today with any one of the popular browsers today.

          Competition in this market is what gave rise to so much of what we take for granted. Competition is what will drive us forward even further, achieving things we hardly thought possible a decade ago. Hopefully it goes without saying, but I am firmly and unequivocally motivated by passion in this area - as are others on my team.

          At times we may be chasing the somebody else, and at times we will be the ones blazing new trails. We are okay with that, it's often times recipe for advancement.

          @jonathansampson
          Jonathan Sampson
          • Awesome response

            Sorry if I came off a bit smug - that wasn't my intent.

            Here's a question in regards to the web developer side of things:

            How do you see HTML5 development going forward? Do you think that coding static HTML is dead in an HTML5 world? If you don't, why are there no WYSIWYG HTML5 web editors? And why did Microsoft kill off Expression Web? Is it all just going to CMS's and server-side coding? To me, it looks like you can't just be a pure HTML+JS+CSS developer anymore - you need to have knowledge about server-side coding (like using ASP.Net and C#/VB.Net in Visual Studio as an example) just to get by. The term "web app" is a misnomer now because the web server is often running native machine code, or at least compiling content before the client-side browser gets anything. What does that say about the web being "open" when users can't really see those compiled bits? It used to be that dynamic webpages would only need JavaScript (or DHTML - remember that?) to build web apps. Is it just not being updated enough to stay competitive against native machine code, even with all of these new-fangled JavaScript optimizations going into new web browsers?
            Joe_Raby