At e3 we've written before about the importance of embracing the mobile web but, despite the exciting future ahead, the spectre of a bygone age still lingers in the shadows. Say hello to Internet explorer, or perhaps more appropriately, say goodbye.

On the 12th January Microsoft will finally be putting IE out to pasture. Whilst it was expected that the monstrous IE8 would be retired, in a surprise move Microsoft will instead be officially discontinuing their support for IE 8, 9 and 10 in favour of IE11 and their new Edge browser. So, why the sudden change of plan?

Security concerns

Suddenly and unceremoniously binning a large part of your own software history is certainly a bold move and, primarily, Microsoft is citing security as their reasoning:

"Without critical browser security updates, your PC may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your business data and information."

As with all software, as time goes on the less scrupulous amongst us find security flaws and loop-holes to exploit. Unlike other modern browsers, the older versions of IE do not auto-update. Without continued support or a direct means of keeping IE up to date, users of older IE (8 and 9 in particular) will be at increased risk of hacking and key-logging. The patch released on the 12th aims to put an end to this by triggering an 'end of life' notice.

Simply: continued use of these browsers will put you increasingly at risk, it's time to upgrade. You can read more details on Microsoft's site.

How does this affect websites?

Security issues aren't the only problem with Internet Explorer. In the early days of the web Microsoft tried to forge it's own path, shaping the web how it felt it should be. The advent of the W3C and web standards however, meant that the MS gamble had backfired. As other browsers were quick to adopt the latest features and standards-led rendering, Internet Explorer fell behind leaving many users with a broken experience and even more web developers on the brink of a breakdown.

Applying method to the madness

Why are old versions of IE so troublesome? For starters, IE8 doesn't even support HTML5 or the other technologies required for responsive web design so we need to include a Javascript patch to approximate support. CSS animations? Those only work in IE10 and up, so the site will also need to be built to be fully-functional without animation. Even something as seemingly simple as rounded corner is not guaranteed to work in IE. At e3 we practice 'graceful degradation' when dealing with the burden of Internet Explorer - for every new browser feature that is added to the HTML5 specification, we build in a series of fallbacks for older versions of Internet Explorer.

So are we saying that the site will be different depending on the user's browser? Well, yes and no. The simplest way to surmise the philosophy behind graceful degradation is with an analogy:

Imagine buying a 3D Bluray film and then trying to play it on a cathode-ray set from the 1980s. Surprisingly it will work. The resolution is lower, the screen is a little bit distorted by the bevelled glass. It definitely isn't in 3D. Yet, whilst the experience is a little lacking, the film's story is still as good. With graceful degradation, the experience differs depending on the browsing environment, but the content is unaffected by the outdated technology.

Some stats to think about

At e3 we believe in crafting an appropriate experience across a wide range of devices and browsers, including Internet Explorer, depending on the individual needs and budget of our clients.

That said, when defining browser requirements it is important to know that, despite Microsoft's announcement, the upward trend towards mobiles and tablets means that browser usage statistics had all but declared the death of IE. Worldwide, IE market share has fallen to 6.8% with only 0.5% using IE9 and fewer still using IE8. Clearly, 0.5% of worldwide usage is still a really large number of individuals, but if every new HTML feature requires more time to implement fallbacks, financially it make more sense to cater to the 93.2% of users with a capable browser. It makes clear business sense that IE needs to go and Microsoft is definitely doing the right thing.

Will the world immediately change come the 12th? it's hard to say, but hopefully Microsoft's decision to kill off IE will clear out the lingering legacy users and clear the way for more ambitious and immersive experiences. If you have ambitions of your own, get in touch.

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