What’s this I hear about IE going away?

You may have heard from some of the more hyperbolic news sources that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is dead.

Would that it were so.

Here’s the truth as I understand it. Microsoft is developing a new browser, code-named “Project Spartan”, designed to work on the modern web and built from the ground up. It’ll be geared to both mobile and computer views, and have options for distraction free viewing (because apparently Microsoft finally heard of Evernote’s Clearly plug-in). Older sites that run only in IE11 should run in the browser and will run on the IE11 rendering engine behind the scenes, with newer sites running on Spartan’s engine.

For enterprise users (i.e. businesses that run software that only works in Internet Explorer) IE will still be available though the exact nature of that is unknown. And since we don’t have a version of Spartan to play with there’s not a whole lot we know about that browser either.

Also, Microsoft is ending support for all IE versions lower than 11 in January of 2016. IE11 runs on Windows 7 and 8 and is probably what you have installed if you’ve been doing regular updates. Given Microsoft’s extended support patterns IE11 may be supported until 2023 (and given how long IE6 was around it could be longer).

So why should you give a hoot? Well, if you don’t use software that only runs in IE and you’ve been using Chrome for a long time, you shouldn’t. I doubt Microsoft, no matter what Spartan ends up being, is going to come up with something so good that it’s worth switching if you have something you like already.

If you’re like me and you have to write software that’s supported in IE as well as other browsers, well, good luck. Cross-browser programming is a pain, and all this really means is that you’ll probably have to accommodate both. Hey, at least you probably finally got to drop support for IE6 recently, right?

I switch browsers every 3-5 years. I used IE at first (maybe actually Netscape), I adopted Firefox in college (2004), Chrome sometime later (2009) and Opera a few years ago (2013). I like early versions of browsers because they don’t tend to be bogged down with all of the features these companies think I need. I like the plug-in and extension model. I add a couple of specific features I actually want and will use, and take the rest out. Even Opera, which I generally like, has been getting a little slower since it started adding synchronization features (which I’m not going to use), and did something to slow-down my speed-dial (which was one of the reasons I switched to them in the first place).

Personally, I’m not sure why Microsoft is wasting its time. I think there’s a case to be made for Microsoft taking all of the engineers working on the browser and instead focusing on improving their other products: Surface, Windows, Visual Studio, App Stores, etc. I know it seems like Microsoft needs to be a player here, but I doubt they’re going to turn the head of anyone who’s happy with Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera (and countless other fringe entries). Sure it might mean cutting off a data stream, or an ad-stream. But it’s not like Windows can’t track your every movement and beam it back to the mother-ship if it wanted to.

Take the bold step, Microsoft, and admit you can’t write a good browser. Then get back to being really good at the things you actually know how to do (and yes, these exist).

I probably have to try Spartan. You, on the other hand, stick with Chrome.

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