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Posted on February 26th, 2013 by Barry Collins

The ridiculous splintering of Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 8

Today, Microsoft has got around to releasing Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7, finally bringing the browser it released in October on Windows 8 to its most popular OS.

Just so as we’re clear which browsers work with which operating systems, I’ve produced this handy chart.

Yes, every other major browser manages to support every Microsoft OS still in common currency, except Microsoft’s own browser. It may be the case that certain features aren’t supported on older OSes, but the others can all be installed from the same binary and they all look roughly the same.

This browser splintering may not matter too much to consumers: Windows Update will make sure they’re up to date with the latest available browser for their operating system, and there aren’t too many websites where performance will be dramatically hampered by not having the latest version of Internet Explorer. Even if it is, they can easily jump ship to one of the rivals.

However, for the poor sysadmins of the world, who manage multiple different versions of Windows within their organisation, this is becoming one of those irritating headaches. Now it’s no longer possible to have all your Windows PCs running the same version of IE, unless you effectively downgrade your Windows 7 and 8 users to Internet Explorer 8 (using a convoluted virtual machine workaround in Windows 8). That, however, compromises security: there are many exploits that only work on older versions of Internet Explorer, such as the recent Java exploit.

So now IT managers have the choice of running an out-of-date, more vulnerable browser across the entire business, or accepting different browsers on different machines, and making sure any business-critical browser-based apps work smoothly across all of them.

Or they could run one of the alternatives – although the rapid, six-week refresh cycle of Chrome and Firefox could cause as many validation headaches as the splintering of Internet Explorer.

A phrase involving large stones and hard places springs to mind…

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13 Responses to “ The ridiculous splintering of Internet Explorer ”

  1. Richard Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Agreed. And how hard would it have been to implement IE10 on Vista SP2?

  2. Rich Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Microsoft want to encourage people to ditch older operating systems, one of the ways it can do this is to stop releasing software for them, it makes sense to me

  3. mr_chips Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    rock and hard place is exactly right. we have been using firefox esr but this isn’t without problems either. plugin support because of the release schedule even on esr is compromised every release while the security package vendor is slow to release updates.
    one approach would be to sandbox the browser, disable automatic updates for it and stick with a build that works for your organisation’s needs

  4. Tim Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    It only makes sense if anyone cared about the new product. How many XP users care about IE10?

    Offering a sanely priced upgrade would be more effective. Would you pay £99 to upgrade an old PC?

  5. Steve Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Sorry but I think you are missing a point. As a software consultant/developer, my experience is that enterprises don’t upgrade browsers due to resulting regression testing/redevelopment of all those apps developed with the vagaries of IE7 etc. built in. Frankly I would estimate that the last thing on most admins minds is the availability of IE10 on their XP desktops. If investment is going to be justified, I imagine a stronger business case (such as OS upgrade) is needed.

  6. Steve Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Windows XP mainstream support finished 4 years ago; SP2 was released 9 years ago. Any companies running XP and worried about out of date IE should be more worried about running out of date XP!

  7. James Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    So how do I get IE10? Chrome, Firefox and Opera all download and update themselves as I use them.

    I’ve opened IE9, waited, closed it and reopened it several times but it’s still IE9.

    All my Windows Updates are done. Surely I don’t have to go to the Microsoft website and search for “Internet Explorer” to download the latest and greatest version?

  8. Shane Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I think the biggest problem with ie is them publicly numbering each release. Just have one internet explorer, and then people will always stay up to date.

  9. Stan Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Very rare for me to open IE as Firefox suits my needs adequately.

  10. 32Bit Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Holding back IE10 as leverage for users to move to Windows 8 implies Microsoft feel they have a weak case for convincing users to jump OS, and that was confirmed for me by the early move to offer Win 8 at such a low offer price.

    Seems to me now MS have the headlines they wanted for Win 8 sales, they will open the door to IE10 on Win 7.

    As far as I’m concerned Win 7 should be renamed Windows Pro, and Windows 8 be Named Windows Consumer.

    Desperate times indeed.

  11. Katsu999 Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Microsoft always try and corner people into upgrading when they don’t need to, for purely profiteering purposes. Producing scare-mongering stories about their own software isn’t my idea of good business practices, but it fits perfectly with MS’s blackmail techniques. And it is not just IE, as anyone with printers and scanners more than 3 years old will testify – and as with the ‘non-IE’ browsers, if they can happily install from one exe file on any OS, why do MS insist on breaking their driver model at each revision? It just makes them look incompetent and uncaring. In December my XP laptop died (fried MB), and I had to move Email, Calendar and Contacts to Google and my Android phone. Last week I replaced the laptop with a new iPad (yet another platform hop!), and have decided to stick with Google as much as possible, mainly because everything is ‘up in the cloud’, so I can open anything on any device very easily. No more MS lock-in blackmail for me! As for the ‘Evil Google’, they haven’t asked me for a penny, unlike MS who want huge wedges of cash for software that will only be valid for a couple of years. Its a no-brainer really. Goodbye MS.

  12. Tom Arah Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Ridiculous indeed. The HTML5 standard is an ongoing process and it means that designers will be more reluctant to use new leading edge capabilities (eg SVG and CSS3 XP is finally flushed from the system.

    Which means that the decision doesn’t only affect IT managers, it affects designer/developers and through them end users including those who aren’t using IE. In other words it holds back the web for everyone :(

  13. Malcolm Woodgate Says:
    March 2nd, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    I went over to Firefox a while ago but had to go back to IE because every time Firefox updates, which is very very often, it breaks the plug-ins I rely on for my work.


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