Goodbye, old friend – sort of!
The era of Internet Explorer is now officially over.
Microsoft had been preparing the world for the veteran web browser’s demise, or at least its retirement, for some years, but a recent blog announced that Internet Explorer 11 desktop application has retired and is out of support as of June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10.
The consumer version of Internet Explorer debuted on Windows desktop computers in 1995 and, by 2004, had cornered an amazing 95 per cent of the market.
In 2019, Microsoft had to issue an emergency patch for Internet Explorer for security reasons.
At that point, it was estimated that around 8 per cent of people, worldwide, were still using Internet Explorer.
Its replacement, Microsoft Edge, has an Internet Explorer compatibility mode, which will continue to function.
Internet Explorer’s legacy is sure to live on after its retirement, having been pre-installed on Windows computers for more than two decades.
Microsoft says access to its legacy desktop browser will be maintained on older versions of Windows, including Windows 8.1, Windows 7 Extended Security Updates and limited versions of Windows 10.
Why the demise?
Some very old websites – and crucially, internal company web-based tools – were built on older web technology, which modern browsers have trouble processing.
Explorer’s popularity was further dented by the launch of faster browsers such as Chrome, Safari and Firefox.
The rise of smartphones then arguably delivered the fatal blow, with Apple’s pre-installed Safari browser and Google Chrome on Android phones helping shift internet access and usage into the mobile realm.
Gently does it
Internet Explorer will be retired in two phases to ensure a quality-driven retirement.
During the first phase – the redirection phase – devices will be progressively redirected from Internet Explorer to Microsoft Edge over the next few months.
Microsoft says Microsoft Edge offers a faster, more secure browsing experience and is much better at handling older applications.
To minimise potential business disruption, not all devices will be redirected at the same time.
This approach allows companies to quickly identify and resolve any potential issues, such as missed sites, before all devices are redirected.
The redirection phase for relevant devices is expected to be completed within the next few months.
The second phase – the Windows Update phase – involves permanently disabling Internet Explorer through a Windows Update on all devices with Windows platforms scheduled for Internet Explorer retirement.
It’s highly recommended that you apply Microsoft’s Disable Internet Explorer Policy in your own environment on your own schedule, so you stay in control throughout the permanent disablement.
What happens to everyday users?
Over the next few months, when users open Internet Explorer, they’ll be directed to Microsoft Edge with Internet Explorer mode.
This is because some old websites only work with Internet Explorer and don’t function properly with a modern browser.
Eventually, Internet Explorer will be disabled permanently as part of a future Windows Update, at which point the Internet Explorer icons on users’ devices will be removed.
As part of this redirection process, users will have their favourite data, such as passwords and settings, transferred from Internet Explorer to Microsoft Edge.
Time to act!
Instead of waiting to be redirected, Explorer users should get started with Microsoft Edge today. If you’re using Windows, you can open Microsoft Edge from the Windows Start menu or by clicking the Microsoft Edge icon on your desktop or taskbar.
Microsoft Edge is also available on other platforms, including macOS, iOS, Android and Linux.
What of the future?
In the world of modern technology, nothing lasts for ever. We’ve said goodbye to faxes, public telephone booths, VHS, and pagers – I could go on!
After the demise of Internet Explorer, no one expects the world of web browsers to stand still. Most web users have already moved on.
So, what does the future hold? Here are some of the emerging ideas.
Within a few years, most internet activities could shift into premium browsing services. Google’s decision to block ad-blockers in Chrome suggests a serious, planned effort to introduce pay-for-play browsing and motivate free Chrome users to upgrade to its G Suite premium services, such as Chrome Enterprise.
An alternative approach comes from Firefox. Instead of forcing people to buy browsing time, Firefox will be sharing its revenues with the sites people visit. This will allow these sites to focus on generating better quality content rather than distracting readers with ads.
Another noteworthy trend is the increasing use of voice controls for browsers. Web voice control is done either as a native feature or via third-party add-ons or extensions.
For input, these browsers use a combination of speech recognition and a keyboard. For output, they use pre-recorded, machine-learned sound and speech synthesis.
Voice-based browsers are predicted to become mainstream in the next two years. Expect a totally different kind of browsing with Google’s Voice Control, Mozilla Scout, LipSurf, and others.
Instant page loading
While Google has been pushing loading speed requirements, it’s not doing much with its browser.
Opera, on the other hand, is leading the way in browser speed development. Over time, Opera 43 learns what websites are attached to URL inputs, which significantly boosts page loading speeds.
AI-powered search engines such as TensorFire and Google’s AI Experiments use the power of natural language understanding and machine learning to grasp the meaning and intent behind a person’s query.
Using that information, along with other signals about a user’s context and past behaviour, AI can predict the best content and make recommendations that ensure better outcomes – all in seconds.
The 5G revolution
With the recent launching of 5G, things are about to get better and faster.
By 2025, the number of 5G mobile subscriptions worldwide is forecast to exceed 2.7 billion.
The emergence of 5G will offer a totally new set of browsing possibilities, allowing existing technologies like HD video and images and WebGL to be easily and rapidly deployed.
Browser compartmentalisation involves using two or more browsers on a single computer, with each browser dedicated to a particular set of related uses.
By splitting online activities like this, you’ll get maximum anonymity and privacy – all without sacrificing the ease of use of the sites you visit.
These web browser trends will affect anyone who surfs the internet to work, play, or connect with friends. They will significantly change the nature of the internet – and our digital lives.
So, while the demise of Internet Explorer may be seen as the end of an era for some, it could also be seen as heralding the start of an exciting, more enjoyable and more productive future for the internet and its millions of users.